Windows

Window Replacement

The importance of windows is easy to overlook, but out at Burrows Island Light Station, the Northwest Schooner Society has been learning all about it.

The keepers’ quarters are housed in a charming yet spacious 1906 duplex designed by Carl Leick. The units originally had many beautiful large double-hung windows looking out onto Rosario Strait and Lopez Island, not to mention the picturesque lighthouse, but, sometime between the automation of the lighthouse in 1972 and the beginning of restoration work in 2011, vandals kicked out nearly every pane of glass. The windows had to be boarded up to keep out the elements, leaving the entire building in the dark.

Here’s the front of the keepers’ quarters. As you see, most of the windows are still covered:
Keepers' Quarters

For obvious reasons, the Northwest Schooner Society has made the repair of the windows a priority. It’s quite a project to replace windows at the light station; damage that took only a few seconds to do takes an incredible amount of time, effort, and money to fix. Each wooden frame must be removed from the building, brought to shore by boat and then taken to a volunteer’s home workshop, where it is carefully disassembled, cleaned, and repaired before new glass is inserted into the openings and the frame is reassembled and painted. Finally, the new window is driven back to Anacortes and ferried across the harbor to Burrows Island.

The strategy has been to do a single window in each room of the north unit to ensure enough light to work on other projects. So far, we have 12 windows done and 60 to go. Volunteers have been generous with their time and expertise, but there are still costs associated with this project, about $100 per window for supplies and transportation. If you would like to help restore this piece of local maritime history, consider donating the cost of window. If you’d like to give in someone’s name, we can arrange a pretty card with an image of Burrows Island for your recipient. Imagine what a nice surprise that might be for your favorite ‘lightkeeper’ this upcoming holiday season.

Here you see volunteers preparing to take newly finished windows out to Burrows Island:
Window Replacement

Window Replacement

Window Replacement

Window Replacement

Window Replacement

Window Replacement

When the boat arrives at the island, the windows must be carried up the steep stairs along the rocky shore to the boathouse and across the field to the keepers’ quarters.

Keepers' Quarters (Interior)

It’s exciting and gratifying to remove the plywood from a newly restored window and see the light to flood back in as it did over 100 years ago. Here are some of the windows that have already been reglazed.

The living room:
Keepers' Quarters (Interior)

The kitchen:
Keepers' Quarters (Interior)

An upper bedroom:
Keepers' Quarters (Interior)

Finding the Lighthouse Keepers

Not all the work on the Burrows Island Light Station happens on the island. Some of us also do research, trying to find out more about the history of the lighthouse and the people who lived there. Over the next few months, I will be writing a series of posts on the search for information about the lighthouse keepers of Burrows Island. These posts will reveal some new aspects of the lighthouse’s history.

This kind of project can be started in the library or even sipping tea on your couch, now that so many resources have been digitized and put online. To get a complete picture, you usually have to do a combination of digging in the archives and searching electronic databases. A few weeks ago, I started my search by looking up the earliest employment and salary records for Burrows Island Light Station. These, like all early lighthouse employment records, can be found on microfilm at the Seattle branch of the National Archives (NARA). During the period we are interested in, these records were kept by the Light-House Board and were pretty bare bones, although they do give us the names of all keepers and assistant keepers from the opening of the lighthouse in 1906 on through the end of 1912. In some cases, we learned the whole name of the keeper, but in others, only the last name and first initials or a shortened form of the first name.

Once we have a name, we search for likely matches in the census records, birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, naturalization records, and international ship manifests. For male lighthouse keepers, WWI draft registration cards can be another excellent source of information, listing such interesting tidbits as the man’s nearest relative, occupation, and even a physical description. Practically speaking, AncestryLibrary, which is available for free at the library, or the paid consumer edition, Ancestry.com, can be a good place to begin, as it centralizes a lot of the records databases in one search.

To kick off the series, I will describe my search for Chas G. Becker, a temporary assistant keeper who filled in for a short time during the first year that the lighthouse was in operation.

Burrows Island Views

The Light Station on Burrows Island is as picturesque as any lighthouse — the dramatic rocky shore and the wall of trees behind it perfectly complement the 1906 buildings by Light-House Board architect, Carl Leick. The Northwest Schooner Society has taken on the historical preservation of the light station, a massive task that requires many hours of volunteer labor and the donations of the broader community. Please consider helping the Northwest Schooner Society preserve this important and beautiful part of Pacific Northwest maritime history.

This is a closer view of the lighthouse with the keepers’ quarters duplex in the background.

Burrows Island Light Station

Burrows Island Light Station

To see more pictures of the lighthouse, check out our Flickr stream.