Cape Beale Lighthouse
Alberni-Clayoquot, British Columbia
© Kraig Anderson - lighthousefriends.com
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, Alberni-Clayoquot, British Columbia
Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act (S.C. 2008, c 16)
1958 to 1958
1874 to 1874
Description of Historic Place
Built in 1958, the Cape Beale Lighthouse stands on the treacherous coastline of Vancouver Island, 60 metres above the Pacific Ocean in an isolated and heavily forested environment within the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. Erected to replace the original 1874 combined lighthouse and dwelling, this galvanized steel tower clad with asbestos board is surrounded by a steel skeleton tower that also supports horizontal wooden slats painted white as a visual daymark.
There are several structures on the site, including four related buildings that contribute to the heritage character of the lighthouse: (1) the 1965 spare dwelling, (2) the 1966 junior dwelling, (3) the 1967 senior dwelling, and (4) the 1970 engine, fog alarm, and radio building.
The Cape Beale Lighthouse is a heritage lighthouse because of its historical, architectural, and community values.
The original Cape Beale Lighthouse was the first lighthouse established in British Columbia by the Canadian government, serving as a landfall and major coastal light on the shipwreck-prone west coast of Vancouver Island, where the casualty rate for mariners was so high that it became known as the Graveyard of the Pacific. Known for its association with several significant shipwrecks and life rescues by its lightkeepers, Cape Beale is an excellent example of the aids to navigation system serving ships bound for the Juan de Fuca Strait and Barkley Sound.
As the first lightstation established on the west coast of Vancouver Island, Cape Beale was a vital addition at a time when international commerce was increasing rapidly in British Columbia. Safe passage into the province’s ports was crucial for the growth of British Columbia’s economy, and the establishment of landfall stations, beginning with Cape Beale in 1874 contributed directly to that goal. Logging became especially dominant in the Barkley Sound region after the Second World War, with Port Alberni declared the Forestry Capital of Canada by 1986. Throughout its history, the Cape Beale lightstation has played an important role in guiding large volumes of commercial traffic.
The Cape Beale Lighthouse has a distinctive and well-proportioned composition, and is an excellent example of its uncommon design type. It is a 13-metre, four-level galvanized-steel tower clad with asbestos board, surrounded by a tapered metal framework featuring horizontal wooden slats that serve as a daymark to enhance the visibility of the slender tower. The tower supports a square lantern gallery and an octagonal lantern.
The aesthetic quality of the Cape Beale Lighthouse and of the lightstation as a whole — particularly its placement within the rugged rainforest of the west coast some 60 metres feet above the Pacific Ocean — has inspired several artists and photographers. The lighthouse establishes the character of the area, and is accessible by hiking trails in the Cape Beale Headlands.
Throughout its history, the lightstation has provided a number of services to mariners, hikers, various government agencies, and environmental groups. It has served as a staging ground for medical evacuations and large-scale rescue efforts, and the lightstation staff have provided first aid and support for several monitoring services such as storms, international fishing, and suspicious activities. The history of the Cape Beale Lighthouse and its keepers has been depicted in several regional and local history museums and heritage centres. It is a symbol of the community landscape and identity for the small maritime communities along Vancouver Island’s southwest coast.
Four related buildings, as listed in section 1, contribute to the heritage character of the lighthouse.
The following character-defining elements of the Cape Beale Lighthouse should be respected:
— its intact, as-built structural form, height, profile, and proportions;
— its square non-tapered four-level galvanized-steel tower, covered in protective boarding, accessed via the gable-roofed entrance vestibule projecting from the base;
— its tapered metal framework surrounding the square tower, fabricated of sectional components;
— its horizontal wooden slats that serve collectively as a daymark, attached to the tapered metal framework;
— its square gallery that supports the lantern;
— its aluminum octagonal lantern, including its respective designed form and proportions;
— its gallery railing, including its respective designed form and proportions;
— its traditional red and white exterior colour scheme; and,
— its visual prominence in relation to the water and landscape.
The following character-defining elements of the related buildings should be respected:
— their respective built forms, profiles, and proportions;
— their traditional red and white exterior colour schemes;
— their contextual relationships to the lighthouse within an historic lightstation setting.