Name: The Pilot House
Year Built: circa 1936
Location: 327 Jackson
Area: Point Hudson
The Pilot House, just above high tide at the Marina Basin, stands today in fond memory of the Puget Sound pilots who had their headquarters here from 1936 to 1941. When ships entered or left local waters, the pilots boarded and navigated them safely through Puget Sound waters. The Pilot House is now privately owned, and is rented to visitors on a daily or weekly basis. Occupants can listen to Mariah's concert whistling through the rigging, or the spellbinding chime of the bell buoy ringing in the new tide.
In the early years, the seacoasts were uncharted, and navigational equipment was primitive. The mariner had only his skill and luck to get his vessel safely into port. Even nowadays, when charting is so sophisticated, navigating the inland waterways and harbors of Puget Sound often requires a skilled local pilot.
The use of professional pilots developed early, shortly after the American Revolution, and soon laws were passed to require their services in some areas. Washington did not have a compulsory pilotage law until 1888.
The first pilot commission was headquartered in Port Townsend. Local lawyer and leading citizen, James G. Swan, wrote the bylaws, which became a model for their time.
The law was repealed in 1908 because of objections about the costs of complying, but the pilots continued to maintain a station in Port Townsend. Until the 1930s it was located in a former saloon building on Union Wharf. World War I and the opening of the Panama Canal stimulated Puget Sound shipping. Many foreign flag lines opened regular service between Pacific Coast ports and Europe. Northwest shippers charted foreign ships for lumber cargoes to the four corners of the globe. The Japanese earthquake of 1924 created a lumber and shipping boom. Fortunes were made on single trips to Japan.
This influx of foreign flag ships and the establishment of several intercoastal lines brought a new type of pilot, with experience and training gained during World War I.
In 1936 the small cottage we now know as the Pilot House was constructed at Point Hudson. In 1941, under pressure from the military, the pilot station was moved to Ediz Hook in Port Angeles, where it remains today.
The legislature again passed a pilotage law in 1935. Nowadays the Department of Transportation administers the system. A pilot must have a good deal of sea experience and pass a rigorous test. Most foreign vessels, tankers, and other large ships must use a pilot on certain waters.
Data modified from the National Register of Historic Places, the former Victorian Festival Heritage Home Tour, property owners and other sources. All material copyrighted by PTguide.com.