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Cow Head Light

Cow Head, Newfoundland and Labrador, A0K, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2003/02/17

Exterior photo of Cow Head Light, taken fall 2004; HFNL/Dale Jarvis 2004
Cow Head Light
Exterior photo of Cow Head Light, taken fall 2004; HFNL/Dale Jarvis 2004
Cow Head Light
Detail photo of Cow Head Light door, taken fall 2004; HFNL/Dale Jarvis 2004
Cow Head Light door

Other Name(s)


Links and documents

Construction Date(s)


Listed on the Canadian Register: 2005/10/27

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Cow Head Light is a two storey steel structure located on Lighthouse Path in the hollow of a promontory on the west side of the Cow Head peninsula. This structure is located within the National Historic Site and UNESCO World Heritage Site of Gros Morne National Park. The designation includes the building and surrounding land.

Heritage Value

The Cow Head Light is municipally designated because it has historic, environmental, cultural and aesthetic values.

The Cow Head Light is historically valuable because it is the oldest standing structure in the community of Cow Head, having been constructed in 1909. It guided ships and small boats into the harbour from 1909 to 1979 when it was replaced with battery operated harbour buoys. The first lightkeeper was Jesse Payne and he lived in a small three room house next to the light. Every day from spring to late December when navigation was open, he lit the kerosene light at dusk and distinguished it at dawn. Later his son John L (Lighthouse Jack) and grandson Jesse were the lightkeepers.

The Cow Head Light is culturally valuable because the grounds of the lighthouse were a popular social gathering place for the community. On Sundays in the summertime many of them would go there for picnics after attending church services.

The Cow Head Light is environmentally valuable because its very purpose was to help mariners navigate the harbour by its light. The presence of a lighthouse and its location on the peninsula remind us of the importance placed on mariners, safe navigation, and Newfoundland’s rich maritime history.

Furthermore, as Cow Head is the most northernly settlement within Gros Morne, it is also environmentally valuable because it affords a spectacular view of the Long Range Mountains, the Town of Cow Head, Western Brook fjord and as far south as the Tablelands.

The Cow Head Light is aesthetically valuable because it has unique construction for a lighttower. It has a cast iron cylindrical tower with a second storey balcony, a witches hat roof and an arched doorway. This structure is basically unadorned, suggesting its functional nature. Up until 1931 the light, a kerosene lamp, required constant tending. Propane later replaced the kerosene lamp and the lighthouse remained in operation until 1979. This light is among many along the Northern Peninsula, where most lighttowers are architecturally different and unique. They do not follow a standard architectural style.

Source: Town of Cow Head, passed by a motion of council at a meeting held on February 17, 2003.

Character-Defining Elements

All those exterior elements that express the unique and functional nature of the lighttower, including:
-the steel plate cylindrical tower;
-witches hat roof with wooden cupola;
-original arched door and lock;
-size, shape and placement of windows;
-original second storey balcony; and
-guide wires which helped to hold the building in place.



Newfoundland and Labrador

Recognition Authority

NL Municipality

Recognition Statute

Municipalities Act

Recognition Type

Municipal Heritage Building, Structure or Land

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Architecture and Design

Function - Category and Type


Park Fixture


Navigational Aid or Lighthouse

Architect / Designer




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Dr. Henry Payne Community Museum 143 Main Street Cow Head NL A0K 2A0

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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