The Canadian government has announced that it will provide $1.5 million in federal funds to restore Nova Scotia’s Sambro Island Lighthouse, which is the oldest operational lighthouse in North America.
The announcement was great news for the Sambro Island Lighthouse Heritage Society and the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society; they had been working for years to get some help to restore the island light station.
The last time any real work was done to the tower was back in 1998. When the lighthouse celebrated its 250th birthday in 2008, the Canadian Coast Guard only sent one person to the celebration that was held on the island. At that time, the two keepers’ homes were in a state of disrepair and old cannons from another era laid rusting away on the island. To make matters worse, shortly after the 250th Anniversary, vandals burned down the principle keeper’s house.
The federal money will be used for renovations to the concrete tower, rehabilitation of the original lantern and gallery, as well as the installation of a heating and cooling system.
Sue Paul of the Heritage Society said, “In my heart I believe this is Canada’s Statue of Liberty. For every immigrant who came here by boat, for every soldier who came home from war, this is what they saw.”
Peter MacKay, a member of Canada’s Parliament, in referring to the efforts of the people in the lighthouse groups, said, “The passion, the affection, the emotion attached to this group and this movement to preserve the lighthouse was very apparent from the first time we met.”
Restoring the lighthouse will not be easy. Nearly everything needed: scaffolding, supplies, and people will have to be brought out by helicopter, and the work will be time-consuming. While this is all good news, preservationists say that a lot more money will be needed to save the other structures and artifacts still remaining on the island.
At the end of May a bill has been introduced in the House of Commons that would amend Canada’s Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act to transfer ownership of the Sambro Island Lighthouse to Parks Canada to ensure future upkeep and protection of the lighthouse. Although the bill has not yet passed, it does look promising.
This story appeared in the
Jul/Aug 2015 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.
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