It’s the fulfillment of a dream for an Abercrombie resident.
Anyone who is travelling along the waterfront in Pictou and glances across Pictou Harbour can’t help but notice a lighthouse on the opposite shore. It has no light, but is still a beacon to passing vessels that can’t help but notice its stature and charm.
That 48-foot tall white structure was built by hand, piece by piece, with a skill saw, determination and nerves of steel by Grant Polley. It stands in his backyard, framed between his home on Company Road and the waters of Pictou Harbour.
“You can see it from Pictou, on Front Street if you look across the water,” says Grant. He and his wife Pat feel the best view is from the water behind them, on Pictou Harbour — especially in the fall with its stunning colours.
It took Grant five years — off and on — to build the lighthouse, mostly by himself, with a little assistance every now and again from a neighbour across the street.
“I lifted most of that up by block and tackle, and to put the siding up I used a zoom boom.” He laughs, “I lost about 20 pounds just climbing to build it. And I didn’t fall once!” The top floor was built on the ground and lifted by crane.
Pat says it was always Grant’s dream to build a lighthouse. “I said you can always build a small one, to which he replied, I want to build an authentic looking lighthouse, eight sides.”
So he did, and is now building a spiral staircase inside to the upper part which he figures will have 58 steps to the top.
Grant chuckles when he says he currently uses the lighthouse as a workshop or a ‘man cave’.
Pat says that eventually he’s going to finish the downstairs of the structure. They have two daughters living in the Halifax area so it will be a perfect retreat for them when they visit. And the lighthouse is all piped for running water so it will become like a guest house or gazebo, notes Pat.
“I call it a gazebo,” she shrugs. “People tell me about their gazebos and I say, oh, you should see the gazebo I have.’ They ask if it’s attached to my house and I say no, not really, but it’s only a few feet away.’”
Grant quips, “Well, it could be.”
The future plan is to have the lighthouse serve as a bed and breakfast.
“That’s not why I built it though,” Grant says. “I come from a fishing family — my father and brothers all fished. And I can remember the lighthouse at Pictou Harbour (Pictou Bar) that burned down.
“I was the youngest in the family and I recall when I was just small going out in the boat in the morning and seeing the light of that lighthouse flashing. It was a comfort to see it, like a beacon guiding me…”
While it can’t be seen from Abercrombie, Grant says plenty of people drive down Company Road to see the lighthouse. “People will drive in and stop. My doorbells — the dogs — let us know when someone is here to see it.”
The couple enjoyed travelling along the coastline and throughout the coastal villages of Nova Scotia spending time together and visiting as many lighthouses as possible, taking photos of them along the way. As Pat flips through the pages of a photo album filled with photographs of lighthouses, they reminisce about where each one is located. “We’ve been on every wharf in Nova Scotia,” Pat laughs. Now, their lighthouse could be a destination for another lighthouse lover.
Grant says before his brother Sandy passed away from cancer he wanted to visit Newfoundland. So Grant and Sandy and Pat got a trailer and visited Newfoundland to experience all of its rugged beauty. And took photos of lighthouses.
They love the iconic lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove but Grant believes it is not as impressive as the one he built. “I measured it and each side at the bottom is six feet, mine is 10 feet.”
There is never an idle moment with Grant. A construction worker his entire life, he fished with his brother Sandy on his days off. “I worked in construction so I was off all winter and he fished so he was off all winter, so we built boats in the winter.”
Now semi-retired, Grant plans to build another boat — a 34-foot Cape Island.
A perfect accompaniment to his lighthouse.