Description of Historic Place
The Wood Islands Lighthouse is a well preserved three storey tower with an adjoining one and one half storey keeper's residence. The white shingled tower is topped by a red iron lantern which is enclosed by a white railing on the observation deck. The roof of the dwelling is red which provides a striking contrast to the white shingled exterior of the dwelling. Situated on the Island's southeastern shore, it overlooks the Northumberland Strait near the location of the ferry service to Nova Scotia.
The Wood Islands Lighthouse is valued for its well preserved architectural style; its role in the maritime heritage of Wood Islands; and for its contribution to the visual landscape of the area.
The lighthouse has its beginnings in the 1874 parliamentary session, when the sum of $6,000 was allotted to the Department of Marine and Fisheries to construct a suitable lighthouse at Wood Islands. The contract was initally awarded to Archibald MacKay of Moncton, New Brunswick; but, a year later he had made little progress on the project and it was given to Donald MacMillan to complete. By November 1876, MacMillan had completed the work and the lighthouse was put into service. James MacMillan became the first resident lightkeeper.
The design of the Wood Islands Lighthouse is similar to one at Cape Egmont in western PEI. It is a rare example of a surviving tower with attached keeper's dwelling. The three storey tower has vertically alligned windows with pedimented caps. The entrance door to the tower also has a pedimented cap. The attached one and one half storey dwelling has a side entrance porch. The four over four windows are similar to the ones in the tower. They have original lintels and sills.
The red iron lantern is topped by an arrow weather vane and surrounded by a white railing on the observation deck. A railed balcony was later added to the side of the tower for a fog horn to assist the nearby ferry service which began in 1941.
The lighthouse became electrified in 1958. By 1990, it had become fully automated. The last resident keeper was Leon Patton. Wood Islands was one of the last three lighthouses to have resident keepers on PEI. The others were East Point and Souris East.
Since the 1990s, a local non-profit group has established the Wood Islands Lighthouse Museum and Interpretive Centre on the site. Visitors can explore the many exhibits on display in the former keeper's residence and climb to the top of the tower.
Recently, in March 2009, the lighthouse was moved further inland 70 metres to escape the erosion of the shoreline and the encroaching sea. The Wood Islands Lighthouse continues to serve a vital role for the local ferry service and is a landmark in the area.
Source: Heritage Division, PEI Department of Tourism and Culture, Charlottetown, PE
File #: 4320-20/W2
The following character-defining elements illustrate the heritage value of the Wood Islands Lighthouse:
- The three storey wood shingled tower with adjoining dwelling all painted white
- The red asphalt roof of the dwelling with central brick chimney
- The array of four over four windows in the tower and dwelling
- The red iron lantern topped by an arrow weather vane
- The railing around the observation deck
- The railing on the side of the tower for the fog horn
Other character-defining elements include:
- The location of the lighthouse along the coastline in Wood Islands near the docking area for the Northumberland Ferries to Nova Scotia