This bonne fete needs one heck of a cake and a whole lot of candles.
Fisgard Lighthouse, one of the centerpieces at Fort Rodd Hill & Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Sites in Colwood, celebrates its 160th birthday today (Nov. 16).
Completed in 1860, Fisgard Lighthouse is the oldest of its kind on the West Coast, said Michelle Holmes, site and visitor experience manager.
“It’s significant because it helped support growth, trade and settlement in Victoria by making the waters safe and protecting the entrance to Esquimalt Harbour,” Holmes explained. It was named after HMS Fisgard, a Royal Navy ship that served in the Pacific. It was built partially in response to the gold rush of the 1850s.
The first lighthouse keeper was William Bevis, who served from 1861 to 1879. His wife, Amelia, and niece, Mary, took over after Bevis died. While it was recommended they continue as they had been assisting Bevis for 20 years, women were not allowed to be lighthouse keepers at that time. Holmes said the widow and niece served for nine months before a “suitable” replacement could be found. Amelia and Mary were believed to be the first female lighthouse keepers in Canada.
Keepers remained until 1928 when the lantern was automated. Steel shutters were added to the lantern room because the percussion from Fort Rodd Hill’s twin-barrelled six-pounder guns kept breaking the glass. Torpedo netting connected Fisgard Island to the shore until the causeway was completed in the 1950s.
Images of the iconic lighthouse can be found throughout Victoria, whether in a doctor’s office or part of a mural, Holmes noted. “It’s part of our local identity.”
It’s also the most visible navigation landmark for boats sailing from the Juan de Fuca Strait to Esquimalt Harbour, and is well known to foreign vessels.
Although an in-person birthday celebration was not possible due to COVID-19, the site is holding an online celebration in the form of a social media campaign on Facebook and Twitter at #Fisgard160 with fun facts and photos. People are encouraged to contribute by sharing their own photos and memories as well.
The site is open free of charge during the week, with COVID protocols in place. Visit ParksCanada.ca/FortRoddHill for information on admission on weekends and hours of operation.