Mohawk Island Lighthouse
© Parks Canada Agency | Agence Parcs Canada
Mohawk Island, Dunnville, Ontario
Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act (S.C. 2008, c 16)
1846 to 1848
1848 to 1848
Event, Person, Organization:
John B. McIntyre
Gull Island Lighthouse
Description of Historic Place
The Mohawk Island Lighthouse is a lighthouse in ruins that stood originally as a 18-metre (59-foot) tall stone, cylindrical, tapered tower with an integrated, rectangular lighthouse keeper’s residence. Built in 1846-8, the lighthouse is lacking some of its original features, including the lantern and roofs for the tower and dwelling. It is located on Mohawk Island near Rock Point Provincial Park at the eastern end of Lake Erie, near the town of Dunnville.
The Mohawk Island Lighthouse is a heritage lighthouse because of its historical, architectural, and community values.
The Mohawk Island Lighthouse is an excellent example of the development of navigational aids on Lake Erie and is closely associated with the early history of Welland Canal. The lighthouse was specifically erected to warn of the dangers of an offshore shoal and to direct traffic to and from the southern end of the canal. The Mohawk Island Lighthouse is one of the few surviving lighthouses of its era on the Great Lakes. Its combined tower and keeper’s dwelling speak to the lightkeeping tradition at remote locations in the nineteenth century. The Mohawk Island Lighthouse is an excellent example of the socio-economic development of the region. The construction of the Welland Canal in 1829 and its subsequent improvements through to the 1840s was the most important factor in the
development of the area. The lighthouse supported the industries that flourished with the opening of the canal by ensuring the safety of passing ships.
The Mohawk Island Lighthouse is a spectacular maritime ruin that still evokes its Neoclassical style, as evidenced by its hammer-dressed stonework, its symmetrical massing and the placement of its openings. Although it is now only a shell in ruins, the lighthouse still exhibits the pleasing proportions of a tall tower with an integrated keeper’s dwelling.
Despite a half-century of abandonment, the tapered stone tower remains solid and upright, a testimony to the excellent materials used and also to the craftsmanship of John Brown, the Scottish stonemason who built the structure.
The Mohawk Island Lighthouse reinforces the maritime character of the area. Due to its visibility and location on an island off Rock Point Provincial Park near the eastern end of Lake Erie, the Mohawk Island Lighthouse is well-known to local residents, boaters and park visitors.
The Mohawk Island Lighthouse is highly valued by the local community. It is a tourist attraction for boaters, and especially kayakers. The lighthouse is a regional landmark to the shipping community in particular. The island is a National Wildlife Area established under the Canada Wildlife Act and operated by Environment Canada. Although the surrounding waters can be visited by boat, visitation to this National Wildlife Area is prohibited between April 1 and August 31 to protect colonies of nesting waterbirds.
No related buildings are included in the designation.
The following character-defining elements of the Mohawk Island Lighthouse should be respected:
— its ruinous physical condition;
— its strategic location on Mohawk Island near Rock Point Provincial Park at the eastern end of Lake Erie, near the mouth of the Grand River on the western approach to the Welland Canal;
— its privileged placement at the centre of Mohawk Island, a low-lying limestone island with sparse vegetation;
— the trace of the lighthouse as described by its found structural form, height and profile;
— the found visual relationship between the cylindrical tower and integrated keeper’s residence;
— its stonework that includes a wide string course set above the ridge level of the dwelling;
— its hammer-dressed finish on the stone walls of the tower and dwelling;
— its tall, arched, narrow, symmetrically aligned windows that punctuate alternate sides at each floor level; and,
— its visual prominence in relation to the water and landscape.