The Keepers Wife

December 03, 2012  •  1 Comment

This post chronicles my recent stay at Point No Point Lighthouse. However brief this life was, it will have an everlasting existence in my memories. For two days, my husband and I lived at the lighthouse, in the very Keepers Quarters that over a hundred years ago housed those put in charge of manning the beacon. It was a surprise get-away that my loving husband had arranged for us, much to my worry for I don't fare well when I am not able to plan for my adventures. I'm learning to allow this spontaneity in my life with more ease. But I digress; let's stick to unfolding my experience as a pseudo Keepers Wife.

The Keepers Wife

A good place to start- the beginning.  In 1841, Navy Lt. Charles Wilkes was on his famous expedition exploring the Puget Sound.  The spit of land the explorers could see from their ship was referred to as Hahdskus by local Indian tribes, which meant "long nose".  A seemingly good fit, when the tide waters were receded enough to reveal the point. However, once tides rose, the point would disappear. This is one version of the naming of Point No Point that I learned about while chatting with the local historians. In 1855, the treaty of Point No Point was signed between the tribes of the Northern Kitsap Peninsula and the Washington Territories (as Washington was not yet a State).


The lighthouse construction on the point began in 1879. The first Keeper was actually a dentist, Dr. John Maggs. He left his practice in Seattle to begin the Keepers life in 1880. Of the many stories I've been treated to, one in particular comes to mind. It shows the fortitude of the keepers and the resourcefulness that was necessary in order to survive the life of a Keeper as many lighthouses were located in some of the most uninviting locations. Point No Point was not far from that reality. In it's beginning, it did not have local roads leading out to charming towns and easy resources. In order to feed your family, you had to grow everything you needed right there at the house or have it brought to you by boat from either Seattle or Gig Harbor. In one particular case, storytellers expound on how even cows for milk or beef were brought by boat then made to swim to shore to make their new home. Another story shows how living at the lighthouse with your Lighthouse Assistants could be a dangerous way of life, as in the case of Maggs and one of his assistants. The Keepers Log reveals confrontations where the assistant locked himself and a pal in the lighthouse, threatening Maggs with a pistol if he dared venture inside. Quite the life indeed.


Now, the atmosphere of the lighthouse is far different. The Keepers Quarters where Maggs and his crazy assistant lived and were separated by only a wall, is now a vacation rental and the offices of the US Lighthouse Society (after moving from their previous offices in California). The lighthouse itself went fully automated in 1977, making that year the last year of full use of the Keepers Quarters. Now, it is the cozy and educational home for many vacationers that feel inspired enough to become a part of its history, however small a part it is. There is much to learn about this place, and some can be found right inside the Keepers Quarters in the multitude of books and writings kept in it's small library upstairs. At one time, the duplex actually housed 54 Navy Sailors during WWII. Now, it can comfortably sleep six people in the spacious dwellings. Where there once was access by only boat, there are now roads that welcome tourists in, and the quaint little town of Hansville is within walking distance for supplies at a small-town grocer. There are also trails around the lighthouse and wetlands. Not only is this a great location for Lighthouse buffs, but any kind of wetland enthusiast would love the abundance of birds and other wildlife. Me, I took it all in, through the lens of my camera.

Although it was the first weekend of December, there was no bone-chilling bite to the air. The evenings were charged with rolling clouds and crashing waves on the rock around the lighthouse. Aglow in the distance, I could see the Seattle city lights. I wondered what it would have been like back in the day, when I knew that was my only contact for help or supplies when I needed it. Now, it seems so close, and to be honest, a bit of visual pollution to the whole scene. Mornings were brought in with a slight bluster of a wind. Even though I couldn't see an actual sunrise, the way the sun broke through the moody clouds more than made up for it, providing splendid photo opportunities for me. Never was I disappointed by the weekend; the weather, the surroundings, lodgings, the company and everything else, all more than I could have imagined.


We spent the afternoons checking out the local area and hiking some to get a different perspective on the dwellings. One trail led us up so high, we could see the entire point, or lack thereof with the high tide. Our evenings were cozy and enchanting. We took advantage of the Keepers Quarters, using the full kitchen to cook supper while joking about having to check the light later to ensure it was working to warn incoming sailors. And of course, I couldn't avoid the urge to photograph the lighthouse in darkness, during its most significant time, it's beam of light illumitaing the tower. We ended our evenings with a couple movies while curled up together. One of course, being of the Twilight series, after all, what would be more fitting than watching the fantasy based right here in our corner of the woods? Forks couldn't be more than two hours away.

The last morning, we just sat on the front porch, enjoying coffee and drinking in the horizon. Could it get any better than this? I think not, and I'll never forget this weekend, never.

Please take a moment to see through my eyes the charm and little bit of mystery of Point No Point Lighthouse in Hansville, Washington. Visit the galleries, leave comments or add your favorite photos to your own archive.

Click on the "P" in the link below.

Point No Point Lighthouse Gallery




A Return to the Light

Point No Point Lighthouse, Hansville, WashingtonIMG_9416The narrow ladder to the lens tower which is no longer open to the public.

Just a few short weeks after our initial stay at the Keepers Quarters, I returned. For a couple reasons really. The first being that I was asked by a member of the US Lighthouse Society (USLS) to come and speak with him about using my photos in their shop and online, a request I was eager to have play out! The second reason was to gain access to the Fresnel lens that is closed off to the public. I was being allowed to climb the little tower and photograph from that vantage point and photograph the beautiful retired lens itself. Needless to say, I was really looking forward to this visit. After spending a little time up in the tower shooting, I climbed back down to go chat with the USLS member. I was impressed at his level of knowledge on marketing for photography. He inspired me to keep an interest in pursuing a more artful approach in my photography. I admit, that's not hard to do when I see so many captivating things around me and have the support and encouragement from both strangers and loved ones. With this rewarding visit, I was able to get some more images to add to my Point No Point collection here in my gallery.

Let me share a little history about the lens.

In 1879, as this particular lighthouse construction was being completed, it was illuminated by merely a kerosene lamp.  As the story goes, the first lightkeeper hung huge canvas sheets over the southern windows to break the wind from the lantern to keep the flame from blowing out until the glass and lenses for the lamp arrived. In 1880, the lanternroom became home to a new fifth-order Fresnel lens.  

What is a Fresnel lens? Unless you are a lighthouse buff you may not really know. The Fresnel lens was developed by a French physicist, Augustin Jean Fresnel, in the early 1800s. The original version is a curtain of separate glass prisms and lenses of varying thickness that are carefully arranged one by one into a nearly circular position. The light is forced through each lens and bent into a strong beam across the water. This method of lens actually reduces the amount of material that is required to build the lens as compared to a plano-convex lens. Even with that in mind, the cost associated with this lens was considered to be very high for that time period in America. The first of this style lens came to the Northeastern coast, and took it's time making it to the West coasts. Now, you can see examples of the Fresnel lens in things like the plastic headlamps in some vehicles, notice the rigid rows? That is a Fresnel design. 

Back to the lighthouse... Originally, the structure was a 27 foot high tower, but today is a modest 30 feet after some renovation over it's history.  Also installed in 1880 was a fog bell which had to be rung by hand. In 1900 the fog bell was replaced by a steam powered Daboll Trumpet. 
Sometime around 1931, the lens sustained damage. How it actually happened is open for debate.  One story lays blame to lightening striking the tower.  Another tells of a miscommunication in valve repair that led to a small explosion in the tower.  I guess the only way to really know is to find the keepers log and read their first hand account.  That is something I'm not yet privileged to.
In 1990 the lens in the tower was retired and a fourth-order Fresnel lens was placed, increasing the light's focal length.  Both are still in place today, and while I was climbing around the tower, I could see the cracks in the original lens from it's mysterious damage in 1931. 
Please visit my Point No Point Lighthouse gallery in the Fine Art to see what this lens looks like today:  
Click on the "P" in the link here:  Point No Point Lighthouse Gallery

The lighthouse lens; creating a stoic beam with a sobering purpose and a romantic tale in every robust yet delicate prism.


Bob Towery(non-registered)
A wonderful and informative post. I also have a passion for fresnel lenses, and they are magnificent to see and admire in person. Not sure if I like your writing or photography better, they are both excellent.
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