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The Fisherman’s Memorial and a historic lighthouse are just two attractions on the Port Dover waterfront

May 2020

The southern Ontario town of Port Dover has been a popular tourist area since the 1920s. Located on the shore of Lake Erie, summer visitors have flocked to the area for generations to enjoy the Port Dover beach, lined with palm trees by the Beach House Restaurant; listen to live music at the Summer Garden, with their big bands that included the Guy Lombardo Band; and the amusement arcade that originally featured pinball games, but would later expand to include video arcade games, along with its Ferris Wheel.

In the early days, visitors arrived mostly by train or steamship. Rail service was also offered on the Port Dover & Lake Huron Railway (later taken over by Canadian National Railway) line from Caledonia, until it was cancelled in 1957 due to better highway access.

Today, automobiles dominate the streets, except every Friday the 13th, when motorcycle enthusiasts descend on the town.

Being located on the lake, Port Dover also has a long marine history, including passenger steamers, commercial fishing and pleasure boats. At the east end of the beach, at the opposite end of the Port Dover Pier from the lighthouse, sits a monument to fishermen lost on the lake: the Fisherman’s Memorial.

The bronze and concrete statue is dedicated to the commercial fishermen who have lost their lives on the lakes, with names of the dead carved on its base.

Port Dover Lighthouse

At the opposite end of the west pier from the Fishermans’ Memorial, is the Port Dover Lighthouse. Built in 1904 to replace an earlier lighthouse, the building is a simple white-painted, 35 foot-high wooden structure, square with sloping sides, topped by a square iron lantern, with a single door, flight of stairs and a window.

The lighthouse previously had a hand-operated foghorn to answer signals from ships during fog conditions, but it now has an automatic foghorn, activated by ships quickly clicking their radio microphone five times on radio channel 19.

When the Canadian Coast Guard declared the lighthouse surplus in 2014, Norfolk County agreed to accept ownership of the historic structure, thus preserving this Port Dover landmark.

The Port Dover Lighthouse was designated a Recognized Federal Heritage Building in 1990; an example of the small wooden lighthouse design that was common in the pre-Confederation years of maritime navigation.

Sources: https://roadstories.ca/lake-erie-beaches/port-dover-monument, https://www.theweathernetwork.com/photos/view/1001/port-dover-ontario-canada-fishermens-monument/33625592, https://www.pc.gc.ca/apps/dfhd/page_hl_eng.aspx?id=14914, https://www.lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=1077, https://www.mississauga.com/news-story/4513643-port-dover-s-landmark-lighthouse-saved-by-county, https://www.norfolktourism.ca/new-web-cam-on-port-dover-lighthouse, https://www.historicplaces.ca/en/rep-reg/place-lieu.aspx?id=4739

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.

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