Meet the Docents

Lee Hart

Lee Hart kept the lighthouse light shining since 2001

When you first walk inside Admiralty Head Lighthouse on Whidbey Island, you’ll see two photographs on the wall of people in 19th century dress. Chances are, one of them came to life in the form of Docent Lee Hart. He was the one wearing the lightkeeper’s sack coat, and he knew his lighthouse history.

In fact, Lee was the one who carefully researched the type of clothing worn by lightkeepers of Admiralty Head, and took designs to a seamstress who is an expert in historical costumes for Civil War re-enactments. One of the sources Lee used was the official Lighthouse Service Manual published in 1900.

Lee first became interested in volunteering for Admiralty Lighthouse while recuperating from surgery in spring of 2001. He saw an announcement for volunteers, and soon enough was taking part in Docent training sessions, doing research, working on restoration projects and giving community talks.

"I’ve been involved in a lot of projects, including maintaining the property, tackling IT projects and keeping doors and doorknobs operating" said Lee when interviewed in 2012. "I even built a replica of a brass wickie box, which the lightkeeper would use when cleaning the lantern."

"Lee was one of our most vested volunteers, a person we rely on for completing many projects," said Julie Pigott, former WSU Lighthouse Program Coordinator and LEP Grant Administrator. "He not only worked behind the scenes, but also greeted our visitors with great enthusiasm."

Lee and other docents were instrumental in helping get a historically accurate lantern house built and installed (the original lantern house was removed in the 1920s and used on another lighthouse). It was a project that included students from three Whidbey Island high schools – Oak Harbor, Coupeville and South Whidbey – along with their teachers, Nichols Brothers Boat Builders, and many volunteers. All took part in the fund raising, building and installation.

Lee was also part of the volunteer team that helped refurbish the fragile bullseye Fresnel lens. It took a fundraising effort of $16,000 to accomplish, but as Lee says, the lens would not have withstood another severe storm or even a slight earthquake.

Because of the research he and his fellow docents have done over the years, new volunteers have more resources from which to draw, including stories about the lightkeepers’ families.

"People love stories," remarked Lee. "It’s about a time and way of life that isn’t around anymore, so there’s a level of romance about the era."

Lee spent 29 years in the U.S. Army, and then worked as a network administrator at Everett Community College until he retired in 2004. Lee passed away in 2014, but you’ll still be seeing his legacy at the lightkeeper’s door.