It looks like the Five Mile Lighthouse will be returning to Cole Shoal.
In July of last year, after a stormy day, shoreline residents noticed a glow out on the St. Lawrence River. That glow was a fire at the lighthouse, which has sat on a small island outside of Elizabethtown-Kitley Township in the St. Lawrence River for over 150 years.
Those on the shoreline say a bolt of lightning struck the lone building, and a nearby boater was able to capture the historic structure burning to the ground.
The lighthouse was the last of several like it built in 1856 that lit the way around the tiny islands on the St. Lawrence. It was decommissioned in the 1920s and left to waste away in the elements, but in the 1970s, the Ontario Heritage Trust assumed responsibility for its maintenance.
After the lighthouse burned down, the Ontario Heritage Trust said it could not afford to rebuild the lighthouse, and this year, the trust signed away the rights to the building to the township, which took up the cause to rebuild it.
After months of campaigning, the Five Mile rebuilding project has raised over $200,000 to reconstruct the historic lighthouse.
Bob Runciman, chair of the township’s rebuilding committee, said the township had promised it will not rebuild the lighthouse on the taxpayer’s dime, and thanks to several large and small donors, the rebuilding committee is now in a position to keep that promise.
Runciman said St. Lawrence Cruise Lines was the first and biggest donor, giving half of the committee’s $200,000 goal. The Burnbrae Foundation also offered to match $30,000 worth of funding, which Runciman said brought in a total of $60,000.
With that funding, Elizabethtown-Kitley Township council was able to award a contract to rebuild the lighthouse to Kehoe Marine Construction on Monday.
Runciman said the company hopes to begin work on the foundation before the river freezes and aims to have a superstructure up by early summer 2020.
The bid for the project is $211,000, and Runciman says the rebuilding committee has raised enough money to pay for the costs, but it is still hoping for more donations in order to have a bit of a cushion in case of unforeseen circumstances.
He also said that if more donations come in, the township is looking to shore up the shoal on which the lighthouse sits so that passing boaters can stop off on the tiny island to visit the new lighthouse.
To donate, visit the committee’s website.