The point of land at Church Point has a commanding view of Baie Sainte-Marie. There are no natural harbours along this coast, only small coves equipped with stone breakwaters to shelter the fishing and recreational boats. To assist in navigation, there has been a lighthouse on this point since 1874. The original lighthouse was a typical ‘salt-shaker’ style building equipped with an oil-powered light that required a live-in lighthouse keeper. The keeper’s home was attached to the lighthouse and originally surrounded by barns and sheds.
For decades, storms and strong tides eroded the shoreline around the lighthouse until, in 1957, the lighthouse was picked up and moved back by 52 meters (170 feet). At that time, the house and outbuildings were dismantled, leaving the lighthouse standing alone on the point. In 1974, it was moved away from the shore a second time by another 65 meters (213 feet).
After 110 years of service, the lighthouse was decommissioned in 1984, but it continued to be a treasured part of the community’s history. Université Sainte-Anne was one of the few universities in the world with a lighthouse on its campus. On March 26, 2014, a severe storm with winds of over 100 kilometers per hour (approximately 60 miles per hour) destroyed the lighthouse, just as plans were underway to renovate it.
The new building that stands on the point is modeled on the shape of the original lighthouse and keeper’s house. Professor Shawn Craik and his students in the university’s biology department will use this building as a laboratory for their bird capture and banding activities. They study a number of bird species, set up nesting boxes in Le Petit Bois and also participate in a pan-American study that tracks the migratory patterns of the tiny northern saw-whet owl (Aegolius Acadicus).
In the summer of 2017, the lighthouse will be open for visitors. This is an excellent spot for watching the spectacular sunsets on the bay, and because there are no streetlights here, it is also a great place to view the stars and meteorite showers in the night sky.
For a nighttime guided walking tour, contact the Visitor Information Centre in the Rendez-vous de la Baie, or visit http://nuitstella.ca/ for the schedule and contact information.