Sunday, February 7, 2010
What I love about this place, apart from its spectacular site on a point of land opposite the industrial ground zero of Tacoma's harbor is how ordinary it looks from the road. And then you walk down to the water, look back, and it all makes sense. Everything is meant to be seen from the water, not the road.
The house's front porch is oriented to the sound and then you notice all the faces of this group of buildings, the lighthouse, the keeper's house, a small cottage, pumphouse, the boathouse and the oil house are all engaged in the same watchful activity.
It's a portrait of a family whose members are all very comfortable with one another. Another thing I love about this place.
And the smell of the viburnum is intoxicating. I notice the swelling buds of lilac. The water laps against the pebbled beach. A sailboat motors by and in the old apple orchard, I feel myself inhabiting this family portrait as all these sensations work themselves under my skin.
The oil house, a storage shed for kerosene, paint solvents and gasoline. Of course, kerosene was the main source of fueling the lighthouse lantern before electricity, and originally it sat only a few feet away from the lighthouse. In the 1920s it was moved to this location and continued to be used for paints and fuels. Very practical from a fire hazard standpoint.
In 1905 the boat house and ramp were built for the surf boat that was necessary for the light keeper to continue his chores when the surf covered the beach at high tide. Apparently Oscar Brown, the lighthouse keeper for whom Browns Point is named, managed to bring a young calf over from Tacoma in the 16-foot boat.
Browns Point has more fog for longer periods of time than any other place in Puget Sound. The lighthouse bell was cast in Philadelphia in 1855, a very long time ago in these parts, and came around the Horn to its first home on Dungeness Spit. Later it was moved to Point No Point, and in 1906 came here to Brown's Point (when it was still Brown's Point with an apostrophe).
It was then replaced by an air horn in 1933, when the wooden lighthouse was replaced with a utilitarian concrete one. The bell fetched up at University of Puget Sound where it rang at the start of classes. The clapper, interestingly, was a bowling ball. You can see the original bell today, back in the pump house on Browns Point. It had, of course, been replaced (once again), this time by a modernized electronic buzzer system at UPS.