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History of Browns Point Lighthouse Park

Browns Point Lighthouse With Water and Boat in Background

Charts have been found that show an 1840s expedition named today's Browns Point as Point Harris after a sailmaker's mate, Alvin Harris. It is not certain whether the point was later re-named after a member of the 1846 British expedition or the 1877 U.S. expedition. Browns Point was known as Point Brown until about the 1920s.

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.

The first white residents of Browns Point were the lighthouse keeper, Oscar Brown, and his wife, Annie. They arrived by government boat in October 1903. The rowboat used by Oscar and his crew of two or three men no longer exists. A replica constructed in 1994 by boat builder Mar Vlahovich is housed in the original boathouse located next door to the lighthouse keeper's house.

Browns Point Lighthouse With Tree in ForegroundFor the next 30 years Oscar Brown tended the light and battery operated bell. Every evening at exactly sundown Brown would light the lamp in the attic. Each morning at sunrise he put it out. When the bell rang all night long due to fog, he had to rewind the mechanism every three quarters of an hour. When the bell would not function properly during a fog, he and Annie manned the lighthouse – he with a sledgehammer and she with a timer. She monitored the timed intervals as he struck the bell.

The area became a public park in 1964 when the station closed and an agreement to convert the site to a public park was reached with the Federal Government. Browns Point Lighthouse Park lies on the tip of historic Browns Point. The Park provides the community waterfront access, enticing beachcombers year round and sunbathers and picnickers during the summer. A large green space makes this a nice spot for a picnic as you watch the deep-sea ships entering Tacoma's busy portal.

Points Northeast Historical Society LogoPOINTS NORTHEAST HISTORICAL SOCIETY
The Browns Point Light House Park "Adopt a Park" partnership between Points Northeast Historical Society and Metro Parks was established in October 2000.

Tours: You can take a step back in time as you tour the History Center, Boathouse, replica surfboat, original fog bell, and the Light Keeper's Cottage.

  • Open Saturdays between 1 and 4 pm from May to October
  • Free admission

Rentals: Experience the life of a lighthouse keeper by signing up for a one-week stay in the Light Keeper's Cottage. Keepers learn local history and conduct tours of the lighthouse grounds and facilities. Relax and watch sailboats, walk on the beach, fish from the shore, enjoy sunsets, and reading in antique rocking chairs from the porch.

Info: To request an info packet with a complete list of duties and regulations:

Parking: There is limited parking on adjacent streets. There are a half dozen parking spots around the corner at the dead-end of Tulalip Street. The parking lot does not belong to Metro Parks - it is managed by Browns Point Improvement Club (BPIC). They currently only allow it to be used for BPIC events.

Boat Launch: There is no public boat launch inside the park. BPIC limits the use of their boat ramp to BPIC members only.

IMPROVEMENTS MADE TO THE PARK

  • 2007 - Improvements made to the cottage including chimney and window restoration and replacement
  • 2008 - Small garage removed
  • 2011 - Deteriorated roofs replaced on the Keeper's cottage, history center, boathouse, and bellhouse with new cedar shakes.
  • Next - Accessible pathways and promenade, new park furnishings