Student-built lantern house installed on lighthouse

COUPEVILLE — Over the course of two school years, Whidbey Island shop students crafted a new 2.5-ton steel lantern tower for the top of the Admiralty Head Lighthouse.

This past week, what they built was placed on top of the historic lighthouse at Fort Casey State Park.

“Someday I’ll be able to tell my kids or grandchildren that I helped build it,” said 17-year-old Zack Caravan. “They might not believe me, but I guess our names will be on a plaque.”

Caravan, a senior at South Whidbey High School, worked two semesters on the project. He and 61 other technical education students now have the satisfaction of a job well done.

They, their shop teachers and a crew of hard-working community volunteers also saved the state parks department at least a half-million dollars in their quest to restore the lighthouse at Fort Casey to its original glory.

“It’s proof that our tech-ed programs prepare kids to do meaningful, professional-level work,” said lighthouse coordinator Julie Pigott of the Washington State University Extension program in Island County. “We are proud of these students for building us a new lantern house based on the original plans from 1898. It’s an exact duplicate.”

The Admiralty Head Lighthouse was in use from 1903 until the 1920s. After that, Admiralty Head’s lantern house — the turret that houses the light at the top of the tower — was moved down the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Dungeness Lighthouse. In the 1960s, a poorly built replacement for the lantern house was installed at Admiralty Head, and that’s what came down when the students’ work went up.

To celebrate the installation of the new lighthouse top, a dedication ceremony is set for Sept. 8 at Fort Casey State Park. State Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen is scheduled to deliver the address.

Michael “Cav” Cavender, 18, worked on the lantern project and plans to be at the dedication. A June graduate of South Whidbey High School, he is set to start classes in a few weeks at Renton Technical College.

“The lantern house was important to all of us who had a chance to work on it,” Cavendar said. “We learned a lot during this project. For me, it taught me a lot about working with a team.”

The collaborative team included three metals classes who worked on the project over the course of two school years. At Oak Harbor High School, students fashioned the windows of the tower. Coupeville High School students made the roof. And at South Whidbey, students crafted the “tub” — the 8-foot diameter bottom piece, the door to the lantern room, its brass hinges and the heat vent for the roof. Then the South Whidbey crew welded it all together.

A handful of South Whidbey students showed up at the high school Aug. 23 to help community volunteer Archie Nichols load the lantern house on a trailer for its ride 25 miles up Highway 525 to Fort Casey. At the park, the young men watched as it was lifted into place by a crane.

“It’s really exciting to see how it looks up there,” said Scotty Campbell, 17, a South Whidbey senior.

Dick Malone and Lee Hart, longtime lighthouse volunteers, said the project would never have been done without the students.

Nichols agreed.

“I have enjoyed working with these creative young people and I’m excited about what they have learned and the skills they have developed,” Nichols said. “Our country needs this kind of industrial education. I am all for intellectual pursuits, but these skills are just as important.”

Nichols was the catalyst for the project, said South Whidbey shop teacher Chad Felgar.

“Archie was a great mentor and this is a great accomplishment for the kids,” Felgar said. “We pulled it off.”

Nichols Brothers Boat Builders, Island Crane Services owner Don Carscadden, Seaport Steel, WSU Extension Island County Lighthouse Program volunteers, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, Lighthouse Environmental Programs, Fort Casey State Park staff and the Coupeville Festival Association donated time, expertise, steel and money for the project, Pigott said.

Dedication ceremony

People are encouraged to attend the dedication of the new lantern tower of the Admiralty Head Lighthouse at Fort Casey State Park. The free event is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 8 at the lighthouse, located off Highway 20 near Coupeville. People will need a state Discover Pass,, for nearby parking.

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427;

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