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Cape St. Mary's Light Tower

St. Bride's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2007/02/22

Aerial view of Cape St. Mary's Lighttower, showing its undecorated exterior, including gently tapered walls, 1993.; Department of Fisheries and Oceans / Ministère des pêches et des océans, 1993.
General view
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Other Name(s)


Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1859/01/01 to 1860/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2009/07/15

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

Cape St. Mary’s Light Tower, consists of a tapered, octagonal light tower, 10 metres in height. Originally built as a brick shaft between 1859 and 1960, it was first covered with concrete and encased in a cylinder of cast-iron sheets in 1885, and then covered in poured concrete in 1925, giving the tower its current octagonal form. The light tower has a squat and sturdy appearance, with a smooth, undecorated exterior. It is topped by an octagonal lantern, surrounded by a railed platform. The light tower is located at Cape St. Mary’s Lightstation, on an isolated point of land at the southwest tip of the Avalon Peninsula surrounded by the Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve. It sits on 100-metre-high headlands overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, along with three dwellings and a shed built in the 1950s. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.

Heritage Value

Cape St. Mary’s Light Tower is a Recognized Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values.

Historical value:
Cape St. Mary’s Light Tower is a very good early illustration of the theme of aids to navigation in Canadian waters. Built by the colony of Newfoundland between 1859 and 1960 to provide guidance to fishing and supply boats entering Placentia and St. Mary’s Bays, the light tower illustrates the enduring importance of maritime traffic in the history of both Newfoundland and Canada. The light tower is associated with a continued succession of devoted lightkeepers who operated the isolated lightstation. The construction of the light tower was the founding event that enabled the establishment of communities along the Cape Shore. As the only existing remnant of the 19th-century lightstation at Cape St. Mary’s, it is an excellent illustration of the light’s importance to the development of the local fishery, the area’s most significant economic activity.

Architectural value:
Cape St. Mary’s Light Tower is a good illustration of a concrete octagonal tower with a distinctive appearance. It has a unique fortification-like quality and projects an impression of weight and impenetrability through its sturdy massing resulting from the several layers added throughout the tower’s life. Originally designed by architect and inspector Robert Oke, the light tower fulfills adequately its simple function of providing a secured base for the lantern and warning maritime traffic of the proximity of the coastline. The good quality of the successive materials and construction methods used on the tower represent the standard means available at the time and demonstrate good craftsmanship.

Environmental value:
Standing on high headlands overlooking the ocean and in front of broad and undifferentiated open lands, Cape St. Mary’s Light Tower is compatible with the maritime character of the area. Since its original construction, the tight arrangement of the former dwellings has been replaced by new buildings spread out in the land, altering the character of the site. The light tower is a familiar landmark to the region because of its long history and prominent location at the southern point of the cape. It is also a well-known reference point to the maritime community which navigates in the area and to the many tourists who visit Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve.

Sources: Dana Johnson, Light Tower, Cape St. Mary’s Lightstation, St. Bride’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office Building Report 06-021; Light Tower, Cape St. Mary’s Lightstation, St. Bride’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Heritage Character Statement, 06-021.

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements of Cape St. Mary’s Light Tower should be respected.

The features that illustrate the theme of aids to navigation in Canadian waters:
- its recognizable silhouette as a light tower;
- its location on the headland at Cape St. Mary’s.

Its good aesthetic and functional design, as manifested in:
- its distinctive visual appearance, resulting from successive layers of material and characterized by its squat proportions, bulky octagonal massing, and smooth concrete shell;
- its undecorated exterior, including gently tapered walls, a flared cornice, a platform enclosed by a metal railing, and a prefabricated lantern;
- the simple arrangement if its openings, including the door and two small ‘punched’ windows one above the other;
- the successive layers of durable material added over time, including the original brick structure, the concrete and cast-iron sheets added in 1885, the exterior concrete shell added in 1925 and repaired in 1993;
- the straightforward interior arrangement of its shaft, consisting of three levels with ladders providing access to the lantern above.

Its function as a familiar landmark and well-known reference point for the region, as evidenced in:
- its prominent but isolated location on high headlands at the southern tip of the cape.




Recognition Authority

Government of Canada

Recognition Statute

Treasury Board Heritage Buildings Policy

Recognition Type

Recognized Federal Heritage Building

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Function - Category and Type



Navigational Aid or Lighthouse

Architect / Designer

Robert Oke



Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec.

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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General view

Cape St. Mary's Lighthouse

The Cape St. Mary’s Lighthouse is a tapered, octagonal tower that measures 10 metres (33 feet). Originally built as a brick tower in 1859-60, it was first covered with concrete…


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