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Cove Island, Ontario, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1991/11/14

General view of the Tower, showing its whitewash finish, 1990.; Canadian Coast Guard / Garde côtière canadienne, 1990.
General view
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Other Name(s)

Cove Island Lighttower
Tour de phare de Cove Island
Lightstation: Tower
Station de phare: Tour

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1855/01/01 to 1859/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2007/03/16

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

Situated on an island at the entrance of the Georgian Bay, the Tower in the Cove Island Lightstation is a tall, stone structure, round with a slight taper and slightly corbelled outward at the top to form a gallery and base for the 12-sided polygonal lantern. There is very little detailing, which emphasizes the rugged quality of its stone construction. There are small, narrow window openings staggered around the tower and the doorway is rounded at the top. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.

Heritage Value

The Tower is a Classified Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values

Historical Value
The Tower, constructed as one of the so-called ‘Imperial Towers’, is a very good example illustrating the installation of lighthouses on the Great Lakes beginning in 1804. The opening of the Bruce Peninsula for settlement in the mid-1850’s, a free-trade agreement with the United Stated in 1854, and the Sault. Ste. Marie Canal in 1855 prompted the need for navigational aids and the establishment of these towers.

Architectural Value
The Tower counts among the few constructed of stone and is an excellent example of functional design of a strong and stable structure that is aesthetically pleasing. It employs materials and craftsmanship of the highest standard, and is a very good example of the work of the contractor John Brown and one of the best examples of the work of the pre-confederation Canadian Board of Works. The Tower is characterized by its elegant proportions and its simple construction of rusticated stone.

Environmental Value
As a tall, elegant structure on a picturesque coastal site, the Tower reinforces the region’s scenic quality and maritime character and adds greatly to the interest of boating within its immediate scenic area. The Cove Island Lightstation’s Tower is well located to be seen by many recreational boaters, being within Fathom Five National Marine Park of Canada and near Georgian Bay Islands National Park of Canada. As the primary light at the entrance to Georgian Bay, it is also the tower most depended upon by commercial traffic in this region. A known landmark within its area both the tower and its outbuildings have had strong public interest and support.

Sources: Joan Mattie, Four ‘Imperial Towers’: lighthouses at Lake Huron and Georgian Bay, Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office Building Report 90-216; Cove Island Lightstation: Tower Tower, Lake Huron, Griffith Island, Ontario, Heritage Character Statement 90-216.

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements of the Tower should be respected.

Its highest quality functional design and aesthetic, materials and craftsmanship as manifested in:
-its tall, round, slightly tapered form corbelled at the top to form a gallery and base for the lantern;
-its twelve-sided polygonal lantern, which provides an important component of the structure and includes three rows of rectangular glass panes, segmentally ridged domed roofs topped by ventilators in the shape of ball pinnacles, and twelve bronze lion’s heads at each angle of the eaves line;
-its structural system employing heavy timber to provide lateral stability with inner and outer whites of cut masonry with rubble infill providing compressive strength;
-its masonry detailing;
-its whitewash finish;
-its round-headed doorway and small, narrow windows with plain stone sills staggered around the tower;
-its interior components of wooden stairwell, curved cast-iron-and-wood stairs and straight and steep stairs.

The manner in which the Tower in its picturesque coastal setting reinforces the region’s scenic and maritime character and adds greatly to the interest of boating within its immediate scenic area.




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

John Brown



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




Related Places

Front elevation

Lightstation: Annex

The Lightstation: Annex, integral to the Cove Island Lightstation is situated at the entrance to Georgian Bay. It is a small, stone, cottage-like structure with a gable roof…


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