Lime Kiln Point Lighthouse, 100 years of light
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 www.folkssji.org.