Learn about the various facilities which are part of the Points Northeast Historical Society. From the Browns Point Lighthouse and Park, to the Cottage and Boat House Museums, and Historic Bell Exhibit, the Research Center, and Dash Point Dock and Fountain and Historic School, there’s plenty to discover in the area.
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The Browns Point Lighthouse Park is a lovely 2 acre expanse of lawn and beach along South Puget Sound across from Tacoma WA. The Browns Point Lightstation, was established and operated from 1903 by the US Lighthouse Service, and later from 1939 by the US Coast Guard. Several historical buildings, including the lighthouse, lightkeeper’s cottage, boathouse, now a museum, are left from those times. The area is open as a public neighborhood park in cooperation with the Metropolitan Parks Tacoma.
"Points Northeast" refers to an area of Pierce County, WA, on Puget Sound across Commencement Bay from downtown Tacoma
It includes the areas of Browns Point, Dash Point, and Northeast Tacoma
Constructed in 1903, the Lightkeeper’s Cottage has been restored to its original appearance. The exterior is painted in the colors of the US Lighthouse Service: white clapboard walls with dark green and black window trim, and a red roof. Inside, the rooms are furnished from the period of 1903 to 1933. The cozy cottage has a living/dining room, music room, kitchen, bath, and three bedrooms. It’s available as a vacation rental.
In the basement of the Lightkeeper’s Cottage is a History Museum. The space holds exhibits and artifacts (many of which providing a hands-on experience) from the early days of the area An old fashioned kitchen with wood stove and ice box is displayed next to an early sewing room with a treadle sewing machine. A replica classroom from the small Browns Point schoolhouse invites children to sit in the desks and write on the blackboard. One corner of the space holds exhibits on different subjects, which are rotated periodically.
The Heritage Gardens at the lightstation are worth the trip to Browns Point at any time of the year to see what the Dash Point Garden Club, which has been around for over 60 years, has done lately. The gardens reflect the love of flowers that the first lightkeepers Oscar and Annie Brown had including a rose garden up the front path, hydrangeas, hollyhocks, red heart fuchsia's, fruit trees and a kitchen garden near the back porch. Window boxes burst with seasonal interest on both the front and back of the cottage. The gardens were featured recently on the Federal Way Annual Symphony Garden Tour which attracted over 300 people.
The original Boathouse, used since 1903, still sits along the shore. It was constructed to hold the small boats used by the Lightstation personnel. Today, a 16’ long, handmade surf boat replica is the featured display inside. Many hand tools and gardening equipment from earlier times are also on exhibit.
Historic Fog Bell
In 1903 ships listened for the lighthouse’s fog bell during dense fog that often blanketed Commencement Bay. That same fog bell now hangs in what was the pump house. Originally struck from the outside by a mechanical hammer, it is now rung by the muscle power of visitors, who pull on the bell rope attached to an internal clapper.
Original Sales Office
In 2010 the original Hyada Park Real Estate Office from 1907 was discovered being used as a backyard shed. Through the efforts of the Points Northeast Historical Society and Browns Point Improvement Club, it has been restored, inside and out, to its 1907 appearance. At the present time this small building is moved to various locations on the property.
Originally, the Crew Quarters, built in 1950’s by the US Coast Guard, it is now PNEHS History Research Center housing our archives, library, and administrative work space for accepting and cataloging artifacts and producing museum exhibits and publications.
Dash Point School, Museum
Built to replace a rented home near the Dash Point Dock used as a school during the Steamer days, the 1924 Dash Point School building housed K-6 grade students from both Dash Point and Browns Point communities. Roads and population growth resulted in newer schools, consolidation and eventual closure of the school property. In the 1990’s the Tacoma Public School District leased the property to the neighboring Marine View Presbyterian Church and the 1924 building was then sub-leased to the Northpoint Cooperative Pre-school. The Church offered Points Northeast Historical Society use of the “Principal’s Office” for historical collection and display. The 1924 building was placed on the Washington State Historical Registry in December, 1996. The property was eventually sold to the MVP Church putting all of the buildings at risk. Many public meetings were held resulting in sale of the 1924 building to the Northpoint Cooperative Pre-school in 2003. The pre-school has provided excellent stewardship of the building over the years with volunteers, grants and community support on behalf of parents and children. Today, a Memorandum of Understanding exists between Points NE Historical Society and the Northpoint Cooperative Pre-school maintaining support and a permanent museum at the school building. Museum is opened by appointment or during special events.
Dash Point Docks
Since early steamer boats plied Puget Sound, there have been four docks built at Dash Point. The earliest was a transportation dock made of wood in 1907 on the point. It quickly deteriorated due to worms and weather. The second wooden transportation dock was built farther east along the beach in 1912. It too, deteriorated quickly. A third community dock was built in 1917 in cooperation with Pierce County and Dash Point residents this time with poured concrete and steel reinforced pilings under a wood promenade. That dock lasted until 1996. The current dock near the same location at the foot of Markham Avenue was built by the Department of Washington State Fisheries. Since the 1920’s the Metropolitan Parks District has provided stewardship of the docks at Dash Point.
Restored Dash Point Fountain, 1923
The Historical Dash Point Fountain was built in 1923 at the Dash Point Dock Community Park operated by the Metropolitan Park District of Tacoma on land donated by Dash Point Community residents. It was named after David Gray Smith, a local citizen of Dash Point who designed and helped build it. Mr. Smith was a shipbuilder, a mason and active member of the Dash Point Water Association. Water was freely provided from Claude L. Austin’s spring located above Markham Ave leading down to the park. Soon after the waterfront road from Tacoma to Markham Ave and the 1917 Dock was completed, the fountain marked the incorporation of Dash Point into the Metropolitan Park District, and the origin of the Dash Point Water Association. A Dash Point Community Hall was built in 1925. The fountain housed lighting at the bottom to be lit up at night.
The fountain operated until wars in 1940’s required the electricity to be shut off. It deteriorated over the years, eventually became buried beneath a parking lot. In 2010 the granddaughter of Claude Austin and a member of the Dash Point Social and Improvement Club organized restoration of the Dash Point Fountain on the same footing, salvaging the original Sandstone Urn and seating caps on a replicated fortified rock wall. Volunteers and friends of the Dash Point Dock Community Park made this happen.