Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Lighthouse for the Old Bremerton Navy Yard

Not many miles from my home is the busy Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. It had roots beginning in the 1880s, I'm told, thanks to the entrepreneurial efforts of William Bremer. He sold land to the U.S. Government to establish a shipyard in his town, knowing it would create jobs and put the place on the map. (Postcard above shows the shipyard c1916.)

Bremer would be thrilled to see it today. It's huge and is probably the largest employer in Kitsap County. Below is an image of the giant Hammerhead Crane built for the shipyard in the 1930s. (Courtesy PSNS)

In 1895, business at the shipyard was on the upswing. Thus, the U.S. Lighthouse Board decided to put a lighthouse at Orchard Point on the south side of the entrance to Rich Passage. It was through this waterway that all vessels had to travel to reach Sinclair Inlet and then the shipyard. It was often a very foggy portal. But money was tight in Washington, D.C., so only a lens-lantern on a post was funded. A local lamplighter was hired to keep the lens-lantern clean, fueled with kerosene, and shining bright.

Above is an example of a lens-lantern like the one that would have been used at Orchard Point. The post beacon below is similar, only Orchard Point's post would have stood on shore. A pulley system allowed the lamplighter to raise and lower the lens-lantern. (Photos from Chad Kaiser)

Some changes occurred in the early part of the twentieth century, including a report in 1904 that the "light was suspended from a tree" on the point. The small beacon experienced several other evolutions of platforms.

Then, in 1929, the site was given a real lighthouse. A 20-foot-tall pyramidal reinforced concrete tower was built on the point by the crew of the lighthouse tender Heather. (She is pictures below courtesy of the Coast Guard Museum NW.) The beacon was transferred into the new tower and a reed foghorn was installed. Cost for the new sentinel and horn was $3,280. They went into service on February 26, 1929--86 years ago today!

The Lighthouse Service Bulletin, an in-house publication for the employees of the U.S. Lighthouse Service, reported that same year:

"The station is in the charge of two brothers who live about a half-mile distant but in sight of the light. Under ordinary conditions, they visit the station once a week to wind the clock and clean and oil the light and fog signal apparatus. When necessary, they can start or stop the fog signal with a push-button control located at their dwelling."

Coast Guard 13th District photo of the Orchard Point concrete lighthouse about 1970. Note the fog sensor on the top (small box on the left on a post) and the beacon in the center top. By 1970 a plastic automated beacon had been installed to replace the old lens-lantern. What fun it must have been climbing that ladder to check on the lighthouse!

Orchard Point Lighthouse still stands today and continues to shine a light for shipping headed into Rich Passage. It sits on gated property owned by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration. It's an especially important navigational aid for the Bremerton-Seattle ferry, which passes it about  twenty times a day. Though many fog signals in Puget Sound have been decommissioned in recent years, Orchard Point still sounds a foghorn. The horn is activated on request by mariners via a radio signal--a great plan that doesn't mean it's honking all the time, but only when needed. 

Seeing the lighthouse is easiest from the ferry. I always walk to the south rail of the "boat" (nickname we Puget Sounders have for a ferry) when it passes by Orchard Point so I can see the lighthouse flashing white every 6 seconds.

Two recent images show the Orchard Point Lighthouse. Above photo on Panoramio by Tori Mac. Below is from Alex Trabas' and Mike Boucher.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I welcome your comments, photos, stories, etc.!