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The Red Cupola

The Red Cupola

Presqu’ile Point Lighthouse Preservation Society’s Crowning Glory

The preservation of the Presqu’ile Point Lighthouse began 13 years ago, and it is now a few months away from completion when its crowning glory,
the cupola will be installed.

In the final stages of this project, the Presqu’ile Point Lighthouse Preservation Society (PPLPS) has completed all its fundraising efforts to ensure the lighthouse at Presqu’ile Provincial Park stands for another 200 years.  

“It all started for me when Norman Bastin approached the local Rotary Club of Brighton for support for this project,” said Dave Sharp,  Chair of the PPLPS.  “I agreed to volunteer for a few months to help with marketing and communications, and 13 years later, with a decade as the Chair, I am proud to say, we are almost done.”

The PPLPS has raised over $600,000 to ensure that this historic building remains structurally sound and that it can be enjoyed by both residents and visitors to the area.

“We have ensured that the foundation is sound, and all the shingles and siding have been replaced,” said Sharp. “After the environmental assessment is completed by Ontario Parks, we will simply need to do some welding to adhere the new cupola to the top of the structure and secure it with epoxy to waterproof it.”

A cupola is a glass and metal structure that fits around the lantern at the top of the lighthouse, and if the environment assessment passes, it will be installed by the end of the summer.

“When we did our research on the lighthouse we discovered that the original colour of the cupola was blue, the shade was called “French Royal Blue” but we decided to stay with the Canadian Fisheries decision to make it “Canadian Red”, 40 or 50 years ago.”

The lighthouse is on the eastern point of the Presqu’ile peninsula, formerly known as Gibson’s Point, in Presqu’ile Provincial Park.  It was originally designed by an engineer named Nichol Hugh Baird who made the 69-foot octagonal stone tower tapering to a pronounced flare at the top with a moulded cornice. The Gothic doorway added to its stately appearance. Originally an 8-sided lantern house (cupola) was perched at the top.

Due to water and the weather, the outside of the lighthouse started to crumble with exposure to the elements. In 1894, it was sheathed in a wood frame and then, covered with cedar shakes. The light was converted to electricity from oil in 1935 and the attractive top cupola was removed by 1965 giving the lighthouse its current profile.

The 1907 Canadian List of Lights and Fog Signals indicated the establishment of the fog station at Presqu’ile. It was located close by the lighthouse and the foundations can still be seen by the path from the Interpretive Centre to the lighthouse. The diaphonic alarm produced a blast of six seconds every minute during foggy weather and could easily be heard beyond Brighton over 3 miles away. It was discontinued in 1934 due to a
lack of commercial traffic.     

 Thanks to a recent grant and a further generous $25,000 donation by Mr. Eben James, Sr. of Trenton Cold Storage; the $10,000 commitment from the Municipality of Brighton, combined with PPLPS remaining funds, the $90,000 cupola is ready to be installed once the assessment is complete.

“When my mother and father build their cottage in 1930 in the Barcovan Beach area, the lighthouse was directly across from us, it had a wonderfully bright red cupola. It also had a foghorn which would blow on foggy days,” said Mr. Eben James, Sr.  “Unfortunately, the cupola was removed and never replaced. The foghorn was also done away with. A lighthouse without a red cupola is not a lighthouse!  I was thrilled to hear that the Presqu’ile Point Lighthouse Preservation Society was looking to replace the red cupola. As a young boy, I was always intrigued by the lighthouse. 

In the twilight of my life, I am delighted to contribute to the restoration process of the Presqu’ile Lighthouse Cupola. I am very pleased that I will, once again, be able to look at the lighthouse with its’ red cupola and reminisce; reflect and dream my days away.”

A popular destination for visitors of Presqu’ile Provincial Park, the lighthouse is again picture perfect, structurally sound and has its commanding presence again.

“The lighthouse is still used by many of those on the water to find their way safely home to Brighton,” added Sharp.  “It’s such an asset to the park and visitors love to learn about its history, read the signs and visit the centre.”

The expression, it takes a village is true but I would add it also takes committed volunteers.  The herculean effort made by volunteers over 13 years to raise the needed funds is something that Brighton and the area should be proud of.  

“Countless hours have been put in by so many volunteers over the years is awe-inspiring,” added Sharp.  “What kept me motivated all these years is that I felt it was completed when the red cupola was in place and we are now so close to that goal.”

If you are new to the area, or a long-time resident, be sure to visit Presqu’ile Provincial Park this summer to see the renovated lighthouse and, if all goes well, at the end of the summer to see the crowning glory, the red cupola installed on this timeless beauty of a lighthouse.

Alicia Vandine