Perhaps it is because most of them lie on isolated shorelines, out of view of most landlubbers, that lighthouses are among the least appreciated of Ontario's heritage structures.
Some are small and squat, made of wood; others are tall and elegant, constructed of stone or brick. Then there is the lighthouse at Point Abino. Built of poured concrete, it is unlike any other lighthouse in Ontario. Constructed in a form of architecture known as Greek Revival, it is easily the most elegant lighthouse along the Ontario side of the Great Lakes.
Point Abino is located on Lake Erie just west of Fort Erie. With the urban boom that engulfed southern Ontario and upper New York State in the late 1800s, increasing numbers of city dwellers sought out the beaches and breezes of the nearest lakeshores. These numbers swelled following the opening of the Peace Bridge between Buffalo and Fort Erie in 1927.
While more modest cottages and cabins crowded the beaches in nearby Crystal Beach, the forested peninsula at Point Abino became the exclusive enclave of wealthy industrialists. Families from New York and Ohio like the Rich family, owners of Rich products, and the Baird family, owners of the Buffalo News, erected grand summer homes here.
The lighthouse was completed in 1918, built to replace a light ship that was destroyed in a storm in 1913, killing all on board. A light-keeper's residence was added in 1921.
Prior to the light ship, the dangerous shelf of rock, which creeps out from the point into the lake, was marked only by buoys. Because the light was surrounded by water and private homes, the keepers had to access the dwelling by wading through the shallows.
Ontario has a rich lighthouse legacy. During the late 1800s the government built around the shores of Lake Huron half a dozen lofty stone structures that they termed the "Imperial Towers." Of the six, that at Cape Rich, near Southampton, is the most accessible. The squat stone lighthouse from the Duck Islands has been moved to the Mariners' Museum near Picton, Ontario. Port Rowan lays claim to having Ontario's oldest wooden lighthouse, and other lighthouses can be visited in Kincardine, on Long Point, in Prince Edward County, on the Toronto Islands, and at Wingfield Basin, near Tobermory.
The province of Quebec also promotes a "lighthouse route" along the shores of the Lower St. Lawrence River.
Although no lighthouse in Ontario remains permanently staffed, most are still in use; the lighthouse at Point Abino was the last to be automated. The light has been declared a National Historic Site, and in 2001 was purchased by the town of Fort Erie. After being off-limits to non-residents, the structure can now be visited via a shuttle run by a volunteer organization, or on foot or by bike during designated hours.
The lighthouse and the property gate are located at the south end of Abino Road, 15 kilometres west of Fort Erie.
-- Used with permission from Top 125 Unusual Things to See in Ontario, 4th Edition, Revised & Expanded by Ron Brown (Firefly Books, August 2014, $24.95).