Lime Kiln Point Lighthouse, 100 years of light 

Posted June 5, 2019 at 5:49 am by

Lime Kiln Lighthouse, circa 1919 - Click to enlarge - SJ Historical Society photo

Here’s this month’s his­to­ry col­umn from the San Juan His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety and Museum…

We will be hear­ing a lot about our icon­ic light­house this month, with spe­cial events to cel­e­brate its Cen­ten­ni­al. It stands today, as in the past, a sea­side wit­ness to much island his­to­ry. From ship­wrecks and storms to film shoots, wed­dings and whales, this light­house has been in the cen­ter of it all.

Although the image seen here is undat­ed, it does pro­vide some good clues as to when it was tak­en. We can guess by the attire of the peo­ple pic­tured on the far right, the pile of wood on the far left, and the sur­round­ing veg­e­ta­tion that the pho­to­graph was prob­a­bly tak­en close to the first day of oper­a­tion for the light­house on June 30, 1919. And no, the peo­ple are not iden­ti­fied. But Clif­ford B. Her­mann had been appoint­ed first head light­house keep­er, assist­ed by Frank DeRoy, so they could be two of them.

Per­haps you have a copy of this pho­to­graph in your fam­i­ly col­lec­tion and can help add some names to these ear­ly islanders.

The his­to­ry of this par­tic­u­lar light­house begins over 40 years before it was actu­al­ly built. In 1875, the U.S. Light­house Board iden­ti­fied 23 poten­tial sites for light­hous­es in the San Juan Islands, now that the inter­na­tion­al bound­ary dis­pute had been set­tled. From that list, four loca­tions were ulti­mate­ly cho­sen: Lime Kiln Point and Cat­tle Point on San Juan Island, Turn Point on Stu­art Island, and Patos Island.

In 1914, the Lime Kiln Point light sta­tion was estab­lished. The orig­i­nal con­cept includ­ed a sim­pler instal­la­tion for a light source, which was a bea­con pow­ered by an oil-vapor lamp. There was no enclosed tow­er built for a lantern. Four years lat­er, con­struc­tion began on the light­house we see today. A dupli­cate design of Seattle’s Alki Point Light­house, Lime Kiln Point Light­house was the last major light­house built in Wash­ing­ton, and the last to be con­vert­ed from oil-vapor to elec­tric­i­ty. This con­ver­sion occurred in 1951, when a sub­ma­rine pow­er cable was laid from Ana­cortes to the San Juans. Automa­tion of the light fol­lowed in 1962. In 1984 a Wash­ing­ton State Park was cre­at­ed from the 41-acre prop­er­ty, although the Coast Guard retains own­er­ship of the light­house itself. 

Lime Kiln Point State Park is ever in the cen­ter of action, as a place for ongo­ing research and edu­ca­tion about the Sal­ish Sea and its orca whales. To learn more about the his­to­ry of the light­house and this year’s Cen­ten­ni­al events, check out Friends of Lime Kiln Soci­ety at

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Categories: History

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