William Street range light work complete 0
The restored Victoria Harbour navigational range light was officially opened Aug. 15 with a ribbon cutting event. About 50 people attended the range light official opening, getting the chance to climb up the stairs to the viewing platform. Michael Felstein, 10, of Midland, whose grandmother lives in Victoria Harbour, enjoyed the view of Hogg Bay. GISELE WINTON SARVIS The Free Press
An important piece of nautical history in Victoria Harbour has been lovingly restored.
Freshly painted white with red trim, the William Street range light was feted at an official ribbon cutting ceremony last Tuesday night.
Well wishers climbed the moderate trail from Newton Street to see the range light up close and climb the steep staircase to the viewing platform that looks out over Hogg Bay.
“Preserving this relic of our past will be a beacon for your community,” said Simcoe North MP Bruce Stanton.
“Not every township has the wisdom to have these important features preserved,” he added.
Simcoe North MPP Garfield Dunlop applauded the efforts of Tay Township.
“We have a rich history of navigation and boating throughout North Simcoe and this complements it,” he said.
Groups responsible for the rebuilding of the rotted original structure include the Tay council that approved the expenditure, the building committee that organized and assigned the reconstruction and the heritage committee that organized the research and information plaque that now sits close to William Street, where trees have been cleared to make the range light visible.
“I'm so glad you saved it,” said John Cusimano, a visitor from Mississauga, who was vacationing in the area.
Cusimano was talking to Mara Burton, director of planning and development for the Township of Tay, who headed up the project that took about three years.
“We did a lot of research,” said Burton.
“We had original drawings of other range lights and historic photographs to work with,” she said.
The original structure had been overclad in metal in 1960 that had to be removed in order to build it.
“There was lots of dry rot and damage by carpenter ants,” said Burton.
Burton was the driving force in getting the money for the project, said Lynda Hook of the heritage committee.
“It’s all about culture. People travel to see unique, authentic things like this,” Hook said.
Mayor Scott Warnock said the range light rebuild cost the township $70,000.
“It’s a little added attraction that people will remember when they come and visit,” he said.
Owned by the township, it will remain locked except for special occasions; the light is not functional.
The range light was one of a pair, with the other being closer to the shore. The Bergie Point Range Light no longer exists. The pair were built out of wood in 1910.
Ships, including the Canadian Pacific ships S.S. Keewatin and Assiniboia, would line up the two range lights to navigate into Hogg Bay.
The first range keeper was Charles Bergie, who kept the lights lit with kerosene lamps, starting Oct. 15, 1910. Bergie died two years later and Robert Belcher took over the job May 24, 1912. His tenure was even shorter, as he died of cholera July 10.
Belcher’s brother, Ray, took over until he was shipped overseas for the First World War and Charles Sykes kept the lights going. Ray returned in 1918 and worked at the range lights until early 1951, when the kerosene lamps were replaced by electric lights.
The last keeper was W.B. Cooke. He maintained the lights until the Canadian Coast Guard Base of Parry Sound took over the operation in 1968.
Tay Township assumed responsibility for the range light in 2004. It was becoming increasingly run down and by 2009 the township started looking at options of what to do with the structure. The decision was made to save it and refurbish it.
Burton said they toyed with the idea of moving it closer to the water, but a decision was made to keep it in its original location.
CUTLINE: GISELE WINTON SARVIS The Free Press
The restored Victoria Harbour navigational range light was officially opened Aug. 15 with a ribbon cutting event. About 50 people attended the range light official opening, getting the chance to climb up the stairs to the viewing platform. Michael Felstein, 10, of Midland, whose grandmother lives in Victoria Harbour, enjoyed the view of Hogg Bay.