Description of Historic Place
The Cape Bear Lighthouse is a wooden square-tapered tower. Built in 1881, the lighthouse achieves a height of 12.2 metres (40 feet) from base to vane. It was decommissioned and replaced by a skeleton tower in 2011. The lighthouse is located on the southeastern tip of Prince Edward Island overlooking the Northumberland Strait. The lighthouse guides ships into Murray Harbour and is part of a series of lighthouses that allow vessels to safely navigate the Northumberland Strait.
The Cape Bear Lighthouse is a heritage lighthouse because of its historical, architectural, and community values.
The Cape Bear Lighthouse is an excellent example of the development of aids to navigation along Prince Edward Island’s south shore. The lighthouse was built in 1881 as part of a government program to improve marine safety by erecting lighthouses at various remote locations. A Marconi Wireless Telegraph Station was built next to the lighthouse in 1905 and served to communicate with ships at sea. The station was relocated to Charlottetown in 1922. The lighthouse is also associated with the Second World War, when it was used to spot German U-boats that approached the coast. Unfortunately, while several were seen along the shore, they disappeared while being tracked. The Cape Bear Lighthouse is a very good illustration of the development of the Prince Edward Island fishing industry. Its construction supported the fishing fleet that has operated out of Murray Harbour since the late 19th century. The harbour quickly became the centre of the lobster fishing industry, and its importance in the 1870s and 1880s likely led to the government’s decision to construct the Cape Bear Lighthouse. The technology of canning permitted the expansion of the Island’s lobster industry, and Murray Harbour expanded accordingly, with its mariners supported by the Cape Bear Lighthouse.
The Cape Bear Lighthouse is a very good example of a square-tapered, wooden tower. The lighthouse’s design is based on a standard Department of Transport plan and is characterized by its balanced proportions, pleasingly simple detailing, and sturdy and durable appearance.While the tower is based on a standard form designed for practicality, its architectural details contribute to its visual richness and make it a striking and elegant structure.
The square, tapered, wooden tower of the Cape Bear Lighthouse is a very good design choice for its location. In the 19th century, wooden square-tapered lighthouses were inexpensive to put into operation, as wood could be supplied economically from local forests and mills and the tower could be erected by local contractors. In addition to being economical to build, they are very durable, with the capacity to withstand strong winds. For these reasons, the design remained a popular choice for Canadian lighthouses from its inception in the 1840s into the twentieth century.
The Cape Bear Lighthouse reinforces the maritime character of the surrounding area. Located on a cliff of red soil and highly visible from the water, the lighthouse has been, since its construction in 1881, the dominant built feature in the immediate surrounding area. The lighthouse is set against a backdrop of heavy woods and its cliff-top location ensures that it is a central feature of the area and a focal point in the surrounding waters of Murray Harbour and the Northumberland Strait. The Cape Bear Lighthouse is a symbol of Murray Harbour and the south shore of Prince Edward Island. It is a well-known landmark in the province and it is well known to all mariners who frequent the waters of Murray Harbour and the Northumberland Strait.Murray Harbour, while mainly a fishing community, also attracts a number of tourists each year and the Cape Bear Lighthouse is one of its main attractions.
There are no related buildings included in the designation.
The following character-defining elements of the Cape Bear Lighthouse should be respected:
— its intact, as-built structural form, height, and balanced proportions based on the design of a wooden, square-tapered tower;
— its distinctive profile, consisting of a tapered, square tower;
— its original, octagonal, iron lantern capped by a pyramidal roof and vane;
— its gallery and simple metal railing, supported by a straight cornice;
— its wooden shingle sheathing;
— its two rows of three vertically aligned four-over-four windows, all with simple pedimented roof caps;
— its porch, which wraps around two sides;
— its 1960 workroom, attached to one corner of the lighthouse;
— its traditional colour scheme, consisting of white for the tower, and red for the lantern, the gallery railing, the window and door trim, and the roof; and,
— its visual prominence in relation to the water and landscape.