This Just In!

Museum Skylight Vent

If you have visited the Edmonds Historical Museum in the past week, you may have noticed construction noises and the “No Parking” signs out front. These are due to the work that is being done on our external skylight. Our featured object, the Museum Skylight Vent, comes from that construction.

Metal Museum Skylight Vent with white base and red hood

Museum Skylight Vent

A Brief History of Skylights

Here at the Edmonds Historical Museum we are lucky to have an influx of natural lighting in our Upper Level. Our original skylight is one such element that provides natural light to our space. But what is a skylight and when did they first appear?

A skylight is a roof opening covered with translucent or transparent glass or plastic designed to admit daylight. The idea of skylights date back to ancient Roman times. The earliest example is the Oculus of the Pantheon in Rome. Although it is not covered with a translucent material, this dome has a round opening allows light to travel throughout the space. Consequently, it also allows rain and more to enter the building.

Our Collections Manager , Briana, and Boyfriend at the Pantheon

Pantheon Oculus

Pantheon Oculus


Even though the use of glass in buildings also dates back to ancient Roman times, glazed and closed-off skylights have only been in use since the Industrial Revolution. Before that, the use of glass in skylight features was expensive, rare, and often leaky. The advances in glass production manufacturing and the advent of sheet metal provided glazing sealed from weather. This greatly improved the functionality and accessibility of skylights.

Today, skylights are often seen as bonus features in buildings and are energy efficient and sealed from the weather. Some are even designed to allow for venting. The featured object this month is the skylight vent from the top of the exterior glass structure. The interior skylight of the Museum can be vented for airflow, which is provided through the exterior skylight vent.

The Museum Skylight Project

Museum with existing skylight and vent on top

The exterior skylight is a large visible structure making it one of the key features of the original Carnegie Library building. The existing external skylight was constructed with steel framing and tin architectural details with single pane wire glass. The glass was mismatched and cracked, causing several ongoing leaks. The vent had also been painted a brick red color. Deciding whether to replace or restore this feature was a long process and focused on preservation of the building as a whole. In the end, the deteriorated state of the original made restoration the least favorable plan.

With the decision to replace rather than restore, the Facilities Department of the City of Edmonds began to work with the Building Department to specify what would be required of the new version. It was determined that the most significant changes should reflect modern energy and safety code. With the plans for the new skylight, the Edmonds Historic Preservation Commission carefully reviewed the design and graciously awarded the project a letter of appropriateness. In addition to the skylight, significant insulation will be added to the attic space in anticipation of future building restoration and efficiency efforts.

The New Skylight

The new skylight is a modern interpretation of the original 1910 version in size and shape. This will compliment the original architect’s design. The new skylight is constructed of structural aluminum extrusions and aluminum sheet for the architectural details. Overhead glazing, double insulated tempered glass over laminated glass, will be used for the glass. The aluminum will also be coated dark bronze to compliment the roofing color and will be water tight. The skylight vent is very similar in appearance to the old one.

Constructing the New Skylight- similar vent feature on top

Constructing the New Skylight


The old exterior skylight vent will help the Museum preserve the history of the 1910 Carnegie Building, using it to tell the story of our beloved historic building. The Edmonds Historical Museum would like to thank the City of Edmonds, The Snohomish County Historic Preservation Commission, and the Edmonds Historic Preservation Commission for their support of this project.

Do you have any items relating to Edmonds and South Snohomish County history that you wish to donate to the Museum? We would love to hear from you! Please fill out the Artifact Donation form, For further information, please contact us at