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Lighting the way

HANSVILLE — In the winter of 1879, the 27-foot tall lighthouse at Point No Point was still incomplete. There was no lens or lantern to guide ships passing through Admiralty Inlet and there were no glass panes to protect the inside of the tower from the storms. For three months, John S. Maggs, the first light-keeper, braved the wind and rain pounding the tower to hold up a household lantern to light the way for passing vessels.

On Thursday, Comissioner Steve Bauer and Jeff Gales, executive director of the U.S. Lighthouse Society (USLS), shook hands and signed lease papers to establish a partnership dedicated to preserving the integrity, history and romantic notion of the Point No Point Lighthouse.

“This history, culture and beach is irreplaceable,” Bauer said. “This is a red-letter day for the county.”

The goal of the partnership is for Kitsap County to secure ownership of the buildings, lighthouse and property from the U.S. Coast Guard.

“The biggest part is you have to prove you can maintain the lighthouse,” said JoAnn Johnson, president of the Friends of Point No Point Lighthouse. “By having the U.S. Lighthouse Society here it lends credibility to ours and the county’s efforts.”

The U.S. Lighthouse Society relocated to its new headquarters in the keeper’s quarters duplex next to the lighthouse from San Francisco, where it was founded and operated for more than 24 years.

“Relocating is a big deal for us,” Gales said. “We have more than 12,000 members all over the world.”

The USLHS will house its offices, library and museum materials in the right side of the duplex, while the left side will be available for the public to rent.

Gales said he hopes to start renting out in mid-May. Information on how to reserve the rental will be posted on the organization’s Web site (www.uslhs.org) in the near future.

“This is a piece of the total picture. It’s something that cannot be lost,” Bauer said. “This is something we need to hold on to.”

Bauer credited Elinor DeWire, president of Washington Lightkeepers Association and author of 14 books about lighthouses, for getting the partnership started.

“Frankly she was a pain this summer,” Bauer said laughing. “But it was her perseverance that made this happen.”

DeWire, who now lives in Seabeck, remembers when founder Wayne Wheeler formed the bases of a grassroots USLHS at his dining room table in San Francisco in the 1980s.

“I thought we were the only crazy people who loved lighthouses,” she said.

The USLHS, which started out with 15 members. It is now an international nonprofit organization that runs through funding generated from membership and subscriptions to its journal published quarterly, “The Keeper’s Log.”

DeWire is thrilled the partnership is finally complete and headquarted here.

“There are layers and layers of history with this lighthouse,” she said. “Now we are adding another with the most prestigious lighthouse organization.”

For DeWire, the revitalization of the lighthouse brings added warmth to her heart.

“I married a Navy officer and wherever we relocated, there were lighthouses,” she said. “But I started to see more and more looking run down with vandalism and graffiti. I knew something terrible was happening to this chapter in our history.”

Gales credited efforts of Kitsap County Parks and Recreation as part of the reason for relocation. “We wouldn’t have considered it if the condition of the property wasn’t what it was.”

For Johnson having USLHS headquarters here is like “a dream come true.”

Friends of Point No Point Lighthouse, which started out as a make-shift nonprofit is now looking to form a chapter in USLHS.

“It’s huge and brings untold resources to us,” Johnson said. “There are only five other chapters so it’s like a feather in our cap.”

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