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Anne Norskog

4 Years Ago

North Head Lighthouse At Ilwaco Washington

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North Head Lighthouse sits on the southwestern tip of the Washington Pacific coast very near Cape Disappointment Light Station which is still an active U.S. Coast Guard facility. Both lighthouses are still needed to keep marine traffic from floundering in the treacherous water caused by the Columbia River as it dumps fresh water into salt water near Ilwaco, Washington. These waters are used as a school to train naval personnel the world over. North Head Lighthouse is now owned by The State of Washington. Cape Disappointment is owned by the U.S. Government and, as stated, is manned by the U.S. Coast Guard and is part of Homeland Security. North Head is automated.

When North Head Lighthouse went on line May 16, 1898, some 30 years after Cape Disappointment, it boasted a first-order Fresnel light. Built by Carl W. Leick, the German engineer and designer, the lighthouse shows his signature touches: elegant, designed for strength, and designed to last. The tower stands 65 feet from base to lantern room and sits on an elevated point of land that is 294 feet above sea level.

Latitude: 46.29891
Longitude: -124.07808

This Cape Disappointment-North Head area is some of the most windswept in the United States with routine winds clocking 100 MPH. The highest wind recorded at North Head was 132 MPH and blew the recording device away. These are hurricane speeds! It is of little wonder these magnificent guardians of the Pacific are in need of constant repairs! North Head is slated to enjoy a top-down rejuvination in the near future. The old girl looks pretty tired!

My painting is what this beautiful mariners’ beacon looked like in May of 1898. I used old U.S. Light Service photos for reference. Hopefully, (minus the first-order Fresnel lamp that was actually removed in the 1930s), North Head Lighthouse and her outbuildings will be restored to their original glory!

I am a digital artist who paints in the traditional sense: just with non-traditional tools. Every piece of art in my gallery is original; not scanned; not a photograph. Using only the computer mouse, I draw every line, add every bit of shading, highlights, blending, and refining to finish a piece. All of the art is started on a blank white page in Microsoft Paintbrush. The finishing process is done using Adobe Photoshop Elements.

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Anne Norskog

4 Years Ago

Has anyone been out to North Head Lighthouse lately to see if there has been any progress in its restoration? Post photos if you have them!


Pamela Patch

4 Years Ago

Hi Anne, I snapped this one about a year ago. I, myself, hope they restore to original looks. The structure has such character,
I cant see myself very interested in shooting a modern version, I like the decay :-)

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Photography Prints


Christine Till

4 Years Ago

Straight forward clean design as usual, Anne. Very well done.

North Head Lighthouse At Ilwaco Washington is very charming. I was up there early 2011 and couldn't see ANY restauration going on. Hopefully it's getting restored. This sweet old lady would be worth it.

~ North Head Lighthouse - Graveyard of the Pacific - Ilwaco WA

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~ North Head Lighthouse - Ilwaco on Washington's Southwest Coast

Art Prints


Anne Norskog

4 Years Ago

Thank you Pam for posting your two fine photos of North Head. The shot of the entrance on the north side of the structure is "Up Close and Personal". I like that type of detail revealing photography!

Because the two lighthouses at Ilwaco are subjected to 100+ MPH winds routinely, keeping up with the never-ending demands of maintenance must be carried out on a daily basis--we see the results of the tug-of-war that halted work from the Coast Guard and the state of Washington. Apparently, and FINALLY, there have been concessions made and new funding secured to get North Head Lighthouse hauled back from the brink of disaster.

Parging has come off the base of the tower with entire chunks missing. The astrals in the lantern room are rusting out. The glazing is pitted and time-worn. The interior looks like a very tired old lady who simply does not have the will to put on a good show anymore...the old girl needs a complete overhaul to keep the light shining for the next 100 years.

Thank you Christine for posting your equally fine photos of North Head Lighthouse. Thank you for the kind words about my work! I try very hard to keep my paintings accurate. When people say to me, "I've been there!", I know the work is all right.

A number of things have changed to North Head over the years: the windows were sealed on the lighthouse tower, for instance. Apparently, wind-whipped seas can climb a 65 foot tower and wreck everything inside!


Lawrence Supino

4 Years Ago

Well done, Anne, as usual! ;)
What are the two smaller buildings for?

btw...have you done every lighthouse in the US?

and Christine...why do they call it "Graveyard of the Pacific"


Anne Norskog

4 Years Ago

Thank you Lawrence! The smaller buildings were originally used to store coal and/or oil for the Fresnel lens. Sometimes a second or even third building would be constructed to house equipment and the like. These were for utility purposes. They were made as pretty as possible because almost everyone wanted the entire lighthouse complex to be attractive.

When the lighthouses were switched over to electric power to light the lamps, these buildings often would contain generators in case the grid-fed power went off-line. Sometimes, one of the small buildings would house a boiler to fire a foghorn.

Most often, however, the boilers would be in the room adjacent to the light tower. In this vintage look at North Head, there is a brick chimney and that chimney was connected to the boiler for the foghorn. Again, when electricity came to the lighthouses, the foghorn boilers were removed and an electric actuator was installed to "fire" the foghorn. Most of the foghorns were shaped almost exactly like the bell of a Victrola player only much larger, of course. Some of these foghorns look like the huge horns on a steamship or steam driven locomotive. Earsplitting! The Decibel levels caused a lot of hearing damage, back in the day!

The lighthouse keepers were sworn to duty: the nights of fog when the light was ineffective were the most brutal. The steam boilers had to be stoked endlessly to keep the horns operational. The nights when the sky was clear were still no "gift". The keeper had to climb the steps many times each night to trim the wick, clean off soot, fire the boiler for the Fresnel, and in their spare time, scan the horizons for vessels that might be in trouble. If a ship needed assistance, it was "All hands on deck!" to launch rescue craft to aide the stranded sailors and/or passengers. Cargo was secondary--only after the people and animals (if any aboard the ship still survived) were safely ashore could the lighthouse keepers worry about the cargo on a floundering vessel.

Many of the lighthouses had a huge bell that had to be rung if the foghorn was out of commission. Once more, electricity saved the aching muscles of the lighthouse keepers. Actuators were installed with a pitman and rotating gear that caused the bell to be struck with enough force to make it heard by marine traffic.

Every lighthouse is at the mercy of the weather. Painting and calking and brass shining were routine jobs that were carried out whenever possible; if not outside then inside.

The U.S. Lighthouse Service was a branch of the Armed Forces, specifically the U.S. Navy. When the U.S. Coast Guard was commissioned, the Lighthouse Service was deemed no longer necessary. Some keepers had been at their posts for 30 or 40 years! They were retired without much fanfare. Because the lighthouses were part of the military complex, however, they were always funded by Congress to keep the inventory in good working order as well as keep it appealing to look at. Lighthouses tried to be good neighbors.

There are hundreds of lighthouses in the United States and Canada alone! Major river systems have them; the Great Lakes are ringed with them; and, of course, the salt water shorelines from Alaska, down the West Coast and Puget Sound, Washington, Oregon, California, Mexico, the Middle Americas, South America, continuing around Terra Del Fuego and marching up the East Coast lines, the Gulf of Mexico, all of Florida, around the Florida Keys and all the beautiful islands to go up to Maine and over to Newfoundland. Hundreds and Hundreds of Lights...whew! (^_^)


Anne Norskog

4 Years Ago

Good morning, all. If anyone has drawings, paintings or photography of lighthouses, please post your lighthouse work here!

For you lighthouse lovers, I invite you to join the Group, "Lighthouse Drawings Paintings and Photography". I administer this Group and update it often (at least once daily) and try to feature each contributor on the Groups' Front Page. I have sponsored one contest and will be doing another soon.


Christine Till

4 Years Ago

Anne, what's the link for the group?

These sold during the last two months:

~ Pigeon Point Lighthouse CA

Art Prints

~ Point Arena Lighthouse CA

Photography Prints

~ Old Point Loma Lighthouse San Diego California

Sell Art Online


Anne Norskog

4 Years Ago

I think this will get you to the Group, Christine! Awesome that you have sold these prints. (^_^)


Anne Norskog

4 Years Ago



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