Classified Federal Heritage Building
Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia
(© Lighthouses of Atlantic Canada, C. Mills, n.d.)
Hawk Point Road, Lightstation, Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia
Treasury Board Policy on Management of Real Property
1923 to 1923
Cape Sable Lighttower
Cape Sable Lighthouse
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
FHBRO Report Reference:
Description of Historic Place
Sitting on the open landscape of Cape Sable Island, the Cape Sable Lighttower is an impressive thirty meter tall octagonal structure of reinforced concreted comprised of a pedimented base with an entry door, a tapered shaft with four small windows above the door, and a capital-like portion that is provided by the flared top of the shaft which provides a floor for the cast iron lantern above. It is among the tallest towers ever built with this design. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The Lighttower is a Classified Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values
The Lighttower is a very good illustration of improvement to mapping of Canadian waters and an important aid to navigation around the tip of Nova Scotia and marks the entrance into the Bay of Fundy. Building the Cape Sable Island Lighttower was an early response to the needs of steamships passing closer to shore.
The Lighttower is an excellent example of a classically-designed octagonal lighttower with its aesthetic and functional design representing successful adaptation of new technology to the particular functional requirements of lighttower construction. The height of the structure was used to advantage to create a structure of elegant proportions and balance. The overall design, focus on symmetrical arrangement, new construction techniques and adaptation of materials characterize the structure.
The Lighttower reinforces the maritime character of the region of small villages and summer recreational properties on a mile-long crescent-shaped reef just offshore from Cape Sable Island. The strength of the tower design combined with the cluster of accessory structures provides a strong architectural presence on the open landscape of Cape Sable Island. The critical location of the Lighttower on one of the busiest inshore fishing grounds in the world and adjacent to some major shipping lanes makes it an important landmark. It marks the entrance to the Bay of Fundy of ships coming from the east, and is seen by many New England vessels charting courses to Europe.
Joan Mattie, Lighttower, Cape Sable Island, Shelburne County, Nova Scotia, Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office Building Report 87-115.
Lighttower, Cape Sable Island, Shelburne County, Nova Scotia Heritage Character Statement 87-115.
The following character defining elements of the Lighttower should be respected, for example:
Its excellent classical and very good functional design, and adaptation of classicism to vernacular buildings as manifested in:
Its octagonal massing, classical arrangement and symmetry, composed of a base with a pedimented entry door delineated by a projecting string course, a twenty-five meter shaft with four small windows at regular intervals above the door, and a capital, the flared top of the shaft which provides the floor for the lantern. Its sophisticated reinforced concrete construction of thin shell design.
The manner in which the Lighttower at Cape Sable Island reinforces the maritime character of the region and marks the entrance to the Bay of Fundy for water vessels.
Heritage Character Statement
The heritage character statement was developed by FHBRO to explain the reasons for the designation of a federal heritage building and what it is about the building that makes it significant (the heritage character). It is a key reference document for anyone involved in planning interventions to federal heritage buildings and is used by FHBRO in their review of interventions.
The Cape Sable Lighthouse, which successfully integrates both aesthetic and functional design in an important setting, was built in 1923 to the designs of the Marine Department. It is of reinforced concrete construction and replaced an earlier wooden lighthouse on the site. The structure itself has survived relatively intact, although the lighting apparatus has been modified a number of times and electrically-activated fog horns have been mounted on its sides. The custodial agency is the Canadian Coast Guard. See FHBRO Building Report 87-115.
Reason for Designation
The Cape Sable Lighthouse has been designated Classified because of its impressive design and its importance in its setting.
The design represents an early and unusually successful adaptation of reinforced concrete technology to the particular functional requirements of lighthouse construction. The 30 metre height was used to advantage to create a structure of elegant proportions and classical balance. The strength of the tower design combined with the cluster of accessory structures provides a strong architectural presence on the open landscape of Cape Sable Island. The critical location of the lighthouse in one of the busiest inshore fishing grounds in the world and adjacent to some major shipping lanes makes it an important landmark.
Character Defining Elements
The heritage character of this lighthouse is defined by the lighthouse structure itself and by the relationship of the structure to its coastal setting.
The lighthouse is of octagonal design, with the classic arrangement of a base, a tapered shaft and a capital. The base contains the pedimented entry door and is delineated by a projecting string course. The shaft, extending up about 25 metres, has four small windows at regular intervals above the door. The capital is provided by the flared top of the shaft on which rests the cast-iron lantern. It is among the tallest towers ever built by the Marine Department to this design and the proportions are considerably more successful than in the shorter examples.
The reinforced concrete construction is of reasonably thin shell design, without the buttresses or internal framing supports associated with earlier examples of this type. Still an evolving technology at the time, its use at Cape Sable Island was sophisticated and appropriate for the function it served.
The lighthouse has required relatively little maintenance, indicating the quality and durability of the material when well-designed and installed.
The lighthouse should continue to receive the high standards of maintenance associated with facilities of this kind. If defects in the concrete or other materials do appear, conservation specialists should be consulted before repairs are implemented. Historic concrete structures have properties not normally associated with contemporary concrete work, and special measures may be required for preservation.
Around the tower are a number of accessory structures. These have evolved naturally since 1861 as part of the function of the site and can be considered compatible with the heritage character of the tower. Any changes to the site should be in keeping with this functional nature and should not disturb the landmark status of the present lighthouse.