Collingwood, Ontario is a town located on the shores of Georgian Bay. While it is home to many historical landmarks, the Nottawasaga Lighthouse is one of the most impressive. This lighthouse has a long and storied history, dating all the way back to 1855. In this blog post, we will provide a brief history of the Nottawasaga Lighthouse.
The Early Years
The Nottawasaga Lighthouse was one of the six Imperial Towers built between 1855 and 1858. They were constructed by John Brown, a Scottish stonemason who was responsible for building multiple light stations across Ontario. While his first government project was Lake Erie's Gull Island Lighthouse in 1846-1848, he is best known for his work on the Imperial Towers around Lake Huron and Georgian Bay.
The towers, constructed from locally quarried cut stone, were about 85 feet high, with walls roughly 7 feet thick at the base to 2 feet at the top. While the stone was local, the same can't be said about the lantern rooms. These and the Fresnel lens were both imported from France. The Fresnel lens was an excellent choice, as it captures more oblique light than a comparable conventional lens. This allowed the light from the lighthouse to be more visible over far distances.
After construction had been completed, the Nottawasaga Lighthouse was finally lit in 1858. Interestingly, this was the same year the Town of Collingwood was incorporated. The light continued to operate for 124 years, though after years of full-time lightkeepers, it became automated in 1959.
After many successful years of lighting the way for hundreds of ships, the Nottawasaga Lighthouse and others like it were finally decommissioned in 2003. GPS and other navigational technologies were in full effect by this point, so there wasn't much point in keeping these lighthouses operational.
However, it turns out the Nottawasaga Lighthouse may have been retired just in time.
In 2004, the tower was struck by lightning, causing a large part of the stonework to collapse. While this may not have affected the tower's structural integrity, it did expose the internal structure to the elements. This allowed rain and moisture to enter the interior, causing even more damage.
Fortunately, in 2006, the Canadian Coast Guard installed metal bands around the outside of the lighthouse to help prevent any further loss of stone. This certainly didn't solve the problem, but it did buy 5 or 6 years until the future of the tower could be decided.
Finally, in 2010, the Coast Guard stopped maintaining the lighthouse altogether, as it was determined that it had outlived its usefulness.
It wasn't until 2016 that the Nottawasaga Lighthouse began to receive some more attention. The Nottawasaga Lighthouse Preservation Society took it upon themselves to help prevent the tower from degrading any further.
They obtained permission from the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans to wrap the outside of the tower in weather-resistant material to help prevent more moisture from penetrating the interior. A wooden framework was also installed to help prevent damage from the seasonal freeze-thaw cycles in the area.
If you enjoy Canadian history, then the Nottawasaga Lighthouse is a must-see. Next time you're planning a trip to the Collingwood area, be sure to add this historical landmark to your itinerary. You won't regret it!
One of the best ways to see the Nottawasaga Lighthouse is by boat. Contact Collingwood Charters for more information today!