Neil's Harbour Lighthouse

Heritage Lighthouse

Victoria County, Nova Scotia
View of Neil's Harbour Lighthouse in background (© Nova Scotia Archives \ Archives de la Nouvelle-Écosse, Clara Dennis, acc. 1981-541 no. 187CB)
General view
(© Nova Scotia Archives \ Archives de la Nouvelle-Écosse, Clara Dennis, acc. 1981-541 no. 187CB)
Address : Lighthouse Road, Neil’s Harbour, Victoria County, Nova Scotia

Recognition Statute: Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act (S.C. 2008, c 16)
Designation Date: 2015-02-12
  • 1899 to 1899 (Construction)
  • 1899 to 1899 (Established)

Description of Historic Place

The Neil's Harbour Lighthouse is a square, tapered, wooden tower that measures 10.4 metres (34 feet). Built in 1899, the lighthouse was constructed to guide ships into Neil’s Harbour, a naturally protected bay. The lighthouse stands on Neil Head, a rocky promontory that protects and shelters the natural harbour. The lighthouse and the town of Neil’s Harbour lie just off the Cabot Trail, making the lighthouse one of the most accessible in Canada.

Heritage Value

The Neil's Harbour Lighthouse is a heritage lighthouse because of its historical, architectural, and community values.

Historical values
The Neil's Harbour Lighthouse is a very good example of the theme of improving aids to navigation. The lighthouse was built in 1899 in response to the growth of the fishing industry in Nova Scotia. Neil's Harbour had been established as a seasonal fishing base in the 1850s and 1860s. By 1899 a permanent fleet was operating out of the harbour, and a light was needed to guide the vessels safely back to the village. The Neil's Harbour Lighthouse is also associated with Angus Buchanan, its first light keeper and the only light keeper to be a Member of the Legislative Assembly in Nova Scotia.
The Neil's Harbour Lighthouse is a very good example of the socio-economic development of Neil’s Harbour. The village was first used as a temporary base for seasonal fishing operations. By the 1880s, however, the town had a school and was regularly connected by coastal steamships to Sydney, Nova Scotia. The construction of the lighthouse supported the safe operation of these steamships, and enabled the growth of the fishery.

Architectural values
The Neil's Harbour Lighthouse is a very good example of a square, tapered, wooden lighthouse with a straight cornice. This design was popular with the Department of Marine and Fisheries in the 19th and 20th centuries. The Neil Harbour Lighthouse exhibits the typical features of this standard design, which is characterized by good proportions and simple details.
The design of the Neil's Harbour Lighthouse is very well suited to the harsh maritime conditions of coastal Nova Scotia. The lighthouse has a wide base and low centre of gravity. It is a sturdy, economical structure able to withstand strong winds and waves. The tower’s solid construction and durable materials, including the wood frame, stone foundation, and clapboard siding, speak to the quality of its original craftsmanship.

Community values
The Neil's Harbour Lighthouse reinforces the maritime character of the surrounding area, due to its high visibility from the shore and the water. The lighthouse is set on an open site in close proximity to the shoreline of the town of Neil’s Harbour, looking over the Atlantic Ocean and the scenic vistas of Cape Breton Island. It has been a central feature of the small fishing village for over a century.
The Neil's Harbour Lighthouse is highly valued by the nearby community of Neil’s Harbour. The residents consider the lighthouse to be a part of their historical and municipal identity. As an emblem of the area and due to its proximity to the Cabot Trail, the lighthouse is an important tourist attraction.

Related buildings
No related buildings are included in the designation.

Character-Defining Elements

The following character-defining elements of the Neil's Harbour Lighthouse should be respected:
— its location on Neil Head in Neil’s Harbour, Nova Scotia;
— its current, as-built form and proportions, based on the standard design of square, tapered, wooden towers;
— its square, wooden frame structure with tapered sides rising from a square base;
— its straight cornice that supports a square gallery;
— its simple metal railing surrounding the gallery;
— its octagonal metal lantern with six glazed window panes and a pyramidal roof and vent;
— the white maple leafs painted on the two non-glazed window panes;
— its white clapboard siding;
— its sole entry, pedimented door;
— its interior layout, featuring a ladder and trap door which give access to the light;
— its stone foundation;
— its traditional colour scheme, consisting of white for the tower and cornice, and red for the lantern and gallery railing; and,
— its visual prominence in relation to the water and landscape.