Passed by NSLPS Membership April 20, 2001
Nova Scotia's lighthouses can be found in some surprising and strange places, hundreds, even thousands of kilometres from their original location where they once stood beside salt water as real working lighthouses. More relocation is on the way as the Canadian Coast Guard increases its decommissioning and disposal of lighthouses, putting more lighthouses at risk and on the market. The sturdy nature of our many small "pepperpot" harbour lights makes them attractive candidates for "portability". Relocating lighthouses (some would say "dislocating" or "kidnapping") lighthouses poses some serious heritage issues and has a decidedly mixed track record in Nova Scotia.
Examples The Bad and the Good:
Dangers of Moving Lighthouses
This is what we lose when a lighthouse is moved from its original location.
The society proposes the following guidelines:
A fundamental principle of lighthouse preservation should be, whenever possible to retain and restore a lighthouse at its original location.
Moving a lighthouse from its original location creates pressing and important responsibilities if its heritage characters is to be preserved:
Lighthouses Belong to the Public: Evidence from the Historical Record
In the last year the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has frequently been denying public access to lighthouses. The justification is often given that lighthouses are isolated industrial structures posing serious dangers because they were never intended to be visited by the public. This is false. As a historian who has often researched individual lighthouses, I regularly come across records demonstrating that lighthouses in Nova Scotia have been regularly visited by the public for many generations. Furthermore it is clear that these public visits were officially recognized and in fact encouraged by the federal government.
Lighthouses have featured as prominent community landmarks and destinations for leisure travel for a long time. In fact, many of today's island lighthouses once had much higher levels of visitation. Before car ownership became common after World War Two, limited highway networks, more extensive island settlements and larger numbers of inshore fishing boats meant that more people travelled by water. It was a regular occurrence for people to use small fishing boats or the extensive networks of coastal steamers to visit lighthouses on islands. These visits varied according to season and location but consider just a few examples, starting with a quite isolated lighthouse, the Isle Haute in the Bay of Fundy.
Although many miles from habitation and surrounded by cliffs and tide rips, the lighthouse at the Isle Haute was the destination for family picnics, church picnics and large holiday outings for over a century. Some visits were large enough to attract candy sellers and food vendors from the mainland. Still photos and newsreels clearly indicate how regular and large these visits were. Annual visits by the Orange Lodge fraternity in 1903 brought over 300 people to this island on a single visit! Visiting naturalists and adventure travellers were regular visitors, often boarding and staying over night until the lighthouses was replaced by an unmanned tower in 1956.
Government records show lighthouse officials expected public visits and adapted lighthouse procedures to cope with them, especially for the lights close to cities and towns. At Fort Point light in Liverpool, lighthouse officials actually ordered the construction fence to give lightkeepers more privacy from visitors in the 1870s. Summer visitation was so heavy at the Maughers Beach lighthouse on McMabs Island up in Halifax up to the 1970s that memos instructed lightkeepers to lock up equipment because thieves could take advantage of the many innocent summer visitors to steal tools.
These precautions do not indicate lighthouse officials sought to end public visits, to the contrary, they clearly encouraged them. The Rules and Instructions for the Guidance of Lightkeepers published by the Department of Marine in 1912 as the operational "Bible" for lightstations and was used by lightkeepers until the 1950s. Not only did it require that lightstations be attractive and tidy for visitors so as "to reflect credit on the government and be a model to the neighbourhood" (Rule 75) , it also explicitly instructed keepers to cheerfully welcome visitors and "without charge show the premises at such hours as do not interfere with the proper discharge of their duties" (Rule 36). Such recognition of the public nature of lighthouses is a sad contrast to DFO's recent policy of barring the public from lighthouses and charging license fees for access. Clearly a shift in values seems at work from a past belief in lighthouse as public landmarks to DFO's new approach to treat lighthouses as private real estate commodities.
The Rules and Instructions for the Guidance of Lightkeepers Canada: Department of Marine,1912.
Journal of the Nova Scotia House of Assembly 1860
"A Childhood Spent on Isle Haute" by Ella Fraser Chronicle Herald Jan. 28, 1989, p.1n.
Maughers Beach Lighthouse Records 7952-328 Vol. 1