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Shining a light on the past – the Burlington Beach Canal Lighthouse

August 2019

For centuries, going back to the days of ancient Rome, lighthouses have lined shorelines around the world to serve as a navigational aid and to warn boats of dangerous areas; like a traffic sign on the sea.

Since 1858, a stone lighthouse has stood beside the Burlington Bay Shipping Canal, connecting Burlington Bay/Hamilton Harbour to Lake Ontario.

Today, both lake freighters and pleasure craft transit through the canal, cut through the sandbar that separates the bay from Lake Ontario in the 1820s as a part of the early shipping routes for the area.

Stonemason John Brown was hired to build a white dolomite limestone lighthouse on the south side of the canal, a duplicate of the lighthouse that Brown designed and built on Christian Island on Georgian Bay.

This new limestone lighthouse replaced the previous wooden lighthouse, along with new brick light keeper’s and ferryman’s dwellings. All three former structures burned in 1856, set ablaze by sparks from a passing steamer.

For over 100 years, the lighthouse guided ships into one of Lake Ontario’s best natural harbour with its beacon light, powered by coal instead of the whale oil that was usually used. 

The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1968 and replaced by an automated electrical beacon on the far east-end of the south side pier used.

The old lighthouse has fallen into disrepair over the past 51 years, as has the vacant lighthouse keeper’s cottage today.

In 2003, the residents of the Hamilton Beach Community and the surrounding Golden Horseshoe area have formed the Beach Canal Lighthouse Group, with the intention of restoring the crumbling lighthouse.

Ownership of the site was transferred from Public Works and Government Services (PWGS) Canada in 2004 to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, who cleaned up the bird droppings from the lighthouse and boarded up the windows of the cottage in 2006.

The following year, PWGS took back control of the property and to this day, other than a designation under the Ontario Heritage Act, nothing has been done to save the historic lighthouse.

Sources: http://www.bclg.ca, https://www.raisethehammer.org/article/1938/?view=flat.

Historic Hamilton beach strip lighthouse to be restored — and relocated | TheSpec.com

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/shining-a-light-on-the-past-the-burlington-beach-canal-lighthouse/

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