The Town of Yarmouth, and its surrounding area, was settled in 1761 by Planters from Massachusetts. These settlers fished along the coast and harvested lumber from the forests to build homes, businesses and sailing vessels. By the mid-nineteenth century, Yarmouth blossomed into a prosperous fishing and shipbuilding centre.
This busy seaport, with vessels carrying goods to and from Boston, the West Indies and other far points in the world, needed a lighthouse. For the sake of safety and commerce, a lighthouse was built on the headland of Cape Forchu in 1839.
The First Lighthouse
Cape Forchu's first lighthouse was a timber, octagonal-shaped building that stood 20 metres (64 feet) above ground, and 37 metres (121 feet) above sea level. Its day mark was a red lantern with alternating red and white faces on the tower. The lighthouse went into operation on January 15, 1840.
Lighting the way
The first Cape Forchu light was a circle of six lanterns with a reflector behind them to create a revolving white beam of light visible up to 32 kilometres (20 miles). In 1906 a Fresnel lens replaced the old light. This lens is currently on display at the Yarmouth County Museum. Today, a 250 watt-bulb provides the lighthouse's automated flashing white light.
Did you know?
By 1870, Yarmouth was
the second largest port of registry in Canada.
The Lightstation Then and Now
The Cape Forchu lighthouse was part of a larger complex, or lightstation, which included other buildings and structures that were part of the site's operations. Locate the 10 items listed below on the aerial illustration. Some of these structures are gone and some still stand today.
1. Original lighthouse 1839-1962
2. Apple Core lighthouse 1962 -
3. Fog alarm building & cistern 1869-1940
Housed lightstation's first fog alarm (building on right). Some of the building's red bricks are still visible. The cistern (left) held fresh water that powered the fog alarm compressors.
4. Lightkeeper's dwelling 1912-
Presently houses the museum and Mug Up Tea Room
5. Original lightkeeper's dwelling 1840-1911
6. Wooden bridge 1920-1940
Spanned the ravine between the original lighthouse and 1869 fog alarm building.
7. Present fog alarm building 1962-
8. Boat house Used by lightkeeper for fishing.
9. Leif Erikson Park Visitor picnic area
10. Gift Shop
Today's Lightkeepers: Friends of the Yarmouth Light
When the lightstation became automated in 1993, its doors were locked, and the lightkeeper's dwelling was abandoned. The community feared losing these historically valuable buildings. In 1996 concerned residents formed the Friends of the
Yarmouth Light Society and took action.
Generating funds through membership drives and donations, the small group undertook the extensive site cleanup and renovated the lightkeeper's dwelling into a museum. Site buildings were repaired, and backbreaking landscaping work was carried out. In June 2001, Cape Forchu Lightstation was the first working lighthouse property in Canada handed over by the Federal Government to a community, guaranteeing the survival of this special landmark. In 2003 the lightstation site was designated as a Registered Nova Scotia Heritage Property.
The Friends of the Yarmouth Light are today's "lightkeepers" of Cape Forchu Lightstation. This dedicated volunteer group works tirelessly to maintain the site which continues to welcome visitors as it has done since 1840.
Lighthouse Warrior: Craig Harding
As the first President of the Friends of Yarmouth Light, Craig Harding was a driving force in preserving Cape Forchu Lightstation. With his Friends, Craig fought hard to prove that a small group could restore and maintain the lightstation successfully. Sadly, Craig passed away only months after the municipality received ownership of the site, but lived to see the fruits of his hard work and perseverance. In 2002, the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society established the Craig Harding Lighthouse Preservation Award, of which Craig was
the first recipient.
Become a "lightkeeper" by supporting the Friends of the Yarmouth Light.
[Photo captions, from left to right, read]
· Yarmouth, c. 1871
· [Cape Forchu's original] Lighthouse
· Fresnel Lens
· [Compass rose with direction and distance highlights]
· [Aerial photo and key, listed above]