Machias Seal Island Lighthouse
Grand Manan, New Brunswick
© Canadian Coast Guard | Garde côtière canadienne
Machias Seal Island, Grand Manan, New Brunswick
Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act (S.C. 2008, c 16)
1914 to 1914
1832 to 1832
Description of Historic Place
Machias Seal Island Lighthouse is a tapered octagonal reinforced concrete tower measuring 19.8 metres (65 feet) tall. Built in 1914, it is the third lighthouse on the site. It is located on a small, isolated island in the Bay of Fundy at the southernmost boundary of territory claimed by New Brunswick. The island is a federally-designated migratory bird sanctuary and attracts thousands of seabirds each year.
There are five related buildings on the site that contribute to the heritage character of the lighthouse: (1) the 1965 dwelling #1 (2) the 1965 dwelling #2, (3) the 1985 Fuel Tank building, (4) the storage shed #1, and (5) the storage shed #2.
The Machias Seal Island Lighthouse is a heritage lighthouse because of its historical, architectural, and community values.
The Machias Seal Island Lighthouse is an excellent example of the federal government’s provision of navigational aids within the Bay of Fundy in response to increased maritime traffic from the nearby important ports of Saint John and Saint Andrews. The lightstation played a key role in establishing the Canadian-American boundary in the area. As early treaties did not specifically name Machias Seal Island, the British colony of New Brunswick assumed ownership of the islandwhen it established the lightstation in 1832.
The Machias Seal Island Lighthouse played a significant role in the socio-economic development of Grand Manan as the town prospered into an important fishing community, becoming the world’s largest supplier of smoked herring by 1884. The lighthouse also enabled safer navigation to the Bay of Fundy and thus supported the latter’s economy, which relied heavily on trade, shipbuilding, and fishing.
The Machias Seal Island Lighthouse is a very good example of a tapered octagonal reinforced concrete tower. It is characterized by its graceful, simple and aesthetically-pleasing balanced proportions, which recall the classically-inspired tripartite division of base, shaft, and capital that was popular in architectural circles in the early 20th century. The lighthouse also represents an early adaptation of evolving reinforced-concrete technology to meet the needs of a lighthouse.
The lighthouse is a very good example of a functional design that has endured for over a century. Reinforced concrete was a popular material for lighthouses from 1906 until the mid-20th century because it was a common yet durable material and could be employed in simple and functional designs.
Set on a remote and treeless island, covered with granite rock, broken boulders, and a shallow layer of peat, the Machias Seal Island Lighthouse reinforces the picturesque maritime character of the island. Wooden boardwalks have been built around the lightstation to protect the natural environment from heavy foot traffic since the island is also a migratory bird sanctuary, which hosts the most important seabird colony in the Bay of Fundy each year.
The Machias Seal Island Lighthouse is highly valued by a number of communities along the Bay of Fundy, particularly Grand Manan. It is an important landmark for local fishing boats, pleasure crafts, and international shipping vessels as it guides them to safe harbours in the Bay of Fundy.
Due to its status as a migratory bird sanctuary, the island, along with its lighthouse, is a popular tourist attraction
during the summer. The Machias Seal Island Lighthouse is also a symbol of Canada’s claim to ownership of the island itself, with lightkeepers stationed there for sovereignty purposes.
Five related buildings, as listed in section 1, contribute to the heritage character of the lighthouse.
The following character-defining elements of the Machias Seal Island Lighthouse should be respected:
— its intact, as-built structural form, height, profile, and proportions;
— its octagonal tapered tower of reinforced concrete;
— its classically arranged base, delineated by a string course, tapered shaft, and capital;
— its flared platform surmounted by a castiron lantern;
— its gallery railing;
— its windows with pediment-shaped lintels;
— its attached entry vestibule with sloped roof;
— its traditional red and white colour scheme, consisting of white for the tower and red for the lantern, roof, and the
gallery railing; and,
— its visual prominence in relationship 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; and
— their contextual relationships to the lighthouse within an evolved historic lightstation setting.