V.4

Lookouts


In response to the 1910 fire, the Forest Service developed a broad policy towards fire detection and suppression. The policy included a more extensive trail system, tool caches, a telephone system, and the construction of lookouts. More than 5000 lookouts were to be constructed over the next fifty years, the greater number in the western states and the majority built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930's.

Lookouts were small, self-contained, observation rooms located on high peaks with commanding views, allowing the spotter to see both wide expanses of country and developing weather patterns. The lookouts were either sited at grade, or elevated on towers of either wood or steel. The concept of the lookout was two fold. Seasonal workers lived in or near the lookout and spend the day trying to detect fires by looking for active smoke trails. In addition, during active thunderstorms, whether night or day, the spotters recorded visual lightening strikes within her or his view shed. These strikes were recorded on an instrument known as an Osborne firefinder, consisting of a circular map of the viewing area and a brass alidade mounted at the location of the lookout on the map. By turning the alidade towards the point of the lighting strike, the spotter could record a direction and general location of the strike. Other lookouts within the vicinity would be doing the same, and by triangulation of the direction from each lookout, the location of a lightening strike could be identified. The development of a forest fire from a lightening strike can be immediate or delayed. Under the right conditions, a lightening strike can immediately start a fire. In other instances, and one that is more common, the lightening can ignite the duff of the forest floor or an old snag, and the fire will smolder for days and weeks without giving off enough smoke to be visible. Weeks or even months after a storm has past, these fires can erupt into flame. It is these events, along with man-made fires, that make the lookout so valuable. Three or four times each hour, the spotter scans the forest in search of any tell-tale smoke signs. If a column of smoke suddenly appears, quick reference to recorded lightening strikes and coordinated triangulation with other lookouts can provide a location and potential cause of a fire. Such information could then be telephoned/radioed to administrative sites and used for the deployment of firefighters and support staff.

For many years lookouts were an integral part of the Forest Service fire detection system. Lookouts were eventually phased out by the use of spotter planes, and global satellite technology. Only a few remain active today.

At its peak there were 65 Forest Service constructed lookouts in the four county area of the Olympic Peninsula. Dodger Peak is the only remaining fire lookout in Olympic National Forest.

During World War II, many of these lookouts took on a second function as station of the Aircraft Warning Service. Manned virtually on a continuous basis, the lookouts housed personnel who noted and reported all aircraft traffic within their view shed. During the summer months, Dodger Peak operated as both a fire lookout and an aircraft warning station.

Conservation Goals
The basis of judgment for evaluating the Dodger Peak Lookout is a Conservation policy of preserving the structure for the continued use by park staff. The underlying principal of this policy is the desire to preserve both the original design and materials of the structure in its landscape setting while addressing life safety issues within a long-term maintenance program. Such preservation measures may include limited restoration of deteriorated material and replacement in-kind of material and assemblies that have reach their service life.


Elements of Significance and Character Defining Features:

Within the goal of preserving Dodger Peak Lookout, the concept of significance plays a vital role in establishing maintenance policy. For historic structures, significant elements are those qualities of the building that provide historic meaning and understanding.

The Dodger Peak Lookout is significant for its association with the history of the Forest Service's program of fire detection. Its design and construction represent practical and functional use of local materials. It has retained integrity of setting, design, materials, and association with an important aspect of the Park's history.

In terms of significant character defining elements of the lookout, these are embodied in the simple form, basic frame system, lap siding and short eaves, and the extensive fenestration of each elevation. Sitting atop a stone foundation, the principle feature is the windows that both dominate its appearance and define its function. Of equal importance are the board and brace frame shutters for winter protection.

On the interior, the beaded wainscot of the side walls (run horizontal) and the ceiling are character-defining features as is the painted wood floor. Perhaps even more important is the original lookout equipment. The Osborne firefinder, firefinder stand, and the telephone, (should be a telephone box clamped to the pedestal of the firefinder) were still in place during a 2006 visit to the lookout. These are important objects that need to be protected and kept at the lookout.

A conservation program for the lookout should include retention of as much of original fabric as possible, and only if that material is no longer functional should it be replaced. If replacement is required, then matching the original material in appearance and size is critical in retaining the historic qualities of the lookout.


V.4.1
Dodger Point Lookout


Dodger Point Lookout was constructed in 1933. Located in Washington State, it fell into the Forest Service designated Region 6, which covered the Northern Pacific. While the Forest Service had published a limited set of standardized building plans in 1908, none of those plans addressed a lookout tower. It was not until 1934, a year after Dodger Point was constructed that Region 6 published a set of standardized building plans. These structures were not referenced as "Lookouts" but rather Lookout Houses. The 1934 plans of Region 6 included a standard "Lookout House", Plan FC-1. This plan was for a small 14' x 14' single story structure.


Dodger Point Lookout

Figure No. 1: 1934 Forest Service Region 6 Standard Plan for a Lookout House.


This plan is similar to Dodger Point in size, but unlike Dodger Point, it utilizes a four-lite sash pattern.

In 1932 Region 1 (Northern Rockies) published Plan L-4 that is virtually identical to Dodger Point.



Dodger Point Lookout

Figure No. 2: 1932 Region 1 standard design for a Lookout House.

This plan follows the standardized size of 14' x 14', but uses the same nine-lite sash as found at Dodger Point. This can be seen in the following Figure V.4-3 that illustrates a L-4 plan on a twenty foot tower.

Dodger Point Lookout

Figure No. 3: A 1932 Region 1 Plan T-20, illustrating a 20 foot "Lookout Tower with Living Quarters for Use with Plan L-4".

The L-4 Plan was devised to be used as the Lookout House for tower as high as 50'. As Dodger Point, the site did not require a tower, and the "Lookout House" was simply placed at grade on a rock foundation.

Dodger Point Lookout

Figure No. 4: Dodger Point Lookout House, 2006.

Site:
  • The lookout building sits atop Dodger Peak surrounded by a shallow grass meadow and a few isolated fire trees. Site drainage is not an issue in this location

Foundation:
  • The foundation of the lookout house is composed of a dry laid rubble stone system. There is no evidence of mortar or any systematic method of laying the stone. As discussed below, the frame of the structure shows signs of rack and distortion, some perhaps from wind load, but more from a differential settlement of the foundation. There appears to be a new pressure-treated sill member along two sides, presumably normal to the floor joists. These sill members do not appear to be well seated on the stone foundation. The type of connection between this sill plate and the rest of the building frame is unknown. The lookout house had special corner connections that bolted the corner stud assembly to the sill plate (See Figure No. V-4.2). In such an exposed weather location this a lookout, this connection was critical for anchoring the frame to the sill. The mere presence of the pressure-treated sill implies it is a recent replacement and the question arises as to whether it still has a connection to the frame.

    Recommendation:

    The base of the building should be leveled and at least at the corners for a distance back of several feet, the dry stone wall foundation should be rebuilt to a more stable assembly. Secure connections need to be made between the sill, floor joists, and the corner studs, tying all securely together. This will entail removal of some of the exterior siding.

Dodger Point Lookout

Figure No. 5: Dry Stacked rubble foundation, 2006.

Frame
  • The structure has indication of racking and twisting of the frame. This is most likely settlement of the foundation. This movement shows up in the difficulty of closing the door, separation of corner finish joints, and the twisting of the roof plate. The frame of a standard L-4 Lookout House had 4 x 4 posts at the corners and 2 x 4 intermediate studs. The tops of

Dodger Point Lookout

Figure No. 6: Note the outward rotation of the wall plate above the door trim.

Dodger Point Lookout

Figure No. 7: Note racking of the trim as the frame distorts.

  • the studs do not have a flat plate, but a 2x member was inset in a notch of the wall stud as a wall ledger. The ceiling joists, which also act at the rafter tie, rest upon and are anchored to the wall ledger.

Dodger Point Lookout

Figure No. 8: Interior corners also show signs of the frame distortion.

  • Recommendation:

    Following the work at the foundation and leveling of the building, the trim around the eave line should be removed and the connections of the stud, wall ledger, ceiling joists, and rafters re-secured and reinforced.

Siding and Trim:
  • The lap siding on the lower portion of the walls appears in fair condition. There are some "nail-popping" from thermal movement and a paint coating in poor condition.

    The trim around the windows, doors, and siding has not held up as well as the siding. Trim elements directly below the windows have cracked trim above the door has deteriorated, and corner trim is beginning to rotate from frame movement.

    Recommendation:

    Once the building is squared, the majority of the trim will need to be re-nailed or replaced. Both the siding and the trim will need to be re-painted.

Roof:
  • The roof has cedar shingles and appears to be in good condition. The rafters look sound, but have separated in the past at the ridgeline (there is no ridge board), and repairs have been made by using former siding pieces to former collar ties. The solid roof sheathing looks in good condition.

    Recommendation:

    While the roof looks in good condition, after the building is leveled, it would be important to re-secured all connections in the roof frame and to add a reinforcement connection (gusset plate) at the ridgeline of the rafters.

Windows:
  • The actual sash windows look in good condition. Paint coating is fair. The winter shutters for the windows are weathering, with some warped elements of the brace frame and failing connections.

    Recommendation:

    Just as part of the maintenance program, repainting of the exterior surfaces of the window frame and sill is recommended.
  • The winter shutters all need to be repainted. Prior to repainting, the brace frames either need to be repaired or deteriorated elements replaced. In addition to protecting the windows during the winter, the shutters add an element of stiffness to the upper wall section when closed.

Dodger Point Lookout

Figure No. 9: The window sash of Dodger Point Lookout

Door:
  • The existing door is not original. The original door would have had a six-lite upper section with a single solid panel below. A replacement door to match the original would retain the integrity of the lookout house. The problem appears to be a winter shutter to cover the door as there are for the windows.

    Recommendation:

    Restoring the multi-paned door to match the original should be done to provide the experience of a complete 360 view shed of lookout. The issue would be such a door should not be installed without also providing for a winter shutter for the door.

Interior:
  • The interior appears to be in remarkably original condition and in fair shape. Some trim may need to be re-secured after the building is squared. The scuttle to the attic storage needs to be replaced or restored. As mentioned in the discussion of significance, many of the original interior features regarding the operation of the lookout remain and should be left in place.

Recommendation:
  • Re-secured any loose trim and repaint the interior to its historic white color.



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