Lighttower

Recognized Federal Heritage Building

Belle Isle, Newfoundland and Labrador
Belle Isle Lighttower (north-east); built 1905; original cast-iron tower with reinforced concrete and flying buttresses in 1908. (© (Canadian Coast Guard, 1988.))
Side view
(© (Canadian Coast Guard, 1988.))
Address : Northeast Point Lightstation, Belle Isle, Newfoundland and Labrador

Recognition Statute: Treasury Board Policy on Management of Real Property
Designation Date: 1989-11-23
Dates:
  • 1905 to 1905 (Construction)
  • 1908 to 1908 (Significant)

Event, Person, Organization:
  • Department of Marine and Fisheries  (Architect)
Other Name(s):
  • Belle-Isle Lighthouse, Northeast  (Other Name)
  • Lighthouse  (Other Name)
Custodian: Fisheries and Oceans Canada
FHBRO Report Reference: 88-131
DFRP Number: 01790 00

Description of Historic Place

The Lighttower is the most prominent feature on the barren and rocky terrain of Belle Isle. A 90-foot (27.43 meters), cylindrical, cast iron tower encased in reinforced concrete, it features six flying buttresses rhythmically arranged around its walls. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.

Heritage Value

The Lighttower, is a Recognized Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental value.

Historical Value
The Lighttower is associated with campaigns to improve the safety of maritime commerce at coastal locations by building navigational aids. The Belle Isle Lighttower was constructed to provide safety through the Straits of Belle Isle, the main entry to the inland ports for the summer and autumn months.

Architectural Value
The Lighttower is a good example of a structure built during a transitional stage in the adoption of reinforced concrete in Canada. The cast iron tower was encased with reinforced concrete and furthered stabilized with flying buttresses. Its functional design is excellent as evidenced by the tower’s stability. It is one of nine flying buttressed towers known to have been built by the department of Marine and Fisheries, under the direction of Colonel William P. Anderson.

Environmental Value
The Lighttower reinforces the coastal maritime character of its barren and rocky isle setting. It is a major landfall light that is a significant landmark in the region by virtue of its position on a major shipping lane for Transatlantic traffic.

Sources:
Martha Phemister, Belle Isle Lighthouse, North East Belle Isle, Newfoundland, Federal Heritage Building Review Office Building Report 88-131; Lighthouse, Belle Isle, Newfoundland, Heritage Character Statement, 88-131.

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements of the Lighttower should be respected.

Its aesthetic appearance, excellent functional design and quality craftsmanship, for example: the cylindrical massing with six buttresses around the shaft of the tower and meeting the walls only at two levels; the cast iron construction encased in cast-in-place concrete; the well-proportioned lantern; the whitewashing.

The manner in which the building reinforces the coastal maritime character of its barren and rocky isle setting, and is a significant landmark in the region, as evidenced by: its vertical profile and silhouette which creates a strong, solid appearance set on the barren and rocky terrain of Belle Isle; its high visibility from the Straits of Belle Isle to passing sea going vessels.

Heritage Character Statement

Disclaimer - 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 Belle Isle lighthouse was constructed in two phases. The original, 1905, 90-foot cylindrical cast iron tower, was reinforced with concrete and six exterior supporting buttresses in 1908. The Department of Marine prepared the plans for the original cast iron tower and for the reinforced concrete sheathing. The property is owned by Transport Canada, Canadian Coast Guard. See FHBRO Building Report 88-131.

Reasons for Designation

The Belle Isle lighthouse was designated Recognized because of its functional design and its landmark value.

The Belle Isle lighthouse is one of the more unique structures in Canadian lighthouse construction because it was built during a transitional stage in the adoption of reinforced concrete in Canada. The original cast iron tower was encased with reinforced concrete and flying buttresses. The Belle Isle lighthouse is a major landfall light that has significance for its position on a major shipping lane for Transatlantic traffic.

Character-Defining Elements

The heritage character of the Belle Isle lighthouse resides in the 90-foot cast iron structure encased by a layer of cast-in-place concrete and in the well-proportioned lantern.

The flying buttresses are significant elements. Their splayed stance contributes to the remarkable silhouette of the tower and also adds stability to the structure. The six buttresses, rhythmically placed around the tower rise from the base to meet the walls of the cylindrical structure at only two levels. The exterior should be maintained so that the distinctive and pleasing form of the buttressed tower and its crisp simplified lines are retained. Regular whitewashing will protect the concrete from the harsh elements and help maintain the incisive line of this lighthouse.

The flying buttressed tower is a prominent vertical element against the barren and rocky terrain of its setting. The introduction of any new construction on the site should not mar the profile of this unique heritage lighthouse.