Manitowaning Lighttower

Recognized Federal Heritage Building

Manitoulin Island, Ontario
General view of Manitowaning Lighthouse (© Canadian Coast Guard | Garde côtière canadienne)
General view
(© Canadian Coast Guard | Garde côtière canadienne)
Address : Arthur Street, Manitoulin Island, Ontario

Recognition Statute: Treasury Board Policy on Management of Real Property
Designation Date: 2008-02-07
  • 1885 to 1885 (Construction)

Other Name(s):
  • Light Tower; Manitowaning  (Other Name)
  •   (Other Name)
Custodian: Fisheries and Oceans Canada
FHBRO Report Reference: 07-041
DFRP Number: 32550 00

Description of Historic Place

The Manitowaning Light Tower is a quaint, square tapered wooden tower, which stands 10.4m tall. Clad with white painted shingles, and set upon a fieldstone foundation, the tower rises clearly beyond its superimposed gallery to support a Picturesque, octagonal iron lantern. Contrasting red trim outlines the tower’s openings and tapered profile, and accentuates the gallery’s simple railing, elegant curved brackets and hipped lantern roof. The light tower is situated within the hamlet of Manitowaning on a small plot of land along the shoreline of Manitoulin Island.

Heritage Value

The Manitowaning Light Tower is a “Recognized” Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values.

Historical value
The Manitowaning Light Tower conveys the national theme of aids to navigation on the Great Lakes. It was constructed in response to significant increases in regional maritime traffic created by the development of a trade route to Canada’s west through the North Channel above Manitoulin Island, and by the ensuing establishment of local industries based on the exploitation of natural resources in the late 19th century. Built in 1885, the light tower is a very good illustration of the predominance of Manitowaning as Manitoulin Island’s largest centre at a time of rapid social and economic growth due to expanding industrial/commercial trade and navigation between Georgian Bay and the Upper Great Lakes. The tower continues to influence the hamlet’s economic survival as it operates today as an aid to recreational tourism.

Architectural value
Built following a standard design of the Department of Marine and Fisheries, the building is a charming, well-proportioned example of the traditional, square tapered wooden light tower. It is also a notable illustration of its subtype, characterized by the gallery that is superimposed upon the tower’s outer walls and supported by brackets below. The gallery’s open plank flooring and simple railing impart a degree of transparency offering visual continuity and clarity of the walls’ tapered lines. Overall, the building’s design is a simple, effective response to the basic functional requirements of a harbour light tower. Its tapered structure assures a stable support for the lantern and provides ample internal space for maintenance activities and the storage of materials.
Though it is now fully automated, it continues to serve as a seasonal light, guiding mariners into Manitowaning Bay. Built using standard construction technology and materials of its time, the tower incorporates more refined detailing at its framed openings. Despite some significant repairs as the probable result of a period of inadequate maintenance, the light tower appears to have changed little over the years.

Environmental value
The light tower stands on a small, grassy knoll on the north shore of Manitowaning. Although it is set apart from more prominent structures that reinforce the port community’s marine heritage and identity, it is nonetheless compatible with its nautical setting. Since the tower’s construction, the site has become manicured, a hydro pole and guide wires have been introduced and adjacent roadways have been paved. Despite these minor changes, the relationship between the building and its surroundings has retained its original character. The light tower is a valued landmark within the hamlet and the larger township of Assignack, recognized as a navigational aid, as a symbol of early industrial prosperity, and as a significant feature in the current recreation and tourism economy.

Character-Defining Elements

The following character-defining elements of the Manitowaning Light Tower should be respected:

— Its well-proportioned form, based on a standard, square tapered light tower design;
— The transparency of the gallery’s open plank flooring and simple railing;
— The elegant curved wooden brackets that support the superimposed gallery above;
— Its traditional, contrasting colour scheme consisting of a white tower, gallery and entry stair, accented by red features such as the lantern, trim, and railings;
— Its raised entry door and four-over-four paned, sash window which extend vertically from the tower’s sloping walls and are crowned with simple pediments;
— The vertical emphasis of slender openings, red corner trim, and a narrow, horizontal shingle pattern;
— The 19th century industrial aesthetic of its octagonal iron lantern and metal weathervane ventilator;
— Its efficient, utilitarian layout with a series of simple ladders and trap doors providing access between interior levels and the gallery; century industrial aesthetic of its octagonal iron lantern and metal weathervane ventilator;
— Its standard building materials, typical of its time, which include fieldstone, wood and iron;
— Its location on a small grassy knoll near the shoreline of Manitowaning Bay.