Skip to main content

'It’s leaning like the Tower of Pisa': Lake Erie lighthouse to be stabilized


Efforts to stabilize the 183-year-old Port Burwell Lighthouse have begun.

Earlier this year, the Municipality of Bayham learned the structure, built in 1840, was in danger of toppling over.

On Thursday, the lead contractor hired to stabilize it was blunt.

“The entire structure is physically leaning, like the Tower of Pisa. There’s a big erosion on the backside of it,” said Daniel Holmes of Heritage Restorations.

While to the eye and a TV camera lens it is hard to see the lean, multiple experts said it is there. That’s why the Main Street in front of it — which leads to the beach — has been closed for several months.

Repairs get underway on the 183-year-old Port Burwell Lighthouse on April 20, 2023. (Sean Irvine/CTV News London)It is hoped the lighthouse will be stabilized enough to allow traffic through on the May long weekend, the traditional start of beach season.

But it will be a challenge as crews have just started the $100,000 project to shore it up. The first step is placing supports for a collar around the outside.

“So we’re going to put a ring of structural steel three-quarters of the way up the tower,” Holmes told CTV News London.

From there, cables will attach to anchors set 30 feet in the ground.

Seeing work crews is a relief for Jordy Robinson. The Port Burwell, Ont. resident has been worried the lighthouse could fall directly on his home.

Daniel Holmes of Heritage Restorations stands in front of the Port Burwell Lighthouse on April 20, 2023. (Sean Irvine/CTV News London) Still, he and his family have come to appreciate the structure during the nine years they’ve lived across the street from it.

“Even when we are sitting in our living room we can look out the window and see the lighthouse right there,” Robinson said.

But shoring up the lighthouse is just the first phase.

A full restoration may prove to be cost-prohibitive to Bayham, a municipality already facing long-term debt from the Ojibwa submarine project, which has fallen far short of expectations.

CAO Thomas Thayer said restoring the lighthouse will cost upwards of half-a-million dollars.

Thomas Thayer, CAO and clerk for the Municipality of Bayham is seen on April 20, 2023. (Sean Irvine/CTV News London) Ultimately, it is a price-tag council will debate.

“There is going to have to be a fair bit of discussion. It is going to involve the council having to allocate money to reserves or via levy for this project,” he said. “And we’ll certainly be looking into grants to assist.”

But as crews work to at least shore up 183 years of legacy, Jody Robinson is hopeful the money will be found to sustain the lighthouse for another century.

“There’s a lot of people that live here that really love Port Burwell, so I’m hoping we do the right thing,” she said.

Thayer estimates a full cost report to restore the lighthouse will come to council before fall budget talks. Top Stories

Stay Connected