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 Cape Forchu, in Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia. The buildings and property are included in the provincial designation.
The Cape Forchu Lightstation is valued for its historic role as a lightstation since 1839 and for its modern distinction as having the prototype "apple core" style of light tower since used for other lighthouses.
The original Cape Forchu Lightstation was built in 1839 and lit 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 and passed near the shoreline, 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 lightkeeper, 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 lightkeeper.
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. In August 2001, the municipality entered into agreement with the Friends of the Yarmouth Light, a non-profit organization whose purpose is to provide stewardship of the property and to maintain the property as an interpretive center and museum.
This light in the light tower is still operational.
Source: Provincial Heritage Program property files, no. 256, 1747 Summer Streeet, Halifax, NS.
Character-defining elements of the Cape Forchu Lightstation include:
- all structural and technical elements relating to the task of lightkeeping;
- 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 Vernacular 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 1/1 glazing;
- paired windows in dormers;
- wood construction and shingle cladding;
- concrete foundation.