Preservation of Mukilteo's iconic light station | Muk Revisited
Last updated 2/23/2022 at 1:11pm
Lighthouses serve as beacons of hope and strength throughout the world and the Mukilteo community is fortunate to have our own.
The lighthouse tower houses the Fourth Order Fresnel lens, the only active one in Washington state and one of few remaining on the west coast. The citizens of our community have a robust history of defending the light station and lens.
In 1960, there was a threat to take the lens out of the tower and residents protested so strongly that it remains in place today. During a roof replacement years ago, there was a community response over the roof color being the wrong shade of red. When the roof was replaced in 2020, Mukilteo Public Works reviewed and approved the color with the U.S. Coast Guard and the State Department of Archaeology and Historical Preservation (DAHP) before selecting materials.
It's remarkable that a red roof was not original to the design. When the building began in 1905 it most likely had a cedar shingle roof and sometime before World War II the lighthouse had a diamond pattern concrete asbestos shingle roof, which was gray. Community activism is effective and can lead to historical changes.
In 2021, the Mukilteo Historical Society (MHS) funded the recoating of the cupola over the lighthouse tower to ensure all roof work was done about the same time. The City of Mukilteo contracted with a company to paint the interior of the lighthouse. All exhibits and items on the wall were removed first. When the painting is complete, items will be reinstalled or replaced if they have aged too much to be used again.
Unfortunately, 2021 brought vandalism to the lighthouse. Windows were broken and a display case was damaged. Two historic items were taken, one belonging to MHS and the other to the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG). These were both recovered quickly with the help of Det. Illyn of the Mukilteo Police Department. Fortunately, the USCG inventories their artifacts annually, which was valuable in the investigation.
In September, Navy volunteers painted the fences around the light station in preparation for Lighthouse Festival.
MHS obtained grant resources to fund the installation of data readers to monitor the environment in the lighthouse. Documentation of humidity and temperature readings began during the 2018-2019 winter. Once baselines were established, the readings were discontinued. In the fall of 2021, the readers were reinstalled, and data collection resumed. New lithium batteries were fitted. A trial of a dehumidifier is currently underway. Any efforts made to improve the climate in the light station help preserve the building because moisture
can slowly destroy the wooden structure.
In October, there was a lens outage, a source of concern for the community. The light was a consistent source of pride with few exceptions. While investigating the source of the outage, the USCG installed a LED light on a pedestal attached to the outside of the lighthouse tower. The bulb changer and the computer control board had failed.
These parts are no longer made, which made it difficult to find parts. In the following weeks, parts were located, tested with USCG equipment, and then installed back in the tower. The USCG has plans to replace the current halogen bulb with an LED light this year, using a team from Washington, D.C.
Arrangements are in place to ensure the light color is closer to the 3000 to 3500 Kelvin of the existing halogen light. The light was originally lit with an oil lantern, then converted to electricity. This is another upgrade to more modern technology that will require less maintenance.
When the City of Mukilteo took ownership of the property in 2001, an agreement, outlined in a letter from the House of Representatives, stated that the City and MHS, a non-profit organization, work together to preserve and maintain the light station. MHS is grateful to the City of Mukilteo for its remarkable work preserving the lighthouse. The City has done an outstanding job with limited resources and continuous needs for attention to a building that has requirements for materials, permits, and approvals beyond those of other City buildings. The collaboration between the City of Mukilteo, MHS, the USCG, and the Navy maintains the historic light station and lens and preserves the intent of the House of Representatives agreement over 20 years ago.
The Mukilteo Historical Society welcomes new members. More information is available at mukilteohistorical.org.