Canada Heritage Buildings

January 21, 2012 by staff 

Canada Heritage Buildings, Since 1967, Covehead lighthouse has been a beacon of hope on the coast of Prince Edward Island. A plaque on its side is dedicated to the hundreds of lives lost in a surprise 1851 gale, when waves wrecked nearly 100 boats along the then mostly unlit northern coast of the Island.

The worst disaster in the Island’s history, it led to the creation of more lighthouses – guiding countless mariners to safety.

But Covehead, directly north of Charlottetown and just down the road from Green Gables, is on what lighthouse preservation advocates call “The Doomsday List.” Along with more than 500 others, it is threatened with being sold off or torn down unless communities step in to save them.

“Losing a lighthouse is like losing part of what makes us who we are,” said Carol Livingstone, the 69-year-old president of the P.E.I. Lighthouse Preservation Society, fondly known as the “Lighthouse Lady.”

“Here in Canada our built history is so young compared to that found in other parts of the world,” she said. “Many of our buildings, especially here on P.E.I., are made of wood. If we don’t look after them now, they will not be here for future generations.”

Eighteen months ago, the government designated 541 lighthouses across the country as “surplus to operations,” and a May deadline looms for communities to bid to take them over so that Ottawa will no longer have to maintain them.

The process starts with “friends” of any lighthouse nominating it for heritage status by May, and then finding someone willing to care for it by 2015.

Those left unclaimed will be sold to the highest bidder or torn down – a consequence that has lighthouse and heritage advocates concerned.

By last month 87 lighthousesout of 541 had been nominated, but only 22 ownership applications had been submitted for consideration.

Covehead lighthousehas a willing foster family led by Keith and Pat Notman, residents of the nearby town of Stanhope.

If they hadn’t stepped in, Suzanne Bouchard might have. The lighthouse is where she had her wedding in 2008.

“It’s the heart of the harbour,” she said. Bouchard and her husband Lester Gonek live north of Montreal, but fell in love with P.E.I. and own a vacation house near Covehead.

“I couldn’t imagine the island without its lighthouses,” she said.

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