Recognized Federal Heritage Building
Coldspring Head, Nova Scotia
© Canadian Coast Guard / Garde côtière canadienne, 1990.
Coldspring Head, Nova Scotia
Treasury Board Policy on Management of Real Property
1890 to 1890
Event, Person, Organization:
Coldspring Head Lighttower
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
FHBRO Report Reference:
Description of Historic Place
The Tower is isolated at the outermost point on the north side of a peninsula, at Coldspring Head. It is a modest, square-tapered wooden tower with classically inspired details. The tower features a square wooden platform that supports an octagonal lantern with a low-pitched roof. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The Tower is a Recognized Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental value.
The Tower is associated with campaigns to improve the safety of maritime commerce at remote coastal locations by building navigational aids. The simplicity and economy of construction reflect the desire of the government to expediently build a large number of towers.
The Tower is a very good example of a typical, early prototype of the square-tapered wooden tower. It also exhibits very good craftsmanship as evidenced in the wood frame construction and classical details. Its medium taper and solidity of form mark it as a type developed in the 1860’s and 1870’s and continued until the turn of the century.
The Tower is compatible with the character of its maritime setting. As a coastal light serving the northern shore of Nova Scotia and the Northumberland Strait it is well known in its locale.
Sources: Martha Phemister and Gordon Fulton, Square Tapered Wooden Lightowers, Federal Heritage Building Review Office Informal Building Report 90-106; Tower, Coldspring Head, Nova Scotia, Heritage Character Statement, 90-106.
The character-defining elements of the Tower should be respected.
Its square taper design, functional design and quality craftsmanship, for example: the low, square massing and profile comprised of a tapered shaft with a square wooden gallery and octagonal lantern; the wood frame construction; the simple forms of the classically inspired detailing at the main entrance and the bracketed frieze contrast with the fine-scaled texture of the horizontal bevel siding without corner boards; the pedimented projecting window heads and gallery platform; the lantern with metal and glass detailing; the multi-paned sash windows.
The manner in which the Tower is compatible with the character of its maritime setting and is a well-known landmark in the region, as evidenced by: its low scale and massing which complements its isolated setting surrounded by trees in the coastal environment; the high visibility of the tower to passing seagoing 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 lighttower at Coldspring Head was constructed in 1890. It was designed by the Department of Marine and Fisheries under Joseph Tomlinson. The lighttower has had details altered and the building is currently a fully automated light. The Canadian Coast Guard is the custodian. See FHBRO Building Report 90-106.
Reasons For Designation
The lighttower is designated Recognized because of its architectural importance and environmental significance, and also for its historical associations.
The architectural design of the tapered form is simple, relying on pleasing proportions and scale for its attractiveness. The additional detailing at the cornice, windows and doors is simple, contributing to the overall weighty, solid appearance. The wood platform framing was designed to be relocated occasionally to suit shifting channels.
The building is well known in its locale and the scale and silhouette is compatible with the maritime character of the site. The lighttower functions as a seacoast marker of the associated coastal environment.
The lighttower is associated with campaigns to improve the safety of maritime commerce at remote coastal locations by building navigational aids. The simplicity and economy of construction reflect the desire of the government to expediently build a large number of lighttowers. This lighttower represents a pragmatic solution to inexpensively light eastern coasts and harbours. This is reflected in the use of less expensive wood construction.
Character Defining Elements
The heritage character of the Coldspring Head lighttower resides in its overall massing, proportions, construction materials, architectural features, and site relationships.
The lighttower is comprised of a tapered low structure with a square footprint. The simple profile includes a prominent glazed octagonal lantern and the gallery guardrail which reinforce the utilitarian design of the structure and should be maintained. The lantern is a prominent feature, appropriately proportioned to the tower, contributing to a sturdy and durable appearance.
The simplicity of the tower shaft contrasting with the larger scaled detailing of the bracketed cornice and gallery guardrails is an important characteristic to be respected. The simple forms of the classically inspired detailing at the main entrance and the bracketed frieze contrast with the fine-scaled texture of the horizontal bevel siding without corner boards. The pedimented projecting window heads and gallery contribute to the visual richness of the simple tower form. The metal and glass detailing of the lantern is expressive of the industrial character of this component. The materials, siding and metal would benefit from an ongoing maintenance program.
The multi-paned wood sash windows appear to be sympathetic to the original design, and should be maintained. The wood entrance door appears to be a modern replacement with simpler detailing and when being replaced it would be appropriate to select a door reflecting historic precedant.
Surviving features and finishes of the original interiors should be documented and maintained.
The simple landscape materials of the lighttower site reflect the harsh coastal climate and underscore the intended utilitarian aspect of the original site. This character should be maintained.