When she was just a toddler, Stretch’s father, Stanley Taylor, took a job at the Blockhouse Point Lighthouse in Rocky Point as lighthouse keeper (1936-1963), and moved his wife and five children into the iconic structure.
“To us, it was just our home,” Stretch said in an interview Monday.
Stretch remembers family coming to visit and staying for weeks on end because of the beauty and uniqueness of the property.
Built in 1876, the lighthouse was declared surplus in 2010, and while the light remains in operation, the future of the structure itself is unknown.
Aside from peeling paint, there are rotting boards and holes in the building big enough to let in rodents and wildlife. There is also a hole in the cellar door outside that leads to the basement, and the padlock used to keep it shut is broken and the door remains unlocked.
To see the state of the lighthouse today is upsetting to Stretch.
“It just makes my heart sick,” she said. “Everybody came here to see it. We had so much extended family then that remember it as home. We’re all just so upset about it.”
As an effort to save and restore the lighthouse, Stretch, along with other members of her community, formed the Blockhouse Lighthouse Preservation Society in 2011 and submitted a petition for ownership of the lighthouse once it is divested. In 2015, the Mi’kmaq Confederacy also filed a claim for the lighthouse.
Nearby resident Carol Carragher, also a member of the preservation society, says her group is not giving up on the historic structure.
“My New Year’s resolution this year was to start on January 1 and fight until December, and I’ve got to this point,” she said, adding she’s been writing letters, phoning and emailing the various departments and groups involved with the lighthouse. She also sent pictures to MP Wayne Easter, DFO and the Canadian Coast Guard showing the building’s damage.
With winter coming, Carragher noted that repairs need to be done sooner rather than later.
During the interview at the lighthouse, half a dozen visitors came by to take pictures, including Shawn and Brenda Gile from New Hampshire.
Brenda said her first impression of the site was how much it was in need of repair.
“It’s really surprising that it looks so run down for a working lighthouse,” she said. “The poor condition is really sad.”
In an email response to The Guardian last week, a spokesperson for DFO said its primary interest, along with that of the Coast Guard, is in the operation of the light for the safety of mariners, but also to keep a safe site for employees and visitors
“Esthetic repairs are done as resources permit,” the email said. “Recently, the department received reports from concerned citizens who indicated there may be more damage or deterioration.”
A new assessment of Blockhouse Lighthouse was conducted in late September.
“We are evaluating the findings of the inspection and hope to have plans in place soon,” stated the DFO.
Carragher hopes those plans include immediate repairs.
“I’m hoping that they’re going to bring the outside back to what it needs to be,” she said.