Mukilteo lighthouse from the outgoing ferry

Marjorie Wallace

Lacey, United States

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Mukilteo, Washington USA

Featured in GOING COASTAL ~ 11 October 2010
Featured in WELCOME TO WASHINGTON ~ 13 Oct 2010
100 views ~ 22 March 2011

Sitting on a historic plot of land, flashing a white light once every five seconds, the Mukilteo Lighthouse guides ships on their way to Everett, Washington.

Native American Indians originally used the land in this area as a site for a camp during the winter months. In fact, Mukilteo is a local Indian word for “good place for camping.”

On May 31, 1792, during his exploration of the Puget Sound, Captain George Vancouver anchored his ship and came ashore at the point and named it Rose Point because of the wild pink roses, which covered the area. Later, Lt. Charles Wilkes of the 1838-42 U.S. Exploring Expedition changed the name to Elliot Point.

It was on January 22, 1855 that Washington Territory Governor Isaac Stevens met with 82 chieftains representing 22 local tribes at the site and ironed out the Treaty of Point Elliot. Through the treaty, the Indian wars ceased, the Tulalip Indian Reservation was established, and white settlement of the area began in earnest. A copy of the treaty can be seen today at the Mukilteo Lighthouse.

In 1901, the Lighthouse Board determined a lighthouse at the point would be beneficial not only to ships bound for “the harbor of Everett, Wash., but to vessels going up Possession Sound and Saratoga Passage and by way of Deception Pass to points north.” Construction began in 1905 using a C.W. Leick design that was also used for the Ediz Hook (1908) lighthouse and the second light at Cape Arago, Oregon. Built on a 2.6-acre site, the 38-foot-tall lighthouse was equipped with a fourth-order Fresnel lens manufactured by L. Suatter & CIE of Paris. The lighthouse’s wood-frame construction is fairly unique as several similar lighthouses, such as Lime Kiln and Alki Point, were built of concrete or brick.

The station consisted of the combination tower and fog signal building sporting a Daboll trumpet, two keeper’s dwellings, and a windmill over a well which supplied water for the town of Mukilteo. The windmill supported a 1,000 gallon tank for storing water, and housed a workshop, oil room and coal room. $27,000 was expended on the construction of the station.

The light was lit for the first time on March 1, 1906, by headkeeper P.N. “Peter” Christianson. Christianson was born in Norway and at the age of fourteen joined the merchant marines where he served for eleven years. This service was followed by ten years in the U.S. Navy before he joined the Lighthouse Service. Christianson served as a keeper at Turn Point Lighthouse for over a decade before being appointed head keeper at Mukilteo. His assistant was D. O. Kinyon who had previously served at Destruction Island for three years.
Electricity reached the station in 1927, at which time it seems that the original revolving Fresnel lens was replaced with a fixed lens. In 1960, the Coast Guard planned to replace the fixed Fresnel lens with an airport type beacon, but the Mukilteo community protested. Ironically, the lighthouse now has two Fresnel lenses: the fixed fourth-order lens that remained in the tower, and a multi-bull’s-eyed fourth-order Fresnel lens on display from the Desdemona Sands Lighthouse, a lighthouse once located on a cluster of piles near the mouth of the Columbia River.

Mukilteo’s lens and fog signal were automated in 1979, and in 1981, a remote fog sensor was installed. The sensor takes a reading based on light reflection and then, if necessary, sets off the signal. Next to the station, a luxury condominium had been built and was home to a couple of Admirals. For some reason, the new fog sensor was activating the signal on sunny days and moonlit nights. After having their sleep interrupted on multiple clear, fogless nights, the Admirals became quite irritated. The Coast Guard was accordingly sent out to address the problem. After a month of investigation, they deduced that the sun or moon would reflect off the white seawall, built around the station to resist storm waves, and trick the sensor into turning on the signal. The seawall received a coat of black paint, and there hasn’t been a problem since.

The size of the station was reduced in 1954 when one acre from its southwest corner was transferred from the Coast Guard to Washington State Parks to become part of Mukilteo State Park. The public gained access to the lighthouse in 1991 when the city of Mukilteo leased the lighthouse from the Coast Guard, and the Mukilteo Historical Society became the informal caretakers. The historical society offers tours of the lighthouse and makes it available for weddings. According to volunteers, not one of the first hundred performed at the lighthouse was rained on. There was rain before or after, but never on the actual ceremony.

Ownership of the tower and dwellings was turned over to the city of Mukilteo by the Coast Guard in 2001, and the state has given the park to the city as well. Navigational equipment is still maintained by the Coast Guard.

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Artwork Comments

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