Lighthouse Story

“Chantry Island Restoration & Volunteers”

During the mid 1800’s water traffic on the Great Lakes had substantially increased and the colonial government called for improved navigational tools for the mariners on the Lake Huron.

John Brown of Thorold was contracted to build the lighthouse on Chantry Island, as well as 10 other lighthouses to help sailors navigate the Lake.  Because of the expense and difficulty of building, only six were completed.  The Chantry Island Lighthouse was one of these completed.

Lit up for the first time on April 1, 1859–the same day as its sister imperial tower, Point Clark–the lighthouse stands 86′ above water level and is 80′ high from its base to the light’s centre. The lantern room of the lighthouse was fitted with a Fresnel lens built and transported from Paris, France. The first fuel used was sperm whale oil and the first light was a fixed light, not the familiar flashing one. Other fuels used over the lighthouse’s lifespan have been Colza oil, coal oil, kerosene, acetylene and electricity. Its present-day flashing light is solar-powered.

In 1954, the lamp was converted to electricity and a light keeper was no longer needed. The buildings were left neglected and suffered at the hands of vandals until 1997 when the Marine Heritage Society and the Propeller Club established specific goals for the island’s restoration. The project was to be funded by donations and fundraising efforts, and the majority of the work was to be done by volunteers. With permission from 5 levels of government, the group of volunteers began to rebuild the light keeper’s cottage, using the original structure plans.

The Light Keeper’s Cottage restoration was completed in 2001.  Over 250 volunteers put in more than 300,000 hours of labor to finish the restoration and ready the boat for tours.  Today the tour is operated with over 125 volunteers, and there have been over 12,000 visitors to the island.

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