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Sambro Island, Nova Scotia, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1996/08/22

Sambro Island Lighthouse Classified Federal Heritage Building; CCG, 1995
Exterior photo
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Other Name(s)

Sambro Island Lighthouse
Tour de phare de l'île Sambro

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1758/01/01 to 1760/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2005/07/14

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Lighttower is a simple, well-proportioned profile with tapered octagonal shaft that is 82 feet high supporting a flaring lantern platform and a small utilitarian aluminium lantern. The stone and concrete shaft with narrow slit openings are concealed under wooden shingles, which have been painted in alternating red and white bands. A thick hardwood column supports a winding wooden staircase which climbs up through the tower’s center. Built on Sambro Island about 12 miles offshore, the Lighttower is the defining feature on a treeless and windswept outcropping. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.

Heritage Value

The Lighttower is a Classified Federal Heritage building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values.

Historical Value:
The Lighttower is one of the best examples of the establishment of permanent coastal navigational aids along the coast of Nova Scotia. It is also associated with the theme of safe shipping during the early developmental stages of Halifax and Nova Scotia. The Lighttower is considered the oldest operational lighthouse not only in Canada but also in North America. The Lighttower is one of the most historically important lighthouses in Canada due to its age and its association with marine traffic in and out of Halifax Harbour for almost 250 years. It was seen and recorded by Captain James Cook when he entered Halifax Harbour. It was also witness to the welcome accorded to some 12,000 Loyalists who landed at Halifax in 1783.

Architectural Value:
The Lighttower creates a well-scaled design of simply detailed construction. The Lighttower shows good quality of craftsmanship in the cut stone blocks for the tower and in the work around the tower’s refitted base and extended top. The Lighttower is the dominant component amongst four other loosely grouped structures situated on the island. The scale, colour and height of the red and white painted tower contrast with the darker mass of the island. It is a landmark to both residents and tourists by virtue of its prominence and relationship to the maritime environment.

Environmental Value:
The character of Sambro Island and its built heritage remain virtually unchanged whereby the Lighttower is the dominent structure on the island. A number of small wooden structures, including the Gas House and a Fog Alarm Building, are also scattered across the exposed site. The picturesque Lighttower reinforces the maritime coastal setting of Sambro Island. The Lighttower’s tapered profile dominates the immediate maritime landscape. It is well known to both the local and the greater shipping community being the most prominent navigational landmark for vessels passing to and from Halifax.

Joan Mattie, Lighthouse and Gas Station, Sambro Island Lightstation, Sambro Island (entrance to Halifax Harbour), N.S. Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office Report
95-034l Sambro Island Lighttower, Sambro Island, Nova Scotia, Heritage Character Statement 95-034.

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements of the Sambro Island Lighttower should be respected.

Its role as an illustration of the establishment of the navigation system and the provision of aid to navigation along the coast of Nova Scotia.
Its standard design and good quality materials and craftsmanship as evidenced in:
-the building’s form and massing which consists of a tall slightly tapered octagonal tower with narrow slit openings, flared lantern platform, lantern and light;
-the building’s sturdy construction of granite and formed concrete;
-the buildings clean lines and subtle ornamentation and picturesque silhouette;
-the painted shingles cladding the tower;
-the interior hardwood column and stairs.

The manner in which the building reinforces the picturesque, maritime coastal setting of the Sambro Island Light Station and its associated seascape through its dramatic setting.




Recognition Authority

Government of Canada

Recognition Statute

Treasury Board Heritage Buildings Policy

Recognition Type

Classified Federal Heritage Building

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Function - Category and Type


Navigational Aid or Lighthouse


Architect / Designer




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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