Description of Historic Place
The Pointe-au-Père Lighthouse consists of a central octagonal tower made of reinforced concrete, supported by eight concrete flying buttresses that are attached to the tower at each floor level. The lighthouse is 32.9 metres (108 ft.) tall and measures 3.35 metres (11 ft.) in diameter. The tower is surmounted by a gallery with a railing and a traditional cast-iron lantern, which is painted red and houses a 3rd Order dioptric lens. The lighthouse is located in Rimouski, on a point of land that juts into the St. Lawrence River estuary.
There are three related buildings on the site that contribute to the heritage character of the lighthouse: (1) the 1956 keeper’s dwelling; (2) the 1905-1906 assistant keeper’s dwelling; and (3) the 1903 fog alarm building.
The Pointe-au-Père Lighthouse is a heritage lighthouse because of its historical, architectural, and community values.
Thanks to its exceptional location at the boundary between inland waters and the open sea, the Pointe-au-Père Lighthouse was for many years one of the most important navigational aid centres in Canada, and it made a significant contribution to the country’s maritime history. It is associated with efforts initiated at the beginning of the 20th century to improve optical equipment at major lightstations and, in particular, with the modernization program undertaken at the 14 lightstations along the St. Lawrence. The lighthouse is associated with the worst maritime disaster in Canada—the tragic sinking of the luxury liner RMS Empress of Ireland—having received an S.O.S. telegraph from the liner.
Within the first few decades of the 20th century, a series of improvements in navigational aids were built at the Pointe-au-Père lightstation, in support of increased vessel traffic associated with the expansion of the shipping industry. The lightstation had become an official transfer station in 1905 for river pilots on the St. Lawrence, its prominent geographical location providing a site for the required exchange of navigators. This function encouraged additional improvements to navigational aids at Pointe-au-Père, including a tide and current station, a Marconi telegraph station, and a medical ship inspection station.
The Pointe-au-Père Lighthouse is an example of an architectural style that is unique to Canada. Its height of 32.9 metres and its eight flying buttresses combine to give the lighthouse bold and elegant lines. It stands out for its modernity and its distinctive form and materials, as well as its contrasting elements. One such example is the wooden entrance with its decorative frieze and red pressed-metal cladding, contrasting against the smooth white surface of the tower. The integrity of the spiral staircase in the tower, together with the space it occupies, are noteworthy.
The lighthouse illustrates an experimental design adopted at the dawn of the 20th century for nine concrete lighthouse towers; this experimental design introduced flying buttresses to circumvent wind loading constraints. The eight flying buttresses are designed to stiffen the tower and stabilize the light during high winds. Its industrial beauty notwithstanding, the tower’s design attests to its purely functional role of supporting the heavy light system, while providing ready access to the lantern for service and maintenance.
The lighthouse is the centrepiece of an evolved historic lightstation, and it establishes the present character of the site. In concert with the other aid to navigation facilities that were previously established at the site, the lighthouse attests to the important role the region has played in the history of navigation on the St. Lawrence.
The residents of the Lower St. Lawrence region consider the Pointe-au-Père Lighthouse to be a symbol of their maritime heritage. The lighthouse is a familiar landmark in the St. Lawrence estuary owing to the role its site has played in providing aid to navigation services since the first lighthouse was built in 1859. It is also the centrepiece of a regional recreation and tourism hub and therefore very important for the city of Rimouski.
Three related buildings, as listed in section 1, contribute to the heritage character of the lighthouse.
The following character-defining elements of the Pointe-au-Père Lighthouse should be respected:
— its location on a point of land that juts into the St. Lawrence estuary;
— its intact, as-built structural form, materials, height, profile, and balanced proportions characterized by its flying buttresses;
— its octagonal tower consisting of a central column surrounded by eight flying buttresses that are attached to the tower at each floor level;
— its lantern surmounted by a metal cupola with a weathervane;
— its concrete gallery with a metal railing surrounding the lantern;
— its rotation mechanism and 3rd Order dioptric lens;
— the spiral staircase in the tower which provides access to each floor;
— the wooden entrance vestibule with its decorative frieze and pressed-metal cladding;
— the small windows at each level of the lighthouse;
— its traditional red and white exterior colour scheme, with the white tower and buttresses accented by the red door, vestibule roof, window trim, and cast-iron lantern;
— its visual prominence in relation to the water and landscape.
The following character-defining elements of the related buildings should be respected:
— their respective built forms and proportions;
— their traditional red and white exterior colour schemes;
— their contextual relationships to the lighthouse within a lightstation setting.