|Ediz Hook, WA|
Description: Protected by a three-and-a-half-mile-long spit called Ediz Hook, Port Angeles Harbor is the northwest's deepest harbor. At the far end of the spit, driftwood was burned atop a tripod by private enterprise as early as 1862 to provide light for navigation. That same year Victor Smith, who would play a large role in the history of Port Angeles and the Ediz Hook Lighthouse, arrived in Washington Territory.
Included in Smith's plan for Port Angeles was the establishment of a formal lighthouse on Ediz Hook. In 1862, President Lincoln signed an executive order reserving the end of the spit for government purposes, and the plan was to replace the bonfire beacon with a formal light by the spring of 1864. In late 1863, a landslide in the nearby Olympic Mountains created a dam that later burst on December 16 and sent a torrent of water rushing downstream toward Port Angeles. The tiny settlement was mostly destroyed, and its new Customs House was swept out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
The future of the town was in question for some time, but the Lighthouse Board eventually decided to proceed with the planned lighthouse. When completed, the lighthouse resembled a country schoolhouse, consisting of a two-story dwelling with a short, square tower protruding from one end of its pitched roof. A fixed, fifth-order Fresnel lens, with a focal plane of forty-two feet above the surrounding water, was first shown from the lantern room on April 2, 1865.
As customs inspector, Victor Smith was also in charge of appointing light keepers, and not surprisingly he appointed his father, George K. Smith, who has been serving at Cape Flattery Lighthouse, as principal keeper, and his sister, Mary, as assistant keeper. While returning from Washington D.C. in July of 1865, Victor perished aboard the Brother Jonathan that sank off Crescent City, California.
Carolyn Smith, Victor's widow, moved her four children into a small home near the lighthouse to be near her father-in-law. In her book West Coast Journeys, Caroline C. Leighton wrote that Carolyn found "her company in her great organ. One of the last things her husband did was to order it for her, and it arrived after his death. I think the sailors must hear it as they pass the light, and wonder where the beautiful music comes from." George Smith continued to serve as keeper until 1870, when Mary took over the responsibilities of head keeper, serving until 1874.
Laura P. Balch was hired as the next keeper of the light. Captain Thomas Stratton, a customs inspector from Port Townsen, started to pay regular visits to Laura at the lighthouse, and soon Laura had a new last name and a new assistant keeper.
The station's light was converted from lard oil to mineral oil in 1880, and the following year a detached, brick oil house was built to contain the more volatile oil that was delivered to the station in five-gallon tin cans.
A pyramid-shaped fog bell tower, fifteen feet square at its base and thirty feet tall, was built at the station in 1885. A one-and-a-half-ton bell was suspended from support beams near the top of the structure, and a clockwork mechanism struck the bell once every fifteen seconds in foggy conditions. In 1897, the fog bell was placed on a gallows frame to raise it higher off the ground. This resulted in a small increase in the range of the bell but not as much as was hoped.
The lens was removed from the 1865 lighthouse and placed atop the new lighthouse, but the light source was changed from a mineral oil lamp to an incandescent oil vapor (IOV) lamp. The tower and lantern room were removed from the old lighthouse, and it was remodeled and continued to serve as a dwelling together with the new residence built next to it.
The fog signal plant installed in the new lighthouse consisted of two eighteen-horsepower oil engines and air compressors used to sound a first-class automatic siren. A five-second blast was produced every forty-five seconds when necessary.
Keeper Jesse E. Thomas served at Ediz Hook for more than a decade, and in 1918, he was awarded the lighthouse efficiency flag for having the best-kept station in the district. Besides looking after the light and fog signal, Keeper Thomas was also prepared to launch the station's boat and help anyone in trouble near the station. In 1918, he and his assistant towed a disabled boat with two men aboard to safe anchorage. Two years later, Keeper Thomas rescued a man whose disabled boat was drifting to sea.
On August 23, 1931, the keepers discovered a fire burning through the dry grass and driftwood on Ediz Hook and starting to threaten the station. The summer had been unusually dry so there was plenty of fuel on the spit. After realizing they would need help to extinguish the blaze, the keepers called on the Coast Guard stationed nearby. Even with this additional manpower, the fire continued its march toward the station's structures, and a pumping engine had to be summoned from the Port Angeles Fire Department to douse the fire.
The second Ediz Hook Lighthouse also had a lifetime of roughly four decades. It was replaced in 1946 by a modern beacon positioned atop the control tower at Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles, which had been established near the end of Ediz Hook. The 1908 lighthouse was sold and barged across the harbor to Port Angeles, where it is still used as a private residence. The original lighthouse was torn down in 1939.
Head Keepers: George K. Smith (1864 – 1870), Mary S. Smith (1870 – 1874), Laura P. Balch Stratton (1874 – 1885), Joseph Evans (1885 – 1887), Franklin Tucker (1887 – 1896), James Barry (1896 – 1897), James F. Barker (1897 – 1900), Axel Rustad (1900 – 1907), Jesse E. Thomas (1907 – at least 1921), Albert Beyer (at least 1929 – at least 1932), Chris C. Waters (at least 1936 - 1951).
Located on the corner of Fourth and Albert Streets in Port Angeles. The dwelling is privately owned. Grounds/dwelling closed.
The dwelling is privately owned. Grounds/dwelling closed.
Pictures on this page copyright Kraig Anderson, used by permission.