Sand Point Lighthouse Heritage Designation
Painting by Ruth McMillan in 1976
Shows the Head of the Rideau Canal Locks in Ottawa, Canada in 1893
April 18, 2013:
Sand Point Lighthouse Heritage Designation:
Background Notes in Support of Nomination
For hundreds of years, the Ottawa River has been one of North America's most important water resources, used
initially for hunting, fishing and trading by indigenous peoples such as the Algonquin and Huron tribes, and
starting in the 17th century, by European explorers, traders, and farmers / settlers. The Upper Ottawa, where
the Sand Point lighthouse is located, shares this rich history, and indeed was a key corridor for the
exploration and development of Northern and Western Canada.
The height of commerce-based traffic on the upper Ottawa River occurred in the 1800's and the early 1900's,
driven by the trade in squared timber and sawn lumber, and the associated agriculture and settlement activities.
Initially, the main route to market for lumber was via the "spring log drives" down the Ottawa River tributaries,
and via large squared timber 'rafts' on the Ottawa itself. The lumber found its way to Montreal and Quebec,
and thence to the UK. The arrival of rail service in Arnprior (1863) and Sand Point (1867) opened US and
Canadian markets for the rich supply of "White Pine" and other lumber from the upper reaches of the Ottawa
River and its tributaries. Large, modern sawmills were built in Arnprior (Daniel McLauchlin - 1852) and
Braeside (John Gillies and sons - 1873) during this period to process the annual softwood and hardwood
Passenger and freight ferry services on the Chat's Lake portion of the Ottawa River began in 1836 with
the launch of the steamship George Buchanan and was followed by several other ships operated by the
Union Forwarding Company. Around 1890, regular ferry service started between Sand Point, Ontario and
Bristol, Quebec, and in 1909, service between Sand Point and Norway Bay, Quebec (a cottage community)
was launched. Cottagers and others bound for Norway Bay would typically take the train to the Sand Point
station, where they would catch the ferry to complete their trip. The Sand Point ferry terminal was the
wharf that still houses the Sand Point lighthouse to this day. After more than 50 years of continuous
operation, ferry service was terminated in 1962 due to the construction of the Chenaux hydro dam and
the associated bridge, which created a more cost effective and convenient route to the Pontiac region
E-mail Allan Lewis
Alexander McDonell emigrated from Scotland with his family in 1815, and settled in the Perth area.
Alexander made his way up the Ottawa and founded the community of Sand Point in the early 1820's.
He received a grant of 1000 acres from the government, which included the current town of Braeside,
and the 'hamlet' of Sand Point. By 1827 he had cleared a farm and built a log house at Sand Point,
and was established as a lumberer and trader. In 1830, Alexander married Janet Young, daughter of
John Young, primary builder and designer of the Port of Montreal. In this same year, he built a
general store at Sand Point, which became a major supply center for the lumbering trade. About
1835, he built a large stone house in Sand Point where he lived until his death in 1875. John
and Janet Carlile, the current owners, have extensively restored the house. It overlooks the
Ottawa River, and the Sand Point wharf and lighthouse, and it is the oldest occupied stone
house in Renfrew County.
When the Brockville and Ottawa Railway was completed as far as Sand Point in 1867, the village
enjoyed a period of exceptional development as the "head of steel" (1867-1873). During this
time a school was built, as were several stores, hotels, boarding houses, a stone sawmill,
and a Catholic Church (St Alexander's). Although building activity slowed down when the railway
was extended on-wards to Pembroke, Sand Point remained an important commercial center for many
more years with the construction of a barrel stave factory, shipbuilding (Prince Arthur -
1870, Hiram Robinson - 1910), the Canada Lime Company kiln operation and the Dominion
Explosives plant. Very few signs of this period of prosperity remain to day, save the
Sand Point wharf and the associated lighthouse.
Ottawa River Lighthouses
Starting in 1860, a system of lighthouses was established by Federal navigation authorities
to support the busy marine traffic on the Ottawa River. Most were built during the 1870's
and in a subsequent phase during the 9 or 10 years prior to the First World War. Of the
30-odd lighthouses that once dotted the Ottawa River between McQuestion Point to the
west and Ste Ann de Bellevue to the east, only a few remain today.
Five of these are located on the Upper Ottawa. From West to East they are McQuestin / McQuestion
Point (Chalk River), Deep River Inlet, Passage Lower, Lower Allumette Isand and Sand Point.
With the exception of Lower Allumette Island, these are all active (seasonal status). Note
also that all have been included on the Active/Surplus list of lighthouses published in
support of the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act initiative, and thus risk eventual
deterioration, demolition or removal if not protected.
Sand Point Lighthouse
The Sand Point lighthouse is an extremely good candidate for historical protection for the
1) It is quite unique, in that it is the only original lighthouse remaining on the Chat's Lake
reach of the River, and indeed between Ottawa and the Pembroke / Deep River region. The current
lighthouse is the 3rd to be located at Sand Point, and was placed sometime prior to 1909,
based on historical photographs.
2) It is very typical and representative of the architectural style of the Ottawa River lighthouses -
square, tapered towers with a small lantern room at the top for the light.
3) It is located on the Sand Point wharf, which is connected to Renfrew County Road 1, making it
accessible to all. Typically, the other lighthouses on the River are accessible only by boat.
4) It is in excellent condition. The lighthouse was re-painted and some of its wooden siding
replaced within the past couple of years with the assistance of Cheryl Gallant, MP. An
affordable regular maintenance program would ensure the preservation of the lighthouse
for many future generations to enjoy.
5) The lighthouse is a highly visible and recognizable symbol of the local community's heyday,
when Sand Point was the "end of steel" (1867-1873), and a thriving community sprang up to
support the trans-shipment of people and cargo between the railroad and the river boats.
6) The lighthouse is a highly visible and recognizable symbol of the community's role in the
local logging industry, when tug boat captains pulling the log booms down to mills in
Braeside, Arnprior and Ottawa would use the lighthouse to guide them safely into the
deeper channels, or to the adjacent wharves for re-fueling, or to effect repairs.
Alligator boats were employed on this stretch of the Ottawa River.
7) The lighthouse continues to provide year-round navigational assistance to recreational
boaters and snowmobile enthusiasts and is included on current Ottawa River navigational
8) Finally, there is a competent and committed group that is prepared to accept responsibility for
the lighthouse's long-term care: the Arnprior and District Historical Society. (Arnprior).
The historical significance of the Sand Point lighthouse, coupled with its current good state of repair,
support designation under the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act. With on-going protection and some
enhancements envisioned by our Historical Society (plaque, guided tours, audio loop, historic pictures,
etc.), the lighthouse can be leveraged to connect current and future generations to the diverse, rich
and exciting history of the Upper Ottawa valley.
McNab - The Township, Peter Hessel, 1988
The Ottawa, William E Greening, 1961
www.bytown.net/lighthouses.htm , Michael Forand et al