Last fall scaffolding came off the North Head Lighthouse to reveal crisp white stucco after contractors completed phase two of the restoration process. This sparked a flurry of excitement about this iconic piece of history on the Peninsula.
At the Visitors Bureau, we often hear two questions: When will the lighthouse reopen for tours? When will the restoration work be completed?
While we can answer the first question, the second is a little more complicated. There is still a long road ahead before the North Head Lighthouse is completely restored. The Chuckanut sandstone base still needs to be repaired and portions of the interior still need to be worked on.
But the good news is the lighthouse will reopen for tours this summer. The exact dates are not set yet, but it will still be $2.50 for adults and free for children and teens ages 7-17. For safety reasons, children under the age of 7 are not allowed inside.
Thanks to Interpretive Specialist Steve Wood of Cape Disappointment State Park, we are able to share some details on the second phase of the restoration work.
A Crack in the Wall
Phase two required stripping the old stucco down to the original brick and mortar. The North Head Lighthouse is a masonry building with no steel or iron framework of any kind. The original brick had to be repaired, but they also found a crack in the brick likely caused by seismic activity. To repair the crack, they had to insert stainless steel coils between the bricks before mortaring them in.
Stuck on Stucco
Part of the reason phase two took so long was the tedious process of identifying the correct chemical makeup of the stucco on the outside. It took three separate attempts to get it just right. The stucco had to be put on in one day to avoid having a seam. This required waiting for just the right weather conditions. When that day came, the stucco went up, restoring the lighthouse to a spotless white.
The Light of Day
When the lighthouse was automated in the early 1960’s, the Coast Guard “buttoned up the lighthouse” and sealed in the windows with elastomeric paint. At the time, this was the best technology they had and thought it would keep the water out. Now, the tower’s six historic windows have been opened up again, allowing natural light inside.
Water Will Find a Way
Wood used to empty up to 15 gallons of standing water from the inside of the lighthouse after a winter storm. Now, a gorgeous, new tongue and groove drop ceiling in the workroom hides a dehumidifier that runs 24/7 and drains water through the existing rain gutters. This is a huge improvement not only in the maintenance of the lighthouse but also to its appearance. Before, the workroom had a pitch ceiling with exposed iron framework.
Past visitors may remember exposed conduit on the walls with electrical panels hidden behind pictures. This eyesore is no longer a problem. The restoration process included all new electrical work for the lighthouse that is now hidden in a newly restored closet in the workroom. They also added electrical outlets running up and down the tower to make cleaning and maintaining the lighthouse easier.
Who Made This Possible
The Friends of the Columbia River Gateway and Keepers of the North Head Lighthouse have made this restoration process possible. Visit them at northheadlighthouse.com to learn more about their efforts and find out how you can support this beautiful piece of history.