Dofflemyer Point Light, Boston Harbor

Dofflemyer Point Light, Boston Harbor

by | Sep 29, 2021

Dofflemyer Point is located in the community of Boston Harbor, on the eastern shore of South Puget Sound, and defines the entrance to Budd Inlet, about 23 miles (37 km) west-southwest of Tacoma and 7 miles (11 km) north of Olympia, Washington. Olympia was founded in 1850 and became the capital of Washington State and an industrial and cultural center of southern Puget Sound. On September 27, 1865, Isaac Dofflemyer and his wife Susan filed for a 320 Donation Land Claim and were granted 316 acres (128 ha) that included the point of land on the eastern side of the entrance to Budd Inlet that became known as Dofflemyer Point. The main industry in Olympia was lumber export to San Francisco. In 1873, the Northern Pacific Railroad reached Tacoma bringing more people and industry. But the fastest way to travel from the Tacoma railhead to South Puget Sound was by water on the mosquito fleet of steamships, and as Puget Sound’s population grew, so did vessel traffic. In 1907, Boston Harbor was named probably for marketing purposes by Seattle real estate developer Clarence D. Hillman. He sponsored excursions from Seattle, Tacoma, and Olympia on steamers and sold lots in his large plat of Boston Harbor. Hillman built a hotel and planked sidewalks but little else, and eventually was convicted of federal mail fraud for his many fraudulent ventures.

The Budd Inlet area had been home to the Coast Salish Lushootseed people known as the Steh-Chass for thousands of years. Other Native Americans regularly visited, including ancestor tribes of the Squaxin, Nisqually, Puyallup, Chehalis, Suquamish, and Duwamish. In 1792, the first recorded Europeans arrived with the Vancouver Expedition. Captain George Vancouver anchored HMS Discovery and HMS Chatham at Blake Island near modern-day Seattle and sent Peter Puget and a crew in small boats to explore further south in hopes that it would lead to the Northwest Passage. In the spring of 1841, the United States Exploring Expedition under the command of U.S. Navy Lieutenant Charles Wilkes entered the Strait of Juan de Fuca with the USS Vincennes and USS Porpoise and sailed south into Puget Sound making charts and naming many of the prominent features. The Porpoise surveyed Admiralty Inlet and South Puget Sound, while boats from the Vincennes surveyed Hood Canal and the coast northwards to the Fraser River. Budd Inlet was named to honor Thomas A. Budd, who served as acting sailing master of the Vincennes. Many of the bays and passages in southern Puget Sound were named by Wilkes for crew members of the expedition including Eld Inlet, Pickering Passage, Totten Inlet, Hammersley Inlet, and many others. In 1846, the Oregon Treaty between Great Britain and the United States was signed and brought to competing claims to the Oregon Country that had been jointly occupied since the Treaty of 1818. In 1853, President Millard Fillmore signed the bill creating the new Territory of Washington, and shortly thereafter, Olympia became the territorial capital.

Dofflemyer Point was an important turn for ships entering Budd Inlet en route to Olympia. The U.S. Lighthouse Board, aware that vessel traffic had increased substantially in southern Puget Sound, recommended that the point be marked with a light, and in 1887, a post lantern was erected consisting of a light suspended on a pole on a wharf at the point. The pole had a small wooden overhang to shelter the light which was raised and lowered by a rope and pulley system. The light was listed as 20 feet (6 m) above high water with a visibility of 6 miles (10 km) and 40 candlepower. In 1934, the U.S. Lighthouse Service replaced the post lantern with a pyramidal concrete tower 30 feet (9 m) tall and built by Rufus Kindle who was a local contractor. The new optic consisted of a small non-rotating drum-lens with an electric bulb to produce a 1,500 candlepower light. An electric fog signal was also installed on the tower. In the early 1960s, the U. S. Coast Guard automated the lighthouse using photoelectric cells to turn the light on and off. However, a contract keeper was still required to maintain the light and tower, and to activate the fog signal when needed. In 1987, the Dofflemyer Point Lighthouse was fully automated and was maintained until 1991 by the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Fir, and today by the USCGC Henry Blake which is responsible for the maintenance of all aids to navigation in Puget Sound. Read more here and here. Explore more of Dofflemyer Point here:

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