Description of Historic Place
The Cape Forchu Lightstation consists of three structures; a double dwelling house which was built in 1912, an “apple core” style light tower built in 1962 and a concrete fog alarm building also constructed in 1962. It is located at the extreme southern tip of the promontory of land known as Cape Forchu. The heritage designation applies to the land and buildings.
The Cape Forchu Lightstation is valued as a local landmark; for its association with Yarmouth’s shipping history; and for its modern distinctions as having the prototype “apple core” style of light tower and for being the first functioning lighthouse in Canada to be transferred to another level of government.
The original Cape Forchu Lightstation was built in 1839 and lighted for the first time on January 15, 1840, warning mariners of shoals and marking the entrance to the natural Yarmouth Harbour. The original Fresnel lens shone a light visible about seventeen miles out to sea and continued in operation until 1962. In 1869 the first fog alarm was put into operation, enhancing the effectiveness as a vital aid to navigation. The Lightstation considerably improved the safety of the hundreds of vessels and their passengers that frequented Yarmouth Harbour, passing near the shoreline and thus saving an innumerable number of lives.
By 1911 the Federal Department of Fisheries and Marine determined that the keeper’s dwelling house had been poorly situated when originally built and that it was no longer adequate as a residence. In 1912 the original dwelling was removed and the present double dwelling was built from a standard Department of Fisheries and Marine plan, providing housing for a light keeper and his assistant and their families.
By 1961 the condition of the original light tower was deemed hazardous, as the timbers were rotten and it was feared that the structure would not withstand a severe Atlantic gale. It was demolished in 1961 and the following year the new “apple core” style tower was constructed, a concrete tower nearly twenty-three metres high, the first of its type on any of Canada’s coastlines. The added power of the new dioptric lens added about ten miles to its visibility to seaward, improving its function as an aid to navigation. The same year, the new fog alarm building was constructed closer to the dwelling and tower, facilitating maintenance of all the machinery for the light keeper.
The Yarmouth Light has always been a tourist attraction and a recognized landmark symbolizing Yarmouth. When the new tower was built, it was at first thought that its modern style had ruined the vista, but it continued to be a favourite attraction to visitors to the Yarmouth area. In the late 1970s a number of lighthouses were automated and in 1980 the Cape Forchu Lightstation became the monitoring station for automated lighthouses on the south shore of Nova Scotia. In 1993 the Cape Forchu light was also automated and destaffed.
When the decision was made at the federal government level to sell “redundant” lighthouses, the Municipality of the District of Yarmouth made the decision to purchase the property in the interest of preserving the site as a tourist attraction and because it has been such an important landmark in Yarmouth’s history. In March, 2001 this became the first federally owned lightstation in Canada to be granted to a municipal government and six months later it was designated by the Municipality as a registered heritage property.
Source: Municipal Heritage Property files; Cape Forchu Lightstation; located at 400 Main Street, Yarmouth, NS.
The character defining elements of the Cape Forchu Lightstation include:
- location on the extreme southern tip of Cape Forchu;
- two family dwelling;
- “apple core” style light tower;
- concrete fog alarm building.
The character defining elements of the Craftsman style of the dwelling house of the Cape Forchu Lightstation include:
- one-and-a-half storey duplex;
- one storey shed at basement level of north end;
- enclosed double entry porch on back (west) side;
- full width divided front veranda with centred enclosed entry porches on front;
- medium pitched hipped gable roof;
- centred, shed roofed wall dormer on west side;
- two symmetrically placed, shed roofed wall dormers on east side;
- symmetrical four bay façade;
- double hung sash windows with one-over-one glazing;
- paired windows in dormers;
- wood construction and shingle cladding;
- concrete foundation.
Location of Supporting Documentation
Municipal Heritage Property files; Joint Heritage Office, 400 Main Street, Yarmouth, NS B5A 1G2
Cross-Reference to Collection
Yarmouth County Museum, 22 Collins Street, Yarmouth, NS