Sand Point Lighthouse Heritage Designation
April 18, 2013:
Sand Point Lighthouse Heritage Designation:
Background Notes in Support of Nomination
For hundreds of years, the Ottawa River has been one of North America's most important water resources, used initially for hunting,
fishing and trading by indigenous peoples such as the Algonquin and Huron tribes, and starting in the 17th century, by European
explorers, traders, and farmers / settlers. The Upper Ottawa, where the Sand Point lighthouse is located, shares this rich history,
and indeed was a key corridor for the exploration and development of Northern and Western Canada.
The height of commerce-based traffic on the upper Ottawa River occurred in the 1800's and the early 1900's, driven by the trade in
squared timber and sawn lumber, and the associated agriculture and settlement activities. Initially, the main route to market for
lumber was via the "spring log drives" down the Ottawa River tributaries, and via large squared timber 'rafts' on the Ottawa itself.
The lumber found its way to Montreal and Quebec, and thence to the UK. The arrival of rail service in Arnprior (1863) and Sand Point
(1867) opened US and Canadian markets for the rich supply of "White Pine" and other lumber from the upper reaches of the Ottawa River
and its tributaries. Large, modern sawmills were built in Arnprior (Daniel McLauchlin - 1852) and Braeside (John Gillies and sons - 1873)
during this period to process the annual softwood and hardwood harvest.
Passenger and freight ferry services on the Chat's Lake portion of the Ottawa River began in 1836 with the launch of the
steamship George Buchanan and was followed by several other ships operated by the Union Forwarding Company. Around 1890, regular ferry service started between
Sand Point, Ontario and Bristol, Quebec, and in 1909, service between Sand Point and Norway Bay, Quebec (a cottage community) was launched.
Cottagers and others bound for Norway Bay would typically take the train to the Sand Point station, where they would catch the ferry to
complete their trip. The Sand Point ferry terminal was the wharf that still houses the Sand Point lighthouse to this day. After more than
50 years of continuous operation, ferry service was terminated in 1962 due to the construction of the Chenaux hydro dam and the associated
bridge, which created a more cost effective and convenient route to the Pontiac region of Quebec.
Alexander McDonnell emigrated from Scotland with his family in 1815, and settled in the Perth area. Alexander made his way up the Ottawa
and founded the community of Sand Point in the early 1820's. He received a grant of 1000 acres from the government, which included the
current town of Braeside, and the 'hamlet' of Sand Point. By 1827 he had cleared a farm and built a log house at Sand Point, and was
established as a lumberer and trader. In 1830, Alexander married Janet Young, daughter of John Young, primary builder and designer of the
Port of Montreal. In this same year, he built a general store at Sand Point, which became a major supply center for the lumbering trade.
About 1835, he built a large stone house in Sand Point where he lived until his death in 1875. John and Janet Carlile, the current owners,
have extensively restored the house. It overlooks the Ottawa River, and the Sand Point wharf and lighthouse, and it is the oldest occupied
stone house in Renfrew County.
When the Brockville and Ottawa Railway was completed as far as Sand Point in 1867, the village enjoyed a period of exceptional development
as the "head of steel" (1867-1873). During this time a school was built, as were several stores, hotels, boarding houses, a stone sawmill,
and a Catholic Church (St Alexander's). Although building activity slowed down when the railway was extended on-wards to Pembroke, Sand
Point remained an important commercial center for many more years with the construction of a barrel stave factory, shipbuilding (Prince Arthur -
1870, Hiram Robinson - 1910), the Canada Lime Company kiln operation and the Dominion Explosives plant. Very few signs of this period of prosperity
remain to day, save the Sand Point wharf and the associated lighthouse.
Ottawa River Lighthouses
Starting in 1860, a system of lighthouses was established by Federal navigation authorities to support the busy marine traffic on the Ottawa
River. Most were built during the 1870's and in a subsequent phase during the 9 or 10 years prior to the First World War. Of the 30-odd
lighthouses that once dotted the Ottawa River between McQuestion Point to the west and Ste Ann de Bellevue to the east, only a few remain today.
Five of these are located on the Upper Ottawa. From West to East they are McQuestin / McQuestion Point (Chalk River), Deep River Inlet, Passage Lower, Lower
Allumette Isand and Sand Point. With the exception of Lower Allumette Island, these are all active (seasonal status). Note also that all have been
included on the Active/Surplus list of lighthouses published in support of the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act initiative, and thus risk
eventual deterioration, demolition or removal if not protected.
Sand Point Lighthouse
The Sand Point lighthouse is an extremely good candidate for historical protection for the following reasons:
1) It is quite unique, in that it is the only original lighthouse remaining on the Chat's Lake reach of the River, and indeed between Ottawa
and the Pembroke / Deep River region. The current lighthouse is the 3rd to be located at Sand Point, and was placed sometime prior to 1909,
based on historical photographs.
2) It is very typical and representative of the architectural style of the Ottawa River lighthouses - square, tapered towers with a small
lantern room at the top for the light.
3) It is located on the Sand Point wharf, which is connected to Renfrew County Road 1, making it accessible to all. Typically, the other
lighthouses on the River are accessible only by boat.
4) It is in excellent condition. The lighthouse was re-painted and some of its wooden siding replaced within the past couple of years
with the assistance of Cheryl Gallant, MP. An affordable regular maintenance program would ensure the preservation of the lighthouse
for many future generations to enjoy.
5) The lighthouse is a highly visible and recognizable symbol of the local community's heyday, when Sand Point was the "end of steel"
(1867-1873), and a thriving community sprang up to support the trans-shipment of people and cargo between the railroad and the river
6) The lighthouse is a highly visible and recognizable symbol of the community's role in the local logging industry, when tug boat
captains pulling the log booms down to mills in Braeside, Arnprior and Ottawa would use the lighthouse to guide them safely into the
deeper channels, or to the adjacent wharves for re-fueling, or to effect repairs. Alligator boats were employed on this stretch of the Ottawa River.
7) The lighthouse continues to provide year-round navigational assistance to recreational boaters and snowmobile enthusiasts and is
included on current Ottawa River navigational charts.
8) Finally, there is a competent and committed group that is prepared to accept responsibility for the lighthouse's long-term care: the
Arnprior and District Historical Society. (Arnprior).
The historical significance of the Sand Point lighthouse, coupled with its current good state of repair, support designation under the Heritage
Lighthouse Protection Act. With on-going protection and some enhancements envisioned by our Historical Society (plaque, guided tours, audio loop,
historic pictures, etc), the lighthouse can be leveraged to connect current and future generations to the diverse, rich and exciting history of
the Upper Ottawa valley.
McNab - The Township, Peter Hessel, 1988
The Ottawa, William E Greening, 1961
www.bytown.net/lighthouses.htm , Michael Forand et al
E-mail John Brady and Allan Lewis
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