Not all folks know this, but Mukilteo has an official Visitor Information Center located in the old Water District building, across the street from Olympic View Middle School and a block off the Speedway. It is open 5 days a week (6 during the summer) and has a lot of great information about the City for both visitors and residents alike. It’s also a major component of the non-profit Mukilteo Chamber of Commerce.
Previously located inside Rosehill, the Information Center was moved to its current location when the community center was rebuilt. The Chamber pays the city a quarterly fee to use the building and is also responsible for all associated utility, cleaning, and landscaping costs.
Because of its non-descript location, many Mukilteo residents are surprised that the city has a Visitor Information Center and often exclaim, “I didn’t know this existed!” Over the years It has been suggested by many that the Information Center be moved to Lighthouse Park – the biggest tourist destination in town.
Currently the City of Mukilteo allows the Mukilteo Historical Society (MHS) to use the nearly 6,500 square feet in four buildings, rent and utility free. MHS currently uses Quarters B as its public hub with a gift shop open on weekends, and a few curated exhibits. The Society also conducts tours and hosts wedding events out of the actual Lighthouse building.
The other large building, Quarters A, located on the Eastern side of the grounds is used by MHS primarily for storage and a place to document artifacts and not open to the public. Could the City find a better use for this building? The City does an exceptional job of taking care of Lighthouse Park’s buildings and grounds. Wouldn’t housing a Visitor Center in Quarters A create a wonderful opportunity for those visiting Lighthouse Park to learn more about our beautiful city and all it has to offer?
Could an easy trade of space allow archived items, delicate and sensitive to humidity, be better located in a newer building with better control such as the old Water District building? Could an archives processing and documents repository equipped with great Internet/Wi-Fi capability, along with accessible ramps and double doors be helpful in preserving artifacts? Perhaps the city would be open to the same rent free/ free utilities option for MHS?
Lighthouse Park and its buildings were conveyed by the US Government to the City of Mukilteo. The reversionary clause in the conveyance document states the property must be used in accordance with the Historical Preservation Act of 1966 (amended Dec. 19, 2014, codified to title 54 of the United States Code). Specifically, the Act prescribes the Lighthouse portion, lens and related functions of navigation need to remain intact. All of said equipment is located in the Lighthouse itself. The Gift Shop and Open Public Exhibits are all located in Quarters B.
The Act also states that the historical value of surplused property is to be maintained and enhanced. If the entirety of the Historical Preservation Act and amendments are fully read, one can easily see that the goal of the Act is to preserve historical locations and provide owners with the flexibility to determine the “highest and best use” spaces which encourage and foster public access. It seems a closed archives building, rarely open to the public, doesn’t really allow public access and or the ability to appreciate the historic nature of the building. A year-round visitor center operated by the Mukilteo Chamber would allow for the enjoyment and access by all, as implied in the conveyance documents. Building B, the Carriage House, the Lighthouse, and the proposed water district building would remain available for use by the Historical Society.
The Information Center isn’t looking to “take over” all of the buildings at Lighthouse Park, but rather seeks a partnership that would allow both entities to operate to the best of its potential and highlight the wonderful community that we are all so fortunate to call home.
Christina Stollwerck, Mukilteo resident
SOURCE: Letter to the Editor submission on May 31, 2023.