Photograph - Photo
Point Retreat Lighthouse is situated at the northern tip of ninety-mile-long Admiralty Island, which is bordered by Stephens Passage on the east and Chatham Strait on the west. Thousands of tourists view the lighthouse each year from the comfort of cruise ships that call at nearby ports during the temperate summer months but few visitors actually set foot on expansive Admiralty Island as it is home to only one permanent settlement, the tiny Tlingit village of Angoon. The natives call their island Kootznahoo, meaning �Bear Fortress,� and the Alaskan brown bears do seemingly rule the island, outnumbering humans by a ratio of 2:1.
During an exploration voyage in 1794, Captain George Vancouver dispatched lieutenant Joseph Whidbey to obtain food and water on Admiralty Island. Whidbey took two long boats ashore and while on the island encountered natives engaged in a celebration. Not knowing if they would prove friendly, Whidbey quickly headed towards the northern tip of the island and the safety of the H.M.S. Discovery. In honor of his lieutenant�s hasty retreat, Captain Vancouver named the rocky finger of land Point Retreat.
Given its prominent position along the Inside Passage, Point Retreat was set aside as a 1,505-acre lighthouse reserve in 1901 by executive order of President McKinley. The point, however, had to wait a couple of years for its lighthouse due to inadequate funding. When the Point Retreat Lighthouse was finally lit on September 15, 1904, it became the tenth light station to be constructed by the U.S. Government in the Alaskan Territory.
The first Point Retreat Lighthouse was a six-foot-tall hexagonal wooden tower, topped by a hexagonal lantern room. Two one-and-one-half-story frame dwellings were constructed fifty feet south of the light, but one of them apparently burned down not long after it was completed. The station�s boat, stored in a rectangular boathouse just east of the dwellings, allowed the keepers to make an occasional trip to Juneau.
In 2002, all the structures at Point Retreat received a fresh coast of paint, but the station seemed incomplete without the lantern room that was removed decades earlier. A search for the missing lantern room was unsuccessful so Seidelhuber Iron and Bronze works of Seattle was contracted to build a steel replica using architectural drawings found in the National Archives. The new lantern room was installed atop the lighthouse in 2004, just in time for the centennial of the station. The Point Retreat Lighthouse is now fit to start another century of service complete with short-term "keepers" residing in the dwelling.
February 12th, 2013
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