Nova Scotia

Sambro Island lighthouse funding to fully pay for repairs

A community group that has lobbied for years to save the oldest operating lighthouse in the Americas is welcoming money to make repairs.

The money will not cover ongoing maintenance in the future

The Sambro Island lighthouse, the oldest operating lighthouse in North America, was declared surplus by the federal government in 2010. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

A community group that has lobbied for years to save the oldest operating lighthouse in the Americas is welcoming money to make repairs.

The federal government announced this morning it will contribute $1.5 million toward the restoration of the Sambro Island lighthouse. The repairs will be carried out by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

The lighthouse is located on an isolated island at the southern entrance to Halifax harbour.

In 2010, the federal government declared the lighthouse surplus, along with hundreds of other lighthouses across the country.

The government is seeking to divest itself of the lighthouse.

Stephanie Smith is the president of the Sambro Island Lighthouse Heritage society.

'Canada's Statue of Liberty'

"The Sambro Island lighthouse has been a hidden national treasure. It's so immersed in rich maritime history. Thousands, if not millions of immigrants have passed by that lighthouse coming to Canada. That was their first glimpse of Canadian soil," she said.

"That's why we've dubbed it as Canada's Statue of Liberty."

She says the Sambro Island lighthouse also had significance for military personnel who fought in the First and Second World Wars.

"That was their last glimpse of home [when leaving] and upon arrival, if they were lucky to return home, that was the beacon that welcomed them back to the country after war," said Smith. 

Smith says the money will fully cover repairs to the lighthouse, but will not cover ongoing maintenance to the structure in the future.

The society is hoping Parks Canada may take over the lighthouse to ensure it stays intact in the coming years.

The lighthouse was built in 1758.

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