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Browns Point Lighthouse and Keeper's Cottage - Tacoma, Washington
featured waymark
Posted by: Groundspeak Regular Member Hikenutty
N 47° 18.328 W 122° 26.571
10T E 542115 N 5239260
Quick Description: Browns Point Lighthouse was originally built in the early 1900s and was replaced with a concrete structure in 1933. The lighthouse, keeper's house, oil house, boat house, and pump house are listed on the US Register of National Historic Places.
Location: Washington, United States
Date Posted: 2/11/2007 3:52:16 PM
Waymark Code: WM17F2
Published By: Groundspeak Regular Member chstress53
Views: 372

Long Description:
On December 12, 1887, two years before Washington became a state, a fixed white light lens lantern was placed on a white post on Point Brown. It was about twelve feet above sea level and 50 yards from the low water end of shore. In 1901 the first lighthouse and a house for the lighthouse keeper were built. The lighthouse was a wood frame structure on wood pilings off shore. At low tide one could walk to the lighthouse, but at high tide it was necessary to take a rowboat.

Fog posed a problem for shipping in the area, but it would not be until 1903 that a larger tract of land on Browns Point was acquired, a wooden tower with a fog bell was erected, and a keeper's house was built. The two-story tower had a light attached midway up its western side and the fog bell was suspended under the gable roof. The bell was cast in 1855 by Bernard & Co. of Philadelphia and was brought around the horn aboard the Shubrick, the first lighthouse tender to serve the Pacific Coast. The bell served at the New Dungeness and Point No Point Stations before being installed at Browns Point. October 26, 1903 was the date of the first lighting of the new tower.

The station's first resident keeper, Oscar Brown, arrived at the point by boat accompanied by his wife Annie, a piano, other furnishings, and a horse and cow. The animals were lowered to the water by a sling and then swam ashore. Brown was an accomplished musician and, as the area was settled, he began giving piano and cornet lessons. Keeper Brown also planted an orchard populated with apple, pear, and cherry trees and also maintained a flower garden featuring daffodils, tulips, peonies, and roses.

In addition to the tower and dwelling,a boat house and oil house were also constructed on the point. The boat house sheltered the station's row boat, which Brown used to reach the tower when high tide covered the mud flat between the tower and the dwelling. Brown also rowed south to Tacoma periodically to pick up supplies and mail and to attend music concerts. The oil house originally stood near the tower, but was moved near the boat house after the light was electrified in 1922.

Browns Point is said to be the point on Puget Sound with the longest periods of dense fog. When the fog settled around the point, Keeper Brown wouldn't get much rest as the striking mechanism for the 1200-pound bell had to be wound every forty-five minutes. However, interrupted sleep was preferable to the times when the machinery failed. Then, Brown's wife Annie would time the prescribed twenty-second intervals and signal her husband to strike the bell.
After Brown had served thirty years at the station, the wooden tower was replaced by the current thirty-four-foot concrete structure, which originally sported a lantern room. The fog bell was replaced by an electric foghorn, and the bell was given to the College of Puget Sound (today's University of Puget Sound), where it signaled the class hours. In 1984, the bell was installed in the Fox Island Alliance Church, where it remained until July 25, 2000. On that date, the bell was returned to Browns Point where it is housed in the old Pump House. A bowling ball now serves as the clacker for ringing the bell.

After thirty-six years at Browns Point, Keeper Brown retired in 1939 when the Coast Guard assumed responsibility for the light. Could it be that Browns Point was named for the point's long-time keeper? Well, perhaps indirectly. The point was known as Point Brown long before Oscar Brown arrived on the scene. The origin of the name Point Brown is not known for sure, but might have been due to the brown Madrona trees that covered the area. A map made subsequent to the arrival of Keeper Brown labels the land as Brown's Point, perhaps because people thought it was Oscar Brown's point. The apostrophe in the name was later dropped.

Browns Point only had a couple of keepers. Arthur Woods served during most of the 1940s and Cyril Beaulieu watched over the light in the 1950s. Light keeping at Browns Point officially ended in 1963 when the light was automated.

Information was gathered from Be sure to click on the gallery above, as there are more picture in it than show in the quick view boxes above, including pictures of the Keeper's Cottage.

One year after automation, Browns Point was converted to a public park, which has a large grassy area ideal for a picnic. The keeper's dwelling was recently restored by the Points Northeast Historical Society and is currently available for weekly rentals by modern day lighthouse keepers. The resident keepers are required to conduct tours and perform daily, light chores.

The Keeper's House is open Saturdays between 1 and 4 p.m. from February to mid-November. Free admission. For more information or to request an info packet with a complete list of duties and regulations call (253) 927-2536 or email

Street address:
201 Tulalip NE
Tacoma, WA Pierce

County / Borough / Parish: Pierce

Year listed: 1989

Historic (Areas of) Significance: Event, Architecture/Engineering

Periods of significance: 1900-1949

Historic function: Lighthouse, Residential

Current function: Lighthouse, Recreation area

Season start / Season finish: From: 1/1/2007 To: 12/31/2007

Hours of operation: From: 7:00 AM To: 7:00 PM

Primary Web Site: [Web Link]

Secondary Website 1: [Web Link]

Privately owned?: Not Listed

Secondary Website 2: Not listed

National Historic Landmark Link: Not listed

Visit Instructions:
Please give the date and brief account of your visit. Include any additional observations or information that you may have, particularly about the current condition of the site. Additional photos are highly encouraged, but not mandatory.
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