After years of having the Friends of the Yarmouth Light Society (FOYL) act as caretakers for the iconic Cape Forchu lighthouse site, the Municipality of Yarmouth, which owns the property, is making changes.
A May 6 press release by the Friends of the Yarmouth Light Society stated that the Municipality of Yarmouth will be implementing its own plans for the building that currently houses the museum and gift shop… against their advice and wishes.
FOYL’s volunteers will now have restricted access to the facility and no control over operational hours.
The museum footprint will be reduced. The loss includes the lightkeeper's living room, an upstairs artifact display room, as well as the archive and research office.
FOYL’s press release says the lens project, featuring the lighthouse’s original DCB-36 lens, will not open this year, as the municipality has not completed the necessary repairs to the exterior of the building or added a ramp per the requirements of the building inspector.
Effective May 15, 2019, FOYL says the municipality is terminating its lease with the society.
“Even though they never asked us to leave, they made it impossible for us to stay with the new restrictions,” said FOYL president Janet Emin.
Thousands are expected to visit the Cape Forchu property this summer. And it’s expected there will be added buzz about the property. Last year a movie starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson was filmed at the far end of the Leif Ericson trail, on the south side of the Cape Forchu lighthouse. A life-size model of an 1800s lighthouse was built for the production, then dismantled.
The Yarmouth and Acadian Shores Tourism Association, a municipally funded organization, is ramping up its promotion of the ruggedly beautiful property.
Friends of the Yarmouth Light Society vice-president Dave Warner says there’s no question it’s a beautiful site, but that’s all visitors will see.
“They won’t see the history of it unless they come here,” he said.
“Here” is the new location for the FOYL – on the third floor of the Killam Brothers building, at 90 Water St. in Yarmouth. The volunteers are packing up and moving out of the Cape Forchu “home” and will be establishing a new museum with the artifacts they’ve been gathering and looking after for close to two decades.
Preserving the culture and heritage of the Cape Forchu lighthouse is paramount to the society. The donations and artifacts will continue to be honoured, including works on former lightkeepers, seafaring life and significant landmarks.
FOYL will be collaborating with fellow occupants of the building – the UNESCO Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve Association – to establish its new presence.
Over the next several months, supporters and donors will be consulted to develop future plans.
Friends of the Yarmouth Light Society history
The Friends have been part of the lighthouse’s history since 1994, when they contacted the Canadian Coast Guard and requested proper documentation and guidance to lease the lightstation. On March 15 of that same year, a lease was signed between the Yarmouth County Tourist Association and the Coast Guard to turn the lightkeeper's dwelling into a museum, which would be operated by the Friends. In May of 1996, the Friends of the Yarmouth Light Society opened for the summer.
in 2001, Cape Forchu Lightstation became the first lighthouse property in the history of Canada to be turned over by the federal government and saved. Chris Perry, the Yarmouth municipal warden at the time, accepted, on behalf of the Municipality of the District of Yarmouth, the transfer of the property, and, in turn, the Friends of the Yarmouth Light Society were given the role of caretakers of the site.
If you have any questions, concerns, or would like to locate an artifact you loaned or donated to FOYL, contact Janet Emin at 902-742-9319.