||June 25, 2010
Lighthouse Closings Coming
The federal government has recently put close to 1000
lighthouses on the auction block as surplus real estate. Some are inactive with
long standing staff let go in a “de-staffing” exercise over the years. Some are
still active and staff will be let go. It should be stated that some of the
destaffed ones have been automated and some replaced by steel towers or poles
equipped with the latest equipment.
Some of the lighthouses were or are in bad shape and some were demolished and
others taken over by interested parties. Some museums have incorporated them
into their heritage programs and in some cases communities have developed them
as tourist attractions with tours and a giftshop. Some have been taken over by
preservation societies and showcased. Some sites were environmentally sensitive
and have been umbrellaed by bird watchers and the like. And lastly some have
been bought by private individuals and made into family recreational properties.
Most are isolated and not feasible as permanent homes.
Port Colborne Lighthouse
I have written about the Welland Canal and the St. Lawrence
Seaway in my column here. Port Colborne is on the south end of the Welland
Canal. My father worked at a government elevator there and other relatives
worked on various aspects of the canal over the years.
||Port Colborne breakwater and lighthouse. D.
As a teenager in the late 1940s I got a summer job at the
Port Colborne lighthouse a mile out in Lake Erie on a breakwater protecting the
Port Colborne Bay. I worked the nightshift while the lightkeeper slept. It was a
fascinating and responsible job. My job was to look for fog and alert the
lightkeeper so he could put the foghorn on etc.I read many books. I was a track
middle distance runner and ran the mile long breakwater several times each day
to keep in shape. I also had a girlfriend who I visited on my day off each
Sunday. I would motor across and she would meet me on her bicycle. We are still
together. My mother was angry because she hardly saw her son all summer. The
cupola and a full display on the Port Colborne Lighthouse can be seen at the
Port Colborne Marine Museum. (to see a photo checkout
www.lighthouse.nerd.com/gallery ). See my photo of the Port Colborne
breakwater, lighthouse and ship.
An article “Landmark lighthouse is up for grabs” talks about the anger in
several Niagara Peninsula communities with light houses ,including Port
There have been other stories including one June 12 in the Globe & Mail. The
story tells about lightkeeper Ms. Dickman who was interviewed in her
lighthouses’ cupola overlooking the eastern entrance to the Straight of Juan de
Fuca in B.C. Her son was also interviewed. They talked about the iconic and
romantic nature of lighthouses in Canadian and maritime history.
The same Globe & Mail edition talked about one of the typical old time
lightkeepers George Davies who became a lightkeeper in 1859 and lived a
fascinating life and many did.
Looking for lighthouse information locally I called
historian Don Clysdale in Callander who is writing a book for Callander’s 125^th
next year. Besset J. VandenHazel’s book From Dugout to Diesel shows a photo of
Steven Wessel in 1910. His job was lighting a light on shore near his home each
night to help the local traffic.
||Callander lighthouse at the narrows at the entrance to Callander
Bay.Zelda McLellan photo.
There is also a photo of the lighthouse on the south shore
of Lake Nipissing at the Narrows at the entrance to Callander Bay. Don Clysdale
provided a photo of the lighthouse with some of the operators family.
I inquired about the lighthouse near the Callander dock and was told that it was
not an official lighthouse even though it looked like one. It was built by a
group of men who owned the little island and built it as a place to retreat for
rest and recreation. It washed away in the tornado in July 2006 .
There are numerous preservation societies including for
example the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Society founded in 1994 (www.nslps.com
) which shows the type of work being done to preserve these important artifacts.
There is also the Lighthouse Digest which looks at all aspects of lighthouse
For a sample of some excellent work check out the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keeper
Lighthouses are an important part of our heritage that we need to keep in
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