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 Point Robinson, WA    
Lighthouse accessible by car and a short, easy walk.Lighthouse open for climbing.Interior open or museum on site.Overnight lodging available.Active Fresnel Lens
Description: Featured in Berkeley Breathed's delightful children's Christmas story, "The Red Ranger Came Calling," Point Robinson Lighthouse sits on a sandy beach with verdant bluffs as a backdrop.

Located on the northeast corner of Maury Island in Puget Sound, the lighthouse marks the halfway point between Seattle and Tacoma. Before 1925, Maury Island was only accessible by boat or bridge at high tide. Now, however, the island is easily reached from the larger Vashon Island, via a paved road over a narrow strip of land.

Point Robinson Lighthouse with fog signal
Photograph courtesy U.S. Coast Guard
Point Robinson was so named in 1841 by the Wilkes Expedition in honor of John Robinson, who was part of the expedition. In 1879, the Lighthouse Board recommended that a steam fog whistle be erected at Point Robinson, which was located roughly nine miles from Tacoma, the terminus of a branch of the Northern Pacific Railroad. The Board requested $7,000 for the station, and in 1883, an $8,000 appropriation was granted for the project. A survey of the point was made, indicating that 23.6 acres would be needed for the station. The landowner wanted $2,000 for the parcel, a price considered exorbitant by the Lighthouse Board, so condemnation proceedings were initiated for the property. These proceedings, however, were cancelled when the landowner died, and his heirs agreed to lower the asking price to $1,000.

Construction on the point began in June, 1884, and, after a break for winter, continued the following March. Water for the work was obtained by digging pits along the base of the bluff and running a 350-foot-long trough from the bluff out to the point. Sand was obtained from a nearby bluff and transported to the site in a scow. A thirty-six by sixteen-foot building was built on the point to house a boiler and fog signal machinery formerly used at Oregon's Point Adams Lighthouse. Water for the steam whistle was collected from a V-shape roof, forty by sixty-feet in plan, built over two 11,000-gallon cisterns.

A one-and-a-half-story keeper's dwelling with green shutters was erected 630 feet south of the fog signal, and it too was equipped with a cistern for storing water. The residence measured twenty by thirty feet, and had a one-story addition on its north side. Construction work at the station was completed on June 3, and the fog signal commenced operation a few weeks later, on July 1, 1885, giving a six-second blast each minute when necessary. Franklin Tucker was transferred from Cape Flattery to become head keeper at Point Robinson.

To protect the station from high tides, a log bulkhead was built along the beach, and hydraulic sluicing was used to raise the ground behind the bulkhead and fill in a lagoon on the station property.

A light, in the form of a lens lantern that shined fixed red and was attached to a twenty-five-foot post, commenced operation at the station on December 12, 1887. Mariners complained that the light was obscured by the keeper's dwelling for vessels approaching from the south, so in 1894, the height of the light was increased 5 1/2 feet. A new frame tower for the light was erected in 1897.

In its picturesque setting and closeness to civilization, Point Robinson was a preferred station among keepers and their families. Originally, it was tended by a single keeper.

In 1897, Keeper Charles Davis reported that the whistle had blown for 528 hours during the previous year and consumed about thirty-five tons of coal. After shoveling all that coal, Davis requested the help of an assistant, and the Lighthouse Board petitioned Congress that year for $3,000 for a second dwelling for the station. The Board had to repeat its request for eight years, until it finally received funds on June 30, 1906, and by then the cost had risen to $5,000.

The bids received for erecting the new welling were in excess of the budgeted amount, so a working party from the district was employed to build the structure. This delayed the completion of the residence until 1907, four years after as assistant arrived at the station. The present oil house dates from 1913.

The current lighthouse, featuring an octagonal thirty-eight-foot tower and a fifth-order Fresnel lens, was built in 1915. A third-class reed horn powered by compressed air was installed in the new lighthouse to replace the station's steam whistle. Point Robinson Lighthouse is a twin of the one built two years earlier at Alki Point and also features a lantern room with diagonal astragals. The new light was initially produced by an incandescent oil vapor lamp, but it and the fog signal were converted to electric power in 1918.

William S. Denning was the longest serving keeper at Point Robinson, starting as head keeper in 1912 and remaining at the station until the 1930s. In 1916, Keeper Denning and his assistant rescued a couple and two children from a disabled boat near the station and provided them with food and clothing. In 1920, Keeper Denning towed the disabled tug Mayflower to safety, and in 1922, he was awarded the efficiency flag for having the best-kept station in the district.

Point Robinson Light was automated in 1978, and Joe Wubbold, a retired Coast Guard Captain and volunteer keeper at the lighthouse, helped persuade the Coast Guard to keep the original fifth-order Fresnel lens in place. The lens remained active in the lantern room until 2008 when, after more than ninety years of service, the Coast Guard replaced it with a plastic beacon, mounted outside the lantern room. The light now shines two white flashes every twelve seconds in the following pattern: on for three seconds, off for one second, on for another three seconds, and off for five seconds.

The Coast Guard received $4 million in 1989 to construct 100-foot radar and radio signal towers on Point Robinson to allow Puget Sounds Vessel Traffic Service to monitor ship traffic in south Puget Sound. A differential global positioning system was added to the point in the early 1990s to aid local mariners.

In the early 1990s, local residents caught wind of a plan to lease land on Point Robinson to a seafood-processing plant. The citizens promptly joined together to form the Keepers of Point Robinson, and, coupled with the Vashon Parks Department, they were able to negotiate a fifteen-year lease on the property with the Coast Guard. Starting in July of 2003, one of the two keeper's dwellings was made available for weekly rentals, and the second dwelling has since been remodeled for the same purpose.

If, by chance, you are a Red Ranger fan, the magical old man may not be at the lighthouse, but the treed bicycle . . .

It's still there, in the woods on Vashon Island behind Sound Food Café.

Head Keepers: Franklin Tucker (1885 – 1887), Charles H. Davis (1887 – 1900), Axel Rustad (1900), Gustaf Anderson (1900 – 1910), Charles E. Atherton (1910 – 1912), William S. Denning (1912 – at least 1930), Thomas Wyman Albee (1939 – 1944), Jens Olaf Pedersen (1944 – 1954).

  1. Umbrella Guide to Washington Lighthouses, Sharlene and Ted Nelson, 1998.
  2. Lighthouses of the Pacific, Jim Gibbs, 1986.

Location: Located on the eastern most tip of Maury Island, which is attached to the eastern part of the larger Vashon Island.
Latitude: 47.38813
Longitude: -122.37439

For a larger map of Point Robinson Lighthouse, click the lighthouse in the above map or get a map from: Mapquest.


Travel Instructions: From the ferry landing on the southern end of Vashon Island, go north on Vashon Island Highway, the main north-south road on the island, for 5.7 miles to Quartermaster Drive (225th Street). Turn right on Quartermaster Drive and drive east for 1.4 miles where the road will fork. Take the right fork, Dockton Road, drive 0.4 miles and then turn left onto Point Robinson Road. Follow this road for 1.7 miles where it will connect with 240th Street. After these roads meet, continue east 1.7 miles to the lighthouse.

The lighthouse is typically open on Sundays between noon and 4 p.m. during the summer. The grounds surrounding the lighthouse can be accessed during daylight hours. Call (206) 463-6672 to schedule a tour outside of these hours. The keeper's quarters are available for weekly rentals. Call (206) 463-9602 to inquire about availability.

The lighthouse is owned by the Coast Guard and managed by Vashon Park District. Grounds open, dwellings available for weekly rentals, lighthouse open on Sundays.

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