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Call to preserve Salmon Point lighthouse in absence of approval from owners

Salmon Point Lighthouse

In absence of approval by its private property owner, a long-standing wish by the Prince Edward County Heritage Advisory Committee to designate the Salmon Point lighthouse as historically significant will soon be presented to council.

Marc Seguin, past chairman of the committee, local historian founding member of the heritage organization Save Our Lighthouses, told council members at the committee of the whole meeting Thursday that repeated attempts to contact the owner – by the committee, the municipality and the SOL, have gone unanswered.

“Heritage designation is only a small step toward preserving this lighthouse,” said Seguin. “The designation will not force the owners to conserve the lighthouse. Hopefully, the
designation will send a signal to the owners that the lighthouse is truly important to our community.”

Since 2010, Save Our Lighthouses has been advocating for the preservation of lighthouses across Canada with a particular focus on the lighthouses Prince Edward County.

Council, he said, could grant the lighthouse a heritage designation under the Ontario Heritage Act, or allow the province to do it.

“The Salmon Point lighthouse is of such importance to our community, that it deserves to be protected by a heritage designation, with or without the owners’ consent,” said Seguin.

Acting mayor Dianne O’Brien stated she didn’t like the idea of a designation without the owners’ consent.

“I’ve got concerns,” she said. “I recognize the importance of its heritage but I just don’t know if we would be setting a precedent. We got into this a few years ago and backed out saying we needed the owner’s consent.”

Seguin said if council decided to go through with the designation the owners would be given the opportunity to respond, or object.

“If they do object, there’s a process for them and the County to go through to determine if the designation could proceed.”

Seguin said he understood O’Brien’s point and noted that if that decision over-rides the heritage value of the lighthouse, then I think there is a viable alternative which is for the County to state clearly it will not designate it, and then, and only then, will the Ontario government consider designating it as provincially significant.

“But until County council gives a clear statement that they’re not going to designate it, and why, the province wants to do nothing at all. They’ve told me that directly.”

Councillor Steven Ferguson requested a motion that staff bring the Prince Edward Heritage Advisory Committee motion related to the lighthouse preservation to the June 14 committee of the whole meeting for consideration.

“PEHAC has been looking at this file for quite some time,” said Ferguson. “The structure is of considerable architectural, historical and social value.”

Seguin explained the shoal extending out into Lake Ontario from Wicked Point (Salmon Point) had resulted in the loss of many ships and lives.

“Between 1860 and 1870 alone, it has been estimated that as many as nine
ships and 30 lives were lost in that area of the lake. However, no lighthouse was planned for Wicked Point.”

On All Hallows eve, in 1870, the schooner Jessie bound Toronto for Kingston with a load of wheat, sought shelter from a gale while sailing past the peninsula and snuck into Athol Bay in the lee of Wicked Point.

By morning, he said, the storm had veered to the west and the Jessie was unable to tack out of the bay.

“Capt. Shevlin tried to set his anchors to avoid being blown ashore, but the anchors would not hold on the sandy bottom. In all, nine persons died that day and the public outcry that followed led to the construction of the Salmon Point lighthouse to warn mariners away from this dangerous shore.”

The tragedy led to the establishment of Canada’s first inland life-saving station on the Great Lakes at Salmon Point. The first lightkeeper there, Lewis Hudgins, was put in charge of the new “high-tech” boat.

The lighthouse was decomissioned in 1917 and has been in private hands since.

While most ‘pepperbox’ lighthouses in Canada were built as standalone harbour lights, the Salmon Point lighthouse was built as a ‘lake light’ and
had an attached dwelling for the lightkeeper. This is a style that would be copied in many other parts of Ontario and Canada, including in the County when the Point Traverse lighthouse was built as a harbour light 10 years later.

 

Five of the County’s six remaining lighthouses were nominated under the terms of the federal Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act. Salmon Point’s does not qualify as it is privately owned.
The lighthouses are:
Hillier Ward – Scotch Bonnet Island Lighthouse, 1856
Athol Ward – Point Petre Lighthouse, 1967 and lightkeeper’s cottage, 1962
South Marysburgh Ward – Prince Edward Point Lighthouse (Pt. Traverse), 1881
– False Ducks Island Lighthouse (Swetman Is.), 1965
– Main Duck Island Lighthouse, 1914 and two lightkeepers’ cottages

Past stories about Prince Edward County lighthouses:

Salmon Pt lighthouse owners say cultural value ‘misleading’ and should not be designated

County may move forward on designating Salmon Point Lighthouse

Council’s written support necessary for bid to save County lighthouses

Call is out to save Prince Edward County lighthouses 

Governments failing to support County heritage

Seguin leads bid to save beacons of hope and safe harbour 

Filed Under: Local News

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  1. chris says:

    Marc, any pics of the dock in its day?

  2. Chuck says:

    Question being is how the public at large benefit from this when access is restricted due to private property. When there was a Federal dock at Salmon Point everyone had legal access.

  3. Phil Norton says:

    Thanks to Marc Seguin for his research, books and lobbying efforts to preserve these historic and beautiful structures that all levels of government have neglected. My County Photographer group loves lighthouses, old schools, churches and barns and we contribute to groups preserving them. PEC is not the only town council that has allowed the selling off of its public heritage or allowed public access to be denied by private ownership of waterfalls, shorelines and irreplaceable features like lighthouses and old growth forests. In the past 11years since I have lived here, there has been little foresighted action to prevent the demolition of old buildings, the cutting of large trees, construction of cottages in rare natural areas, and housing on prime farmland. Tax revenue and real estate values are placed ahead of the real reason people want to come here, country roads, authentic country lifestyles, places you can be alone in nature and feel the past. Each municipality does the same, creating a piecemeal disintegration of our rural areas being urbanized and gentrified. I’m not for expropriation to force private owners to give up what they rightfully own, but Council could think a little bit into the future now and incorporate heritage and nature into the Official Plan. Thanks to CountyLive for an excellent report.

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