P.E.I. group happy lighthouse being 'cared for'

The Blockhouse lighthouse, at the mouth of the Charlottetown Harbour, is undergoing a dramatic facelift this winter after a community group raised concerns about its appearance.

Blockhouse lighthouse undergoing upgrades this year

The plastic and scaffolding are now being removed from the Blockhouse lighthouse. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

The Blockhouse lighthouse, at the mouth of the Charlottetown Harbour, is undergoing a dramatic facelift this winter after a community group raised concerns about its appearance.

In September 2017, members of the Blockhouse Lighthouse Preservation Society described the condition of the iconic lighthouse as "shameful and disgraceful."

"I'm literally trying to save the lighthouse from falling down," the group's secretary Carol Carragher said at the time.

Shortly after Carragher and her group went public with their concerns on a Facebook group called Save Our Blockhouse, a team from the Coast Guard was sent to inspect the lighthouse.

The plastic cover allowed workers to apply exterior paint even when the temperatures dropped. (Save Our Blockhouse/Facebook)

Construction workers from the Coast Guard set up at the site in November and have been making steady progress on the repairs to make the building more weather tight.

The entire structure had been covered in plastic for months to allow workers to put on a fresh coat of paint.

"I was really blown away by the fact that they had totally enclosed it and that the people just continued on with their work even though it was really cold, icy," said Carragher, who lives not far from the lighthouse.

"I was rather amazed."

The community group said the lighthouse was in dire need of a paint job. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

There have also been repairs to windows and the veranda. All old shingles and rotted wood were replaced. Door, window trim and deck posts were replaced and the foundation was repaired.

The plastic has now been removed and the Coast Guard said the work will be completed by the end of the week. 

"It's a great feeling to see a building that's so important to our community to be looked after with that type of care which is really all that we all wanted," Carragher said.

Thousands of cruise ship passengers sail past the iconic lighthouse every year as they arrive in Charlottetown. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

Carragher said her group now hopes to resolve the issue of ownership of the Blockhouse lighthouse.

The non-profit preservation group formed in 2011 to petition to acquire the lighthouse, and has been waiting to take over the lighthouse since it was declared surplus in 2010.

But in 2015, the community group learned that the Mi'kmaq Confederacy had staked a claim for the lighthouse, along with up to 19 other lighthouses and surrounding Crown lands across Prince Edward Island.

The scaffolding was up around the lighthouse for several months so work could continue despite the weather. (Save Our Blockhouse/Facebook)

"What's going to happen to it in terms of the divestment of it moving forward, we don't know any more about that," Carragher said.

"We're just basking in the fact that at least it's going to look like a lighthouse that's been cared for."

A spokesperson from Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard said the department has been in contact with community groups interested in taking over the lighthouse.

About the Author

Nancy Russell

Nancy Russell has been a reporter with CBC since 1987, in Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Toronto and Charlottetown. When not on the job, she spends her time on the water rowing, travelling to Kenya or walking her dog. Nancy.Russell@cbc.ca