Making History Visible: A Community Event to Commemorate Our Past

The Points NE Historical Society is celebrating their 25th year anniversary and a ceremony to honor September 11th. Jim Harnish, President of Points NE Historical Society, for four years, explained the purpose of the event, “It [the Historical Society] started in 1986; the 25th anniversary year. It’s focused on the history of Browns Point, Dash Point, and NE Tacoma. Our mission statement is “To preserve, promote, and to celebrate the local history.” We have about 350 members and have a great working board of about 15. Our site is a Browns Point lighthouse property. In the old days, the coast guards owned the property of the Browns Point lighthouse station. Metropolitan parks of Tacoma has a long-term lease with the Coast Guard to maintain it as a long-term park. Our historical society has the agreement with Metro Parks cooperative agreement to restore the historical buildings, to maintain them, and have them open for the public so they can come to better understand the role of the lighthouse keepers and the history of the culture of lighthouse keepers…Still a working lighthouse that the coastguard maintains. The buildings which is restored, includes the light keepers cottage, a classic building with three bedrooms. The lighthouse keeper and family lived in the cottage…1903 is when the cottage was built, in same year a boat house to rescue people (service boat)….A pump house where they pump water out of now traffics [the ships.] The fog bell is for ships to hear the bell if it’s foggy. The lighthouse marks the entrance to commencement bay which is the port of Tacoma.”

The event takes place, at the Browns Point Lighthouse Park located at: 201 Tulalip Street in Tacoma from noon to 4 pm. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own picnic lunch or to purchase a hotdog, chips, and drink for a $1.

Jim explained the history and purpose of the Points NE Historical Society, “It’s an organization that helps to raise the awareness of local history and Dash Point, Browns Point, and NE Tacoma are closely knit community that has a long history and that the historical society promotes that. For instance, Captain George Vancouver landed here and explored this area and connected with the North Americans here. The site is historical for lots of different reasons.”

Jim shared the best thing about the historical society, “I think that we preserve the history so future generations will know their roots. There are a lot of families out here that are second and third generation and capturing that a sense of continuity of who we are as a community. Last spring over 250 kids we took on field trips learning about their local history of the lighthouse and the area. The lighthouse property which we restored the lighthouse keepers’ cottage, can be rented out as a vacation rental property, is restored to its original state which is the timeframe of 1930.  (Life of the early 20th century, not just a lighthouse). The whole building is a museum; specifically we have a history museum in the cottage of how people lived. We have a kitchen that shows how people lived with an ice box, wood stove, and all the kitchen utensils. So, kids and adults can see how people live. A lot of people say, “This looks just like my grandmother’s house.” [There’s a] one room old school house. We even had a child say, “Where do you turn this on?” (In regards to an old typewriter). There is a sewing room in the original lighthouse keeper name of the previous residents: Oscar Brown and Annie Brown. 1903 to Oscar and his wife lived in the cottage.”

Jim discussed more details of the event, “Celebrate the history of our historical society [which has been around for] 25 years. Also, September 11th, learning to come together as a community for important events in history, as well as recognize and remember the history. We [as a society] are thinking how can we promote our mission statement? And how we can get neighborhoods, schools, churches, and sports clubs to capture their own history? We had a workshop in May to kinda teach people how to do local history. “Making history visible,” which is the name of the event. Then we added the idea of a “Community Event to Commemorate our Past.” …Broadened out to focus on 9-11, too.”

Jim shared what many people may not know about the Historical Society, “That we have restored and have opened to the public the facilities of Browns Point and as part of that they can actually rent the lighthouse keepers cottage as a vacation rental. Even neighbors are sometimes surprised at how we restored it and opened it to the public and that we have a first class history museum with a replica of a coast guard surf boat, old artifacts that people can really learn about their history…Even neighbors are sometimes surprised. This event is to really showcase what we have to offer for the history.

There are three museums: a Cottage Museum how people lived and the whole cottage is furnished with antiques from 1910s and 1920s. People can rent that by the week. Our tag line is, “stay a week and experience a century” people can understand how lighthouse keepers and the early 20th century lived.

The Boat House museum which houses the replica of a Coast Guard surf boat along with antique tools and farm equipment; trying to depict what life was like.

Third museum is the pump house for pumping water in the early days; which also hangs the lighthouse fog bell. Kids can ring it or anybody can ring it…big kids, too [Jim laughs].

All three museums are open Saturday from 1 pm to 4 pm and are open to public for free. [It’s also located on a] Beautiful beach…this is a Tacoma metro park a big grassy picnic, launch kayaks there. We had sponsored grade school field trips combine with beach combing had over 250 in the spring (4 different schools come) and we gave them a little tour.”

When asked who he recommended attend the event this Sunday, Jim replied, “It’s an old fashioned family event. There will be games for the kids, music banjo (on program) Dixie Cats [band] and also another group singing sea shanty songs, hot dogs, soda, and chips for a $1 the history displays are the most important thing. They are pictorial histories of organizations, schools, churches in the area that depict the history of the area. For instance, some [pictorials are] of the old churches that have been around for a long time, soccer league, and garden club.”

Jim recommends his family and friends attend the event, “There’s also gonna be the local garden club which has been around for years and we’ll have a plant sale and a used book sale. And sales of souvenir items of the local area souvenir pins, books, note cards.” Jim added, “We’ve had such a positive response from elected officials to be present and to speak attracting more attention than we had originally planned. Our event has become focused for a broader community. Originally, we thought of our local community which now broadens to Tacoma, Pierce County, and Federal Way, including South King County area. We’re preparing for 500 people.

The 9-11 moment is featuring a group of Sea Scouts ceremonial raising of the flag that flew over the capitol in Washington D.C. and then some brief talks by Representative Adam Smith, our national Congressmen from the area, Commander Mark Mc Cadden, Chief of External Affairs for the U.S. Coastguard District 13, and Metropolitan Parks Tacoma commissioner: Krystal Kyer. Also, in attendance will be the Mayor of Tacoma, Maryland Strickland, and our representative in Olympia, Laurie Jinkins for the 27th District, the County Councilmen Joyce Mc Donald, Pat Mc Carthy Pierce County Executive, and Tacoma City Council Member Ryan Mello.”

For more information or questions, call: 253 927-2536.