Storm destroys iconic Southern Ontario lighthouse

Published: January 15, 2020

Lion's Head Lighthouse Photo by Shutterstock/Sublimage

The iconic Lion’s Head lighthouse on Northern Bruce Peninsula was ripped from its moorings last weekend after being pummelled by freezing rain, white-capped waves, and 40 km/h winds. The next morning, splintered wood and shattered glass could be seen strewn along the waterfront of the Southern Ontario municipality.

“High water levels and four strong northeasterly winds in the last four months essentially tore the lighthouse right off its footings,” says Bill Jones, the municipality’s chief administrative officer. “It’s gone.”

The lighthouse, a popular tourist attraction, was first built in 1903. Due to Georgian Bay’s fickle weather, however, the lighthouse has been damaged and rebuilt several times. In 1969, the municipality finally decided not to rebuild, replacing it with a metal post and light. But in 1983, an impassioned group of local high school students, led by teacher Brian Swanton, built an 8.5-metre-tall replica based on the lighthouse’s original blueprints. “It’s the backdrop of every picture. It’s not only an integral part of our tourism but it’s an integral part of our community,” Jones says.

This model stood until last weekend.

The loss of the Lion’s Head lighthouse isn’t a huge surprise as a series of storms this fall had weakened the structure, stripping off siding and exposing its wooden interior. “We had our first bad one in October, our second in November, and then we’ve had a few recently. We get those kinds of winds and storms maybe once every couple years,” Jones says. The municipality was in the midst of drafting up plans to fortify the lighthouse when last weekend’s storm struck, robbing them of the opportunity.

Since being destroyed, the municipality has received multiple offers to rebuild the lighthouse, with Swanton among them. The goal, Jones says, is to have a new lighthouse up and running this year, one structurally reinforced that can withstand severe storms rolling in off Georgian Bay. The new lighthouse will be built in the same location as its previous iteration or within close proximity.

“It just looks wrong when there’s no lighthouse there,” Jones says.

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