I’ve had a love of lighthouses for years. I know it’s a common obsession that many people have. Souvenir shops anywhere near water have lighthouse books, pictures, figures, night lights, calendars, you name it… I’m not quite that bad, having only six or seven collectibles on that theme that I treasure for one reason or another. Most of my fascination with lighthouses is the underlying message that they stand for, that of caring enough to warn. There are many known dangers in our world and we have a desperate need for lighthouses of all kinds, not just those on the water. To me, lighthouses stand for that larger picture.
Lately I was able to visit the Alki Point Lighthouse. It’s in Seattle and I’ve tried to tour it before but was never there on the right day. Tours are on the weekends between 10 am and 3:30 pm, whenever a group collects, and on my most recent visit I was able to connect with one. The lighthouse is fully automated now, even to the changing of light bulbs, but the tours are conducted by a small cadre of Coast Guard Auxiliary who proudly usher people around and explain the historical aspects.
Alki Point juts out from West Seattle into Puget Sound near shipping lanes and early on the need was discovered to have a warning there. It started with one landowner who decided to hang a lantern on a pole each night – probably got tired of cleaning up his beach after shipwrecks. The land was eventually purchased by the government. As the story goes the price was $9,999.99, the amount that could be spent without legislative approval at that time. The property now has two residences that house Coast Guard officials and their families, the lighthouse and small storage buildings. It is fenced with a security system.
Some of the history was given to us in the parking lot before we headed down to the lighthouse itself. The rest of the tour was a guided explanation of equipment on the ground floor and a self guided trip up the stairway to the observation floor. Here are some of the highlights for me.