Digest>Archives> Jan/Feb 2006

Ontario's Nottawasaga Lighthouse Stabilized

By Jeremy D'Entremont


You can see an enlarged version of this picture by clicking here.
>> Click to enlarge <<
Nottawasaga Island Light during the stabilization ...

One of the six so-called ”Imperial Towers” around the Georgian Bay in Ontario, Canada, Nottawasaga Island’s tall, elegant limestone lighthouse has had a lengthy stay on this magazine’s Doomsday List. The lighthouse went into service in 1858, the same year the nearby town of Collingwood was incorporated. New life has been breathed into the old tower with stabilization work that took place this past fall, and local preservationists hope it will be looking like new for its 150th birthday celebration in 2008.

You can see an enlarged version of this picture by clicking here.
>> Click to enlarge <<
A close view of the tower in late 2004, showing ...

Resident keepers and their families looked after Nottawasaga Island Lighthouse for a century. That era ended when the keeper’s house was destroyed by fire in 1958; the light was automated a short time later. By the turn of the 21st century, the 85-foot tower had deteriorated to the point that Canadian Coast Guard personnel deemed it unsafe to climb. The light was decommissioned in 2003,

but the solar-powered light continued to shine on its own. In fact, except for a brief interruption because of a major snowstorm in January 2005, the light has continued to operate despite the lack of maintenance.

A wide web of cracks eventually spread through much of the tower’s white dolomite limestone exterior. Water entering through the cracks caused portions of the exterior to detach from the tower’s rubblestone core.

A 2002 study estimated that the outer wall would start falling off by about 2007.

That prediction turned out to be optimistic.

In late 2004, a large portion of the northeast face of the lighthouse fell to the ground. The damage may have been exacerbated by a lightning storm. The only good news was that the section of the tower’s exposed limestone core revealed that the builders did an excellent job in 1858, using layers of flat and square stones in a mortar matrix.

Jim Kilgour, chairman of Collingwood’s Harbourlands Committee, launched a preservation effort in 2003. Before the damage in late 2004, a complete restoration was estimated at $600,000. After the damage, the estimate went up to $1.5 million. Kilgour’s many months of campaigning on the lighthouse’s behalf paid off in August 2005, when the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Geoff Regan, went to Collingwood to announce $230,000 in Canadian federal funds for improved lightning protection and stabilization of the lighthouse.

Roof Tile Management, Inc. was contracted to carry out the stabilization work in the fall. This Ontario-based company had completed work on a number of historic sites, including Toronto’s St. Anne’s Church and Dundurn Castle in Hamilton. The lighthouse stabilization presented unique problems, especially since all materials needed to be transported to the island by barge. In fact, transportation consumed at least 40% of the $230,000 budget. Bad weather in October and November put the project slightly behind schedule, but it was completed toward the end of November.

Roof Tile Management workers scaled away loose rock and coated the exposed inner surface to prevent further damage. The space between the inner and outer walls was sealed to prevent moisture from entering. Seven wood and metal reinforcing bands were secured around the tower, and the bands will remain in place until a full restoration can be carried out.

Kilgour is pleased with the recent progress. “The federal government people have been fantastic in their support for us,” he says. “They have acted quickly to get things done.” The Canadian Coast Guard has agreed that their personnel will once again maintain the light when restoration is completed. The town

of Collingwood presently maintains the lighthouse under a lease agreement, and it’s expected that the town will gain full ownership within a few years.

It’s hoped that $500,000 for the full restoration can be raised locally, with

the additional $1 million coming from government sources, both federal and provincial. Over the past two decades, Collingwood’s harbor has evolved from a commercial harbor to a recreational area, but the lighthouse remains a significant structure with a prominent place in the local history

and landscape. An important step toward restoration has been taken, but there’s still a steep hill to climb.

Donations can be sent to Leisure Services Department, Lighthouse Restoration, P.O. Box 157, Collingwood, ON, L9Y 3Z5, Canada. The Leisure Services Department can issue tax receipts for donations. For more information, you can also call Peter Dunbar, Leisure Services Director, in Collingwood at (705) 444-2500.

This story appeared in the Jan/Feb 2006 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

All contents copyright © 1995-2024 by Lighthouse Digest®, Inc. No story, photograph, or any other item on this website may be reprinted or reproduced without the express permission of Lighthouse Digest. For contact information, click here.

to Lighthouse Digest

USLHS Marker Fund

Lighthouse History
Research Institute

Shop Online

Subscribe   Contact Us   About Us   Copyright Foghorn Publishing, 1994- 2024   Lighthouse Facts     Lighthouse History