Historic Nova Scotia Lighthouse Burns

PICTOU, N.S. (CP) -- A historic Nova Scotia lighthouse that once was a warning beacon for vessels that travelled the Northumberland Strait burned to the ground Monday evening.

Built in 1903, at a cost of $3,471.99, the still-functioning structure was 101 years old.

Residents of Pictou gathered and watched the flames flicker from the top of the lighthouse - located at the tip of Lighthouse Beach off the Pictou Landing First Nation - as the building was levelled by the flames.

County Warden Allister MacDonald said he was shocked when he heard of the loss, calling the lighthouse a hallmark of Pictou County.

``It's a sad day to see something like the Pictou lighthouse burn,'' MacDonald said. ``It's been a lifesaver for boats looking for safe harbour for many years and now it's no more. There are very few lighthouses left in Atlantic Canada, and now we have one less.''

Rip Irwin studied the lighthouse extensively several years ago as he prepared his book, the Lighthouses and Lights of Nova Scotia.

``It was critical to have a lighthouse in that harbour because the sand bar extends over 1.2 hectares,'' Irwin explained.

The history of the Pictou lighthouse is marked by fire.

The predecessor of the current light was destroyed by fire in early 1903. By the end of that year, a new light was built on the site of the former lighthouse.

The lighthouse became fully automated in 1960.

Irwin was saddened to hear Monday evening that there are now only 162 coastal beacons that remain in the province.

``It's a significant loss because it's a big part of our heritage and we're losing them one by one,'' he said.