Recognized Federal Heritage Building
© (De Jonge, AHB, Parks Canada, 1993.)
Bois Blanc Island, Amherstburg, Ontario
Treasury Board Policy on Management of Real Property
1836 to 1836
1838 to 1838
1836 to 1961
Event, Person, Organization:
commissioned by the government of Upper Canada; local tradition suggests it was designed by Andrew Kemp of the Royal Engineers, Civil Branch at Amherstberg.
Bois Blanc Island Lighthouse
FHBRO Report Reference:
Description of Historic Place
The Lighthouse at Bois Blanc Island Lighthouse and Blockhouse National Historic Site of Canada is located on a large, grassed area of Bois Blanc Island. It is a tapered, stone tower whose shaft features a door and three windows that follow the internal stone staircase. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The Lighthouse is a Recognized Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental value.
The Lighthouse at Bois Blanc Island Lighthouse and Blockhouse National Historic Site of Canada is a structure that is closely associated with the theme of the development of navigational aids for maritime traffic on the Great Lakes during the 1830s. It was the third lighthouse constructed to improve the safety of Lake Erie navigation, following increases in shipping activity. In 1838, the lighthouse was attacked and captured by American and Canadian patriots during the Rebellion of 1837-38. It is also closely related to the history of the local Hackett family, who were lighthouse keepers for three generations until the automation of the light in the 1950s. The lighthouse was transferred to Parks Canada in 1961.
The lighthouse is a good example of an Imperial tower, a common lighthouse type in the 1830-1860 period. It is characterized by its tapered tower consisting of a rubble-stone core with sturdy proportions and a corbelled stone cornice. Its good functional design is evidenced in its thick masonry walls and the internal utilitarian layout. The rough rubble walls with irregular coursing and minimal detailing are evidence of its good quality craftsmanship.
The Lighthouse is compatible with the present character of its fort setting and is a familiar landmark to area residents.
Fort Malden National Historic Site, Bois Blanc Island, Ontario, Federal Heritage Building Review Office, Building Report 91-181; Lighttower, Bois Blanc Island, Ontario, Heritage Character Statement, 91-181.
The character-defining elements of the Lighthouse should be respected.
Its Imperial tower design, good functional design and good craftsmanship, for example: its simple massing and form which follows the classical tripartite column division of
base, body and capital and consists of a linked base and tapered shaft with a capital
expressed as stepped masonry corbelling; the rough rubble limestone walls with irregular coursing and minimal detailing
including an arched opening for the door and a corbelled cornice; the multi-paned windows that follow the internal stairs; the internal layout with a central stone stairway within the shaft.
The manner in which the Lighthouse is compatible with the character of the fort setting, and is a familiar structure in the area, as evidenced by: its scale and materials which harmonize with its picturesque parkland setting; its historical association with Fort Malden which makes it familiar to local residents.
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 Lighthouse was constructed on Bois Blanc Island in 1836. It was commissioned by the government of Upper Canada; local tradition suggests that it was designed by Andrew Kemp of the Royal Engineers, Civil Branch, at Amherstburg. The lantern was removed and the entrance door blocked during the 1970s. Parks Canada is the custodian. See FHBRO Building Report 91-181
Reasons for Designation
The Lighthouse was designated Recognized because of its historical associations, and also for architectural and environmental reasons.
The lighthouse relates to the development of navigational aids for maritime traffic on the Great Lakes during the 1830s. It was the third lighthouse constructed to improve the safety of Lake Erie navigation following increases in shipping activity. It is also related to the history of the local Hackett family, who were lighthouse keepers for three generations until the automation of the light in the 1970s.
The Bois Blanc Island lighthouse is an example of an Imperial tower design of the period 1830-1860. The tapered circular tower features sturdy proportions and a corbelled stone cornice. It is familiar to area residents.
Character Defining Elements
The heritage character of the lighthouse resides in its form, massing and overall proportions, construction materials and details, and relationship to the site and setting.
The tower consists of a tapered circular shaft with a flat top. The form follows the classical tripartite column division of base, body, and capital. The base and tapered shaft are linked, while the capital is expressed as stepped masonry corbelling. This form should not be compromised. The lantern was unfortunately destroyed in 1954; if the opportunity presents itself, reinstatement of this feature would improve the integrity of the form; otherwise it should be ensured that the top is securely capped and waterproof to prevent damage to the structure.
The shaft is pierced by a door and three windows which follow the internal stair. The
functional arrangement of the apertures is typical for the building type and should not be altered.
The rough rubble limestone walls have irregular coursing and minimal detailing, including an arched opening for the door and a corbelled cornice. The masonry merits conservation expertise and regular maintenance. Early photographs suggest that the tower was painted white or lime-washed; research and investigation should be conducted to confirm this when painting is planned.
The multi-paned windows were installed during the 1970s restoration; they contribute to the detail and visual interest of the design and should be maintained. The door with semi-circular fanlight has since been removed and the opening infilled with masonry. Reinstating the entrance would improve the integrity of the design.
Typical of lighthouse interiors, the internal layout is simple and utilitarian, with a central stone stairway within the shaft. This should be respected. Any surviving early finishes or fixtures should be documented and maintained.
The simple informal character of the landscape should be maintained, with clearing as required to restore the visibility of the tower from the waterways based on historic photographs.