Heritage Lighthouses in Canada
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Historic Piece of Canadian Heritage Being Sold Off To American-led Group!
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has provided information that it is ready to announce the divestiture of the historically significant Nine Mile Point lighthouse (near Kingston, ON) to the ownership of an American-led group.
This move is being made while a Canadian heritage organization, the Nine Mile Point Lighthouse Preservation Society (NMPLPS), has also submitted a proposal to DFO to conserve the lighthouse. This organization is incorporated as a not-for-profit under the umbrella of the Ontario Historical Society. They have proposed to conserve the lighthouse and keep it as a public space as well as to provide historical interpretation of the heritage structure and its historical context.
The Nine Mile Point lighthouse, a 40-foot (12-meter) tall masonry tower constructed in 1833 on Simcoe Island, Lake Ontario, is the oldest continuously operated lighthouse on the Canadian side of the Great Lakes and has been an essential aid to navigation for mariners for more than 180 years.
The American-led ownership group is called the Simcoe Island Lighthouse Association (SILA) and the pending transfer of ownership from DFO is under the terms of the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act (HLPA). “Several of the SILA members are Americans who own property adjacent to the lighthouse. There is a fear that this American-led group could severely limit or entirely eliminate all public access to the heritage lighthouse simply for the sake of enhancing their personal privacy or to increase their own property values,“ says Marc Seguin, Executive Director of Save Our Lighthouses Canada.
“A significant piece of Canadian history is being sold to outside interests and that is not right,” said Seguin.
In an era when steamboats and sailing ships were vital for those of our ancestors living in and immigrating to Upper Canada (now the province of Ontario), lighthouses were essential to help guide ships and their passengers and cargoes to safe harbours throughout the course of the19th Century and well into the 20th Century. The NINE MILE POINT LIGHTHOUSE, situated at the eastern end of Lake Ontario near Kingston and the entrance to the St. Lawrence River, was one of those lighthouses.
The waters of eastern Lake Ontario were especially dangerous. A number of factors converged in this area --- geography, currents, wind and weather --- that resulted in so many shipwrecks and ship sinkings that this part of the lake became known as "the graveyard of Lake Ontario".
The NINE MILE POINT LIGHTHOUSE was one of three masonry lighthouses constructed in this area between 1828 and 1833. The other two have long since been demolished leaving the NINE MILE POINT LIGHTHOUSE as Canada's longest, continuously active lighthouse on the Great Lakes.
The lighthouse was designed by architect Thomas Rogers and constructed by master stone mason Robert Matthews, both from Kingston. The lighthouse lantern, the domed glass structure at the top of the tower, was built by Kingston blacksmith, Thomas Masson, and originally contained eleven oil lamps with parabolic reflectors.The first lighthkeeper at Nine Mile Point was Thomas Sparham, who kept the light for 22 years.
Later in the 19th Century, a fog bell was installed at Nine Mile Point, and this was eventually replaced by a steam-powered foghorn. A succession of lightkeepers kept the light and foghorn operating until the entire system was automated by the Canadian Coast Guard in the 1960's. At that time, the lightkeeper's dwelling was sold off, but the lighthouse still remains as an active aid to navigation guiding lake freighters to and from the St. Lawrence River and serving as a beacon for numerous recreational boaters.