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Port Burwell Lighthouse – The oldest wooden Canadian lighthouse on the Great Lakes

September 2021

The Great Lakes are a major shipping route in North America, and as such, thousands of lighthouses were required to provide navigational aids to mariners.

The Lake Erie Village of Port Burwell, known as the “Jewel of Erie’s North Shore,” is the home to the oldest wooden Canadian lighthouse on the Great Lakes, and one of the oldest wooden lighthouses in Canada. Built in 1840, the Port Burwell Lighthouse is situated midway between the Detroit River and Niagara Falls.

Standing at just forty-five feet tall, the white, wooden, octagonal lighthouse had a focal plane of ninety feet above Lake Erie, due to its placement atop a high bluff, towering ninety-six feet above the lake. It’s fixed, white light was visible for around twelve miles.

James P. Bellairs was hired as the first keeper of the lighthouse, serving for over a decade. His successor, Alexander Sutherland, has the distinction of being the first in a long line of Sutherlands tasked with the duty of lighthouse keeper in Port Burwell. Besides Bellairs, the only other lighthouse keeper who was not a Sutherland was Jack Hayward, who assumed the duty from 1952 to 1955, while John Sutherland III served in Korea.

The Port Burwell Lighthouse was decommissioned by the Canadian Coast Guard in 1962, and the Village purchased the historic lighthouse in 1965. Restored in 1986 by Mennonite craftsmen using similar hand tools and methods that the original builders would have used, now operates as part of a the Port Burwell Marine Museum & Historic Lighthouse.

Sources: Port Burwell Lighthouse, Ontario Canada at Lighthousefriends.com, Port Burwell Marine Museum & Historic Lighthouse | Ontario Museums (museumsontario.ca), Port Burwell Marine Museum and Historic Lighthouse – Wikipedia.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/port-burwell-lighthouse-the-oldest-wooden-canadian-lighthouse-on-the-great-lakes/

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