Historic lighthouse destroyed by lightning fire

Onlookers looked in horror as a beloved lighthouse nestled in the St. Lawrence River, just west of Brockville was destroyed by a lightning fire on Monday, July 23. Many felt utterly helpless as they watched from the shoreline as flames brought down the aged structure after a single flash of lightning in stormy weather brought down the 162-year-old landmark.

“A few people shed some tears. It was just kind of like a death in the family.” says Mike Milne, an area cottager in the Thousand Islands.

The Cole Shoal Lighthouse is so old, it predates Confederation and is the keeper of many memories ranging from adventure to mischief. 

Evelyn Ten Cate remembers, “In the 70s… I probably shouldn’t admit this — but we used to take our little boats out to the lighthouse and then there was a broken piece so we could get inside and then write graffiti and put our names inside the lighthouse.”

The Cole Shoal lighthouse was built in 1856 and while it hasn’t fulfilled its original purpose since the late 1920’s, it has been kept as a treasured marker. Ironically it burned down just days before a meeting to help extend its life. Brian Burns, an area resident says, “With the Ontario Heritage Trust, we had already planned to meet them this Thursday at noon, to go out and go over improvements needed for the lighthouse”.

Right now all that remains is the rock it was built on and the scent of smouldering wood that hangs fresh in the air surrounded by choppy waters. A meeting will go ahead on Thursday, July 26 and fundraising efforts are already underway. There are strong hopes of rebuilding so that the beacon of this cottage community can be resurrected from its untimely and fiery death.

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