West Point Lighthouse at Sunset
West Point Lighthouse
The West Point Lighthouse, built in 1881 by the U.S. Lighthouse Service, marks the hazardous shoal and northern entrance into Elliott Bay. The beacon, located in Seattle's Discovery Park at the base of Magnolia Bluff, is a small squat tower, rising only 23 feet above the low sandy point. The West Point Light Station, which remains essentially unchanged from the time it was built, in on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition to being an important piece of Seattle's maritime history, the lighthouse continues to be a vital aid-to-navigation.
In the spring of 1841, the United States Exploring Expedition under the command of Navy Lieutenant Charles T. Wilkes (1798-1877) entered the Strait of Juan de Fuca and sailed south into Puget Sound, making charts and naming many features. Lt. Wilkes named the prominent shoal that jutted into Puget Sound marking the northern entrance into Elliott Bay, West Point, evidently for the direction in which it lies. This low sand spit, made by the opposing currents on the sound, was known to the Duwamish Indians by "Per-co-dus-chule," or "Pka-dzEltcua," which translates "thrusts far out." It was known to early mariners as Sandy Point.
In 1872, the Lighthouse Board, expecting vessel traffic to increase around Puget Sound and Elliott Bay, recommended that this hazardous shoal be marked with a signal light. Congress eventually appropriated $25,000 for the project and in 1881, the U. S. Lighthouse Service built Puget Sound's first manned light station at West Point.
The squat, square light-tower, rising only 23 feet above the low sandy beach, is sandwiched between an attached fog-signal building and a workshop. These buildings are made of brick and concrete, for strength and durability, with a stucco exterior. Approximately 100 yards east of the lighthouse, at a location less precariously near the water, are two spacious Cape Cod style houses built for the lighthouse keepers, outbuildings, and a launch house.