Description of Historic Place
The Cape Spear (Old) Lighthouse combines a lighthouse and keepers’ dwelling, a popular 19th century design. Built in 1835, the circular stone tower measures 9 metres (30 feet), and is encircled by a two-storey, wood-frame residence. The Cape Spear (Old) Lighthouse stands on a rocky peninsula that forms the easternmost point
of North America.
The Cape Spear (Old) Lighthouse is a heritage lighthouse because of its historical, architectural, and community values.
The Cape Spear (Old) Lighthouse is an excellent example of the efforts of coastal communities to make marine navigation safer. Located on a ridge on the promontory of Cape Spear, this lighthouse was built to guide vessels heading for St. John’s, the colony’s major centre for commerce and trade. Since its construction in 1835, the
lighthouse has served as a landfall light, and for a long time, has been the first structure seen by ships after their Atlantic crossing. The construction of the Cape Spear (Old) Lighthouse is associated with the achievement of representative government in Newfoundland in 1832. Recognizing the importance of maritime navigation to Newfoundland, the new government authorized the construction of Cape Spear (Old) Lighthouse in 1834. It was the new Government’s first major public works project.
The Cape Spear (Old) Lighthouse is an excellent illustration of the Neoclassical style applied to a lighthouse. The lighthouse has a well-proportioned composition that regroups a lighttower and residence in one structure. It is characterized by its symmetry, balanced proportions, and use of Neoclassical detailing. The design of the Cape Spear (Old) Lighthouse, which combines the lighthouse and residence, was a functional adaptation to the harsh conditions of Cape Spear. Its continued use as a lighthouse and home from its construction through to the 1950s speak to its utility in terms of layout, as well as the durability of its materials. The core of the building is the tower itself, which is accessed via the second storey of the residence. The challenging weather conditions of the site make a combined lighthouse and residence an excellent design choice.
The Cape Spear (Old) Lighthouse establishes the maritime and historic character of the rocky promontory on which
it is located. The immediate setting of the lighthouse is rock, grass, and sea, and the character of the peninsula itself is rugged and isolated. The Cape Spear (Old) Lighthouse is part of a larger complex that includes the Cape Spear (New) Lighthouse built in 1953, as well as a Second World War Coastal Defence Complex. The Cape Spear (Old) Lighthouse is a symbol of the City of St John’s. It is a well known landmark in the Avalon Peninsula and a very popular destination for local residents and visitors to St. John’s.
There are no related buildings included in the designation.
The following character-defining elements of the Cape Spear (Old) Lighthouse should be respected:
— its prominent location as a landfall light on Cape Spear, on the Atlantic Ocean;
— its intact, as-built structural form, height, and balanced proportions;
— its distinctive profile, consisting of a circular stone lighttower with a twostorey, cubic building of wooden structure constructed around it;
— its original polygonal lantern and domed roof;
— its lighttower’s gallery and railing;
— the pyramidal, low hipped roof of the building;
— its windows and doors symmetrically placed in the walls of the residence;
— its façades, which are sharply defined and framed by the overhanging cornice, and the wide vertical wood planks at the corners of the building and between the windows, dividing the elevations into three bays;
— the stone foundation of the cubic building;
— its functional interior layout of the residential spaces which are wrapped around the masonry tower;
— its white clapboard sheathing;
— its traditional red and white colour scheme, consisting of white for the dwelling, red for the chimney, and alternating red and white stripes on the lantern; and,
— its visual prominence in relation to the water and landscape.