Cape Forchu lighthouse site and archives manager Jill Durkee looks over the tools in the lightkeeper’s workshop museum.
YARMOUTH COUNTY - Along with the brisk salty breeze at the Cape Forchu lighthouse, you’re likely to catch some of the excitement in the air as a massive refurbishment project nears completion.
Many improvements and enhancements have taken place this summer, including extensive repairs to the exterior.
This has been needed for many years and it’s going to look awesome when finished.
Cape Forchu Lighthouse site and archives manager, Jill Durkee.
Soffits and trim have been replaced, the complete building has been reshingled with pre-painted shingles, and casings, doors and windows have been replaced with attention to the building’s heritage.
“It’s much needed work,” said site and archives manager Jill Durkee.
“This has been needed for many years and it’s going to look awesome when finished.”
Although scaffolding won’t be coming down until September, much of the interior work has been completed. Work will continue through the off-season on the museum upstairs.
The building now has a theme focusing on the experience of being in a lightkeeper’s home. Carpet has been removed from the floor in the gift shop and replaced with beautifully stained hardwood.
“Carpets in general are terrible things to happen to museums. We have all these old artifacts, and carpets just suck up the moisture. It’s not a good combination,” said Durkee.
Almost everything in the gift shop is made by local artisans. More artifacts have been added everywhere, including some fascinating relics from shipwrecks in the shipwreck room upstairs.
Durkee says there were 98 shipwrecks of vessels approaching Cape Forchu in Yarmouth Sound. Yarmouth was the second biggest shipping port in Canada in the 1800s.
“We’re gathering photographs and newspaper articles for a collage of shipwreck incidents to illustrate the impact,” said Durkee.
The lightkeeper’s bedroom and a room dedicated to what the Yarmouth tourism experience was like in the 1800s are also featured in the museum.
Downstairs, the new Keepers Kitchen serves up cold lobster rolls with salads, tempting sweets, chowder and other items. Picnics prepared on site are encouraged and a take-out window will be added in the future.
The fog alarm building near the base of the tower is where the lighthouse’s original DCB-36 lens is now on display. Visitors can press a button to make the light revolve against a starry night-sky backdrop. The lighthouse keeper’s workshop is also part of this museum, with a challenging inventory of tools to identify.
The Municipality of Yarmouth directed the sum of $380,000 towards renovating the outside of the main building. The fog alarm lens project was funded by the win of $25,000 through the "This Place Matters" contest put on by Heritage Canada.
Interior renovations have been completed, with donations made to the Friends of the Yarmouth Light. The Keepers Kitchen operators have funded their own renovations.
From May 29 to Aug. 16, close to 5,600 were recorded as visiting the lighthouse at Cape Forchu.
That figure does not include those just visiting the grounds.