Cap-des-Rosiers Lighthouse National Historic Site of Canada

Gaspé, Quebec
General view of Cap-des-Rosiers lighthouse, showing its rugged, exposed site atop high cliffs on a point of land separating two major bodies of water. (© Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada.)
General view
(© Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada.)
Address : 1331 Boulevard de Cap des Rosiers, Cap-des-Rosiers, Gaspé, Quebec

Recognition Statute: Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
Designation Date: 1974-05-18
  • 1853 to 1858 (Construction)
  • 1858 to 2004 (Significant)

Event, Person, Organization:
  • Canada, Department of Public Works  (Organization)
  • John Page  (Architect)
  • Charles François-Xavier Baby  (Builder)
Other Name(s):
  • Cap-des-Rosiers Lighthouse  (Designation Name)
DFRP Number: 05209 00


Existing plaque:  1331 Boulevard de Cap des Rosiers, Gaspé, Quebec

Built in 1858, this lighthouse is one of a series of tall, tapering towers erected on the Gulf of St. Lawrence and on Lake Huron by the Department of Public Works. The 112 foot structure is the tallest lighthouse in Canada; its stone tower faced with firebrick has walls over seven feet thick at the base, tapering to three feet at the top, with foundations extending eight feet beneath the surface. Originally a dwelling was attached to the tower. A powerful light 136 feet above high water served as a major coastal aid for shipping headed into the estuary of the St. Lawrence from the Gulf.

Description of Historic Place

This thirty-seven metre high stone light-tower is perched atop rugged cliffs near the village Cap-des-Rosiers, Québec. The exposed point of land is at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River where it enters the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Witness to many shipwrecks, the lighthouse continues to guide ships navigating these treacherous waters. The designation refers to the interior and exterior of the lighthouse. Tourists are welcome to visit the lighthouse today.

Heritage Value

Cap-des-Rosiers Lighthouse was designated a national historic site because it was part of a series of tall tapering towers constructed in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and on Lake Huron by the Minister of Public Works; and its 112 foot (34.1 metres) height makes it the tallest lighthouse in Canada.

The heritage value of Cap-des-Rosiers Lighthouse lies in its siting, design, construction and materials. Its impressive height and tapering profile are archetypical lighthouse qualities. Cap-des-Rosiers Lighthouse was designed by John Page, Chief Engineer of the Department of Public Works of the United Canadas, and built by contractor Charles François-Xavier Baby in 1853-1858. Since 1858 it has operated using its original optical apparatus although the technology of its light has changed from a catadioptric fixed white light (1858-1903), incandescent vapour petroleum light (1903-1921), a Canadian burner lamp (1921-1950), a manually operated electric lamp (1950-1972), a partially automated light (1972-1981), then a completely automated light (1981-2004). Its tower was coated with stucco in 1861, 1881 and 1897, and repaired in 1929-30, 1954 and 1984. Windows were replaced in 1884, and its stonework repaired in 1993.

Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, 1974.

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements contributing to the heritage value of this site include: its rugged, exposed site atop high cliffs on a point of land separating two major bodies of water; the soaring silhouette and solid massing of the lighthouse as a tall tapered circular tower capped by a prominent light with a large dome-covered metal lantern; the sparse simplicity of its features (small window openings, small brackets supporting the lantern gallery); the functional interior design including the spiral staircase in its 9-storey interior; the integrity and craftsmanship of its materials (white marble stonework, cement /stucco finish, English firebrick interior, metal lantern); its solid, fireproof stone construction; its lighting apparatus including surviving original optical apparatus and evidence of earlier lighting technologies; its unobstructed viewscapes over the waters of the St. Lawrence River; the triangular configuration of its site, the layout and organization of the lighthouse site including the location, function, materials and forms of other buildings and structures at the station in relation to the tower (two large buildings, a tall antenna, fog alarm, generator and battery buildings and a small shed), archaeological evidence of former buildings and structures at the station and their spatial and functional relationship to earlier modes of station operation, the viewplane arc of the sweep of the light from the tower over the water, the viewplanes from the lighthouse over the St. Lawrence River and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, viewplanes from the lighthouse to the village of Cap-des-Rosiers, the status of the lighthouse as a longterm landmark from the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the St. Lawrence River, and the village of Cap-des-Rosiers.