A Canadian Lighthouse Primer:
In the 18th Century, sea traffic to and from Canada was increasing, and so the politicians of their time decided to turn their attentions toward the building of lighthouses.
Canada's first lighthouse, which also happens to be the second one erected in North America, went into service in 1734. It was to have begun it's service in 1733, but there was a delay in receiving the glazing for the lantern from France. The French erected the lighthouse at the fortress of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island. A pan of sperm oil surrounded by wicks supplied the light for this circular stone tower, standing over 21 meters (or 70 feet) in height. Duty fees on coastal and seagoing vessels supported the lighthouse.
In 1736 the lantern caught fire and burned. It was nearly two years later before the lighthouse could be put back into service. The lighthouse remained active until 1758, when the British bombardment of the fortress damaged the tower. The tower was left to crumble and a replacement was built in 1842.
The second Canadian lighthouse, was erected in 1760 on Sambro Island. The Nova Scotia legislative council authorized the building in 1758 and it was financed mainly with monies from a tax on liquor and on a lottery. Although the tower, itself, stands only 18.8meters (or 62 feet), its site raised the light to 39.6 meters(or 130 feet) in height. Funding for the operation and maintenance of the light came from dues paid by vessels entering Halifax Harbour, where the lighthouse, with its distinctive red and white banding, still stands its guard there today, making it the oldest functioning Canadian lighthouse.
A little known fact about the lighthouse is that during its early years as a beacon, there were many complaints from seagoing vessels that the light was barely visible. This was apparently due in part to the smoke from the lamp that would blacken the lantern's glass. For a long time, a cannon served as the fog signal for this site.
The lighthouse of Sambro Island was also the last sight of North America for thousands of Allied Sailors as they sailed to fight in the First and Second World Wars. If you enjoy reading about the history of lighthouses in Canada, please visit this website, A Brief History of Canadian Lighthouses.
About the PEI Lighthouses:
The oldest lighthouse on Prince Edward Island is 'Prim Point'. It marks the entrance to Hillsborough Bay on the southmost side of the island. Unlike most lighthouses in this region, Prim Point 's tower is made of brick, which is painted white. It towers over 18 meters in height (or 60 feet tall) and has been in services sicne 1846. Today it has an automated light to guide vessels safely into the bay.
Built in 1853, 'Panmure Head' is a prime example of the common design of lighthouses on Prince Edward Island, as it is an octagonal wooden towe, painted white.
Erected in 1863, 'Seacow Head' is also another example of the architectural design of an octagonal wood tower.
This lighthouse, built in 1851, stands 12 meters (or 40 feet) tall and is built in a square, pyramidal design. It is located near Charlottetown.
This lighthouse stands over 15 meters (or 50 feet) tall and was built in 1856. It also shares the square design of 'Blockhouse Point' lighthouse.
Erected in 1867 about .8 kilometers (or 1/2 mile) from the point it was originally designed to mark, the lighthouse was moved to within 60 meters (or about 200 feet) of the point in 1885. In 1908, when erosion, a common enermy of all lighthouses, threatened, it was moved further back to its current location. Like Panmure Head, Seacow Head and West Point lighthouses, East Point is of the design of the octagonal wooden tower. It is also the only itinerant lighthouse of PE Island.
WEST POINT LIGHTHOUSE
Built in 1876 and located on the west end of the island, Prince Edwards Island's tallest functioning Coast Guard Lighthouse is the West Point Lighhouse. It was automated in 1963, and at that time the Keeper's dwelling was taken down. With no one residing at the site, it fell to vandalism. Local citizens, dismayed by what had been happening the the 'Grand Dame' of Lighthouses, took action and rebuilt the Keeper's dwelling. Today it is home to a museum, where you can examine photographs and artifacts depicting the history of lighthouses. In 1988 a small hotel (with nine rooms) a seaside chowder ki tchen and a craft shop were opened. The lighthouses distinctive use of black banding is seldom seen on Canadian lighthouses. For more information click on the photo.
To read more about the history of Prince Edward Island's Maritime History, visit
The Shipwrecks of Prince Edward Island
~More to Come~