She's a rocky isle in the ocean and the people of St. Jacques-Coomb's Cove are looking to attract tourists with it.
The island in this scenario is St. Jacques Island — located about a kilometre off the small Fortune Bay community it pulls its name from — and it recently came under the ownership of the St. Jacques Island Heritage Corporation.
The non-for-profit group is looking to take the century old lighthouse and its light keeper’s residence found on the island and turn it into an artists’ retreat.
The idea was born out of a desire to preserve a piece of the town’s history.
Comprised of people from the area, the corporation was formed last year after the province and the municipality passed on the opportunity to assume ownership of the lighthouse.
“When the federal government decided to divest itself of the light tower, we were concerned it was going to be destroyed,” said heritage corporation chairperson Alex Hickey. “It was built in 1908, it is in great shape and we wanted to preserve it.”
Now, negotiating for the lighthouse was one thing, but the group also secured rights to the aforementioned light keeper residence, as well as the generator building, the foghorn building and the storage shed where the Canadian Coast Guard stores its solar panels.
In 1949, when Canada assumed the responsibility of lighthouses in the country they also had to assume responsibility of the land. That meant when the government moved away from the St. Jacques lighthouse, they also gave up right to the land.
As a result, the island the lighthouse sits on also came under the control of the heritage corporation. This was in 2013 after a memorandum of understanding was signed between the two parties.
It has taken years to get to this point and the plans going forward are quite large in scope. It was only this summer that the group finished work on a floating dock and land dock on a portion of the island known as Landing Cove.
They also have railings along the trail leading from the cove to the lighthouse property.
“That was a humongous task because there is no water supply out there, no sand out there, so the contractor had to bring out their own water, sand, cement and gravel,” said Hickey.
While the coast guard will maintain a presence there, the corporation plans on using the light keeper’s residence as a tourist rental once it has been refurbished.
The outer buildings on the property have been earmarked as art studios spaces open to artists of any medium. These spaces would be self-contained with their own accommodations, kitchen services, etc.
The idea is to market it has an artistic destination internationally.
“That doesn’t mean we’re not interested in local people. We need a broad audience in order to make this work,"” said Hickey.
The money generated by the rentals would be funneled into the preservation of the lighthouse. In 2017, the lighthouse was designated by Parks Canada as a national historic site.
A recent change in the town boundaries of St. Jacques-Coomb's Cove means the island now falls inside the new boundary and there are plans to make the lighthouse the town’s first municipal heritage structure.
About the St. Jacques Lighthouse:
• Also known as the Fortune Bay Lighthouse
• Built in 1908
• Constructed by renowned English manufacturer Chance Brothers and Company
• Installed as a pre-fabricated cast iron tower
• 39 feet in height
• Light keeper's residence built in 1960
• Generator building built in 1960
• First equipment building built in1960
• Second equipment building built in 1999
• Originally not included in St. Jacques-Coomb's Cove municipal boundary due to it being a Government of Canada property
Information courtesy alexhickey.com