Gillis Point Lighthouse

Heritage Lighthouse

Gillis Point, Nova Scotia
Gillis Point Lightouse exterior showing the entrance (© Courtesy of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard | Courtoisie de Pêches et Océans Canada et la Guarde Côtière Canadienne)
(© Courtesy of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard | Courtoisie de Pêches et Océans Canada et la Guarde Côtière Canadienne)
Address : Gillis Point Road, Gillis Point East, Gillis Point, Nova Scotia

Recognition Statute: Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act (S.C. 2008, c 16)
Designation Date: 2017-10-20
  • 1895 to 1895 (Construction)
  • 1895 to 1895 (Established)

Event, Person, Organization:
  • Hector MacLean, Lightkeeper 1898-1916  (Person)
  • Catherine MacLean, Lightkeeper 1916-1939  (Person)
  • Andrew MacLean, Lightkeeper 1939-1967  (Architect)

Description of Historic Place

The Gillis Point Lighthouse is an 11.3 metre (37 feet) tall, wooden, square tapered tower that sits on a narrow section of land stretching into the Bras d’Or Lakes in rural Cape Breton Island.

Heritage Value

Heritage Value:
The Gillis Point Lighthouse is a heritage lighthouse because of its historical and community values.
a. Historical values,
Gillis Point Lighthouse is one of a small number of harbour lights established along the shores of the Bras d’Or Lakes in the late 19th century. It was the only light built to guide vessels north into or out of the Grand Narrows and to and from the Barra Strait. It also marks the entrance to Markell’s Harbour. The lighthouse is also noted for having been tended by one of the few female lightkeepers in Nova Scotia, Catherine MacLean, who was lightkeeper from 1916 until 1939. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, most of the lights along the Bras d’Or Lakes served the growing water-borne shipment of coal and other goods from Sydney to the southeastern reaches of the Lakes. The lighthouse also served as a warning to mariners of the presence of a bridge at Grand Narrows, which eventually carried railway traffic onto Cape Breton Island.
b. Community values,
The Gillis Point Lighthouse, surrounded by the rolling hills of the Cape Breton Highlands, sits on a forested stretch of land that reaches into the Bras d’Or Lakes. The isolated setting of the lighthouse remains
largely unaltered since the lighthouse was constructed. The unspoiled surroundings reinforce the local maritime character of the
lighthouse’s rural environment. In recent years, Maskell’s Harbour has become a peaceful sanctuary for boaters in the region, with the lighthouse being a well known
landmark. Mariners navigating the Bras d’Or Lakes system are familiar with the building, as it is clearly visible from the water. It is also associated with the MacLean
family, who served for three generations as lightkeepers. The lighthouse has played a role as a meeting place for the surrounding communities, and is a cherished landmark
for local residents.
c. Related buildings
No related buildings are included in the designation.
The character-defining elements related to this designation are listed at the end of this document.

Character-Defining Elements

The following character-defining elements of the Gillis Point Lighthouse should be respected:
— its location on a narrow promontory reaching into the Bras d’Or Lakes, Cape Breton Island; — its current, as-built form and proportions, based on the standard design of square, tapered, wooden towers; — its square, wooden frame structure with tapered sides rising from a square base; — its simple white metal railing surrounding the gallery; — its red hexagonal lantern;
— the two vertically-arranged windows with red-shingled pediments; — its sole entry, red-shingled pedimented door; — its traditional red and white colour scheme, consisting of white for the tower with red accents over the windows and door, and red for the lantern; and, — its visual prominence in relation to the water and landscape.