For almost 100 years (1859 – 1954), light keepers lived on the island to keep the light burning for mariners on the lake. When the lighthouse lamp was converted to electricity in 1954, a light keeper was no longer needed. The buildings were left neglected and suffered at the hands of vandals. The lighthouse still stood intact, but little was left of the light keeper’s quarters. The roof had fallen in and the walls and floors had crumbled into a pile of rubble in the basement.
In 1997 the local Marine Heritage Society established specific goals for the island's restoration. The project was to be funded by donations and fundraising efforts, and the majority of the work was to be done by volunteers.
With permission from 5 levels of government, the group of volunteers began to rebuild the light keeper’s cottage, using the original structure plans.
The Light Keeper's Cottage restoration was completed in 2001. Over 250 volunteers put in more than 300,000 hours of labor to finish the restoration and ready the boat for tours. Since 2001 volunteers have restored the staircase of the lighthouse, built a boathouse on the island, constructed a replica of the original boat (which sits in the boathouse) and reconstructed the privy.
Today the tour is operated with over 125 volunteers, whose jobs include island housekeepers, gardeners, tour boat captains, crew and tour guides, and gift shop sales and service personnel. Volunteers also install the portable walkways and docks every spring and remove them every fall. To date, there have been over 20,538 visitors to the island.
Partners in the restoration, island maintenance, Chantry Island Tour operation and other Marine Heritage endeavors include the Town of Saugeen Shores, Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre, Southampton Propeller Club, Chantry Island Chambettes and Saugeen Shores Chamber of Commerce. Their continuous support contributes to the success of the Marine Heritage Society goal to preserve the local marine history.