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Find will help Town of Clark’s Harbour celebrate its 100th anniversary


One of the pieces of the third-order Fresnel lens from the Cape Sable Lighthouse found in a warehouse on the Saint John, N.B., waterfront. (Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society)
One of the pieces of the third-order Fresnel lens from the Cape Sable Lighthouse found in a warehouse on the Saint John, N.B., waterfront. - Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society

It’s going to be pretty hard for anyone to top this 100th anniversary present to the Town of Clark’s Harbour.

A long lost light from the Cape Sable Lighthouse that was found in an old government building on the waterfront in Saint John, N.B., is being returned to Cape Sable Island where it will be assembled and given a new home in the Seaside Heritage Centre in Clark’s Harbour.

The light is a third-order Fresnel lens that would have lit the way home for mariners from 1902 through to the 1980s on both the original Cape Sable Lighthouse, that was built in 1861, and its replacement, built in the early 1920s and is still operational.

The light, its base and its mechanisms and other mechanical equipment were found in 19 crates in an old government

building on the waterfront in Saint John. On the crates were written “Cape Sable Island main light.”

Joe Flemming, president of the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society, said he had never heard of the light being missing until Ralph Holyoke from the City of Saint John gave him a call one night and told him about the crates.

“He sent me some pictures, so I sent them off to a couple of lighthouse experts … they responded with we can’t believe this has been found. It’s been eluding us for decades. We often had an idea of where it might be, or heard rumors where it might be, but always ran into a dead end and were never able to locate it,” he said.

“When I realized how excited they were about it, I realized I better get excited.”

Flemming went to have a look, finding the 19 crates plus other mechanical equipment that holds and supports the lens, still unpacked from their trek across the Bay of Fundy decades ago.

“It’s very rare to find all this together,” he said.

“The city managers of Saint John wanted it removed as soon as possible but they didn’t want it to go in the wrong hands and get sold. They wanted it to be some place where it would be appreciated so that’s why they reached out to us.

“Once we knew what it was we decided let’s contact the mayor of Clark’s Harbour and see if he would want it and he does,” said Flemming.

The timing couldn’t have been better. With 2019 marking the 100th anniversary of the town, Flemming said, “It’s the perfect opportunity to repatriate it back to Nova Scotia and bring it back to where it belongs.”

For Clark’s Harbour Mayor Leigh Stoddart, the gift of the light was a surprise.

“I didn’t know it was even in existence actually,” he said,

until he was contacted by Flemming.

“When he asked if we were interested I said certainly. It would be fitting for us where its our 100th anniversary. It would be great to have it back.”

Stoddart said he is hoping the historic light is going to be the catalyst to get the Seaside Heritage Centre open and operational again, especially for the 100th anniversary celebrations next year. The centre has not been open for a few years.

“We want to re-assemble it at the Seaside Heritage Centre. I think that will be a good spot for it,” he said.

Flemming said the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society will give the Town all the support they need to get the light back together.

“What’s unique about these lights is there really are no two alike. It’s safe to say that there are probably only one or two people left in Canada who have ever put one of these things together,” Flemming said.

“Typically they were assembled back in the 1920s or earlier and most of those people are gone. Finding the expertise is very difficult,” he added. “We’re hoping between the resources we have here that we will be able to do it, but we may have to reach out to people in the U.S. who still operate this type of light.”

Flemming said he thinks it will be quite a project.

“It’s not going to happen overnight,” but in the end, he said, it’s “going to be an incredible piece for Clark’s Harbour.”

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