Lightstation: Tower

Recognized Federal Heritage Building

Battle Island, Ontario
Side elevation of the Tower at the Lightstation, showing its octagonal lantern with a low pitched roof, Battle Island 1990. (© Canadian Coast Guard / Garde côtière canadienne, 1990.)
(© Canadian Coast Guard / Garde côtière canadienne, 1990.)
Address : Lightstation, Battle Island, Ontario

Recognition Statute: Treasury Board Policy on Management of Real Property
Designation Date: 1991-06-27
  • 1915 to 1916 (Construction)

Event, Person, Organization:
  • Department of Marine  (Architect)
Other Name(s):
  • Battle Island Lighttower  (Other Name)
Custodian: Fisheries and Oceans Canada
FHBRO Report Reference: 90-192
DFRP Number: 23099 00

Description of Historic Place

The Tower at the Lightstation stands on a steep rockface on a heavily forested island in the Great Lakes. It is a sturdy, octagonal, concrete tower built with an octagonal lantern topped by a low pitched roof. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.

Heritage Value

The Tower at the Lightstation is a Recognized Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental value.

Historical Value
The Tower at the Lightstation is associated with the theme of navigation on Canada’s Great Lakes. It is also associated the general economic development of the area by providing aid to the fishing and pulp wood industries.

Architectural Value
The Tower at the Lightstation is a good example of an early 20th-century tapered, octagonal lighttower with classical proportions. The revival of classically inspired architecture during the early years of the 20th century proved admirably suited to lighttowers. The lighttower also exhibits good functional design and good quality craftsmanship as evidenced in its poured-in-place concrete construction.

Environmental Value
The Tower at the Lightstation reinforces the character of its natural island setting on the Great Lakes and is a familiar landmark in the area.

Sources: Gordon Fulton, Lighttower, Great Duck Island, Lighttower, Battle Island, Ontario, Federal Heritage Building Review Office Building Report 90-189, 90-192; Battle Island Lighttower, Battle Island, Ontario, Heritage Character Statement, 90-192.

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements of the Tower at the Lightstation should be respected.

Its aesthetic and functional designs, and its quality craftsmanship, for example: its simple massing and solid form composed of an octagonal tapered tower, whose outer walls curve outward at the lantern level; its poured-in-place concrete construction; its base, articulated by the entry door with an attached shed-roof projection; its window arrangement consisting of three levels of windows stacked vertically at even intervals; its octagonal lantern with a low pitched roof.

The manner in which the Tower at the Lightstation reinforces the present character of its natural island setting in the Great Lakes and is a familiar landmark, as evidenced in: its overall sturdy appearance, which matches the dramatic character of its rugged, heavily forested setting; its visibility vis-à-vis its location on a steep rockface, and its familiarity to commercial fishing boats, pulp wood carriers and residents in the area around Rossport and Schreiber.

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 light tower on Battle Island was built in 1915-1916 following designs prepared by the Department of Marine. Battle Island station continues to serve pulp wood carriers and commercial fishing boats. The custodian is Transport Canada, Canadian Coast Guard. See FHBRO Building Report 90-192.

Reasons for Designation

The light tower was designated Recognized for its historical associations, its architectural design, and the importance of its site and setting.

The Battle Island light station with associated dwellings and outbuildings was originally established in 1877. The current tower was constructed in 1915-16 in response to the needs of increased maritime traffic along the north shore of Lake Superior near Nipigon Bay.

Classically inspired architecture was in revival during the early years of the 20th century, and the forms championed by the practitioners of neoclassical architecture proved admirably suited to light towers, which, after all, are similar in form to classical columns. The octagonal-shaped light tower had a long history in Canadian wood frame towers, from the 1758 Sambro Island, N.S. tower through to the 20th century. These two elements-classically-derived composition and octagonal form - were combined in many of the new concrete towers. The tripartite tower was easily accomplished due to the plastic nature of poured-in-place concrete.

The tower is enhanced by the dramatic character of its rugged natural setting on Battle Island.

Character Defining Elements

The heritage character of the Battle Island light tower resides in its form, proportions, construction materials and details, and its relationship to its setting.

The tower is an octagonal poured-in-place concrete structure, loosely modeled on a classical column with base, shaft, and capital. The base is articulated by the entry door in its attached shed-roofed projection. The three levels of windows stacked vertically at even intervals on the tapered 30 foot shaft extend the perceived height of the tower. The capital is expressed by the flared top of the tower upon which the lantern sits.

The overall massing and lines of the tower should not be altered, and the original pattern and materials of fenestration respected. Repairs to the concrete should be done in kind, with the emphasis on maximum retention of original material and respect for the original construction and finishing details.

Located on a small heavily forested island, and standing on a steep rockface, the tower is among ancillary buildings that are compatible in scale, function and materials. The rugged utilitarian character of the site and grounds should be maintained in any development. The remnants of the old fog alarm building's concrete foundation should be retained as a physical reminder of its location.