Description of Historic Place
Pointe-au-Père Lighthouse National Historic Site of Canada is a navigation aid centre located on a headland facing the St. Lawrence River at the limit of coastal waters and the open sea. The station is characterized by buildings with red roofs and white walls, dominated by a 24 metre high concrete lighthouse. The official recognition refers to the third and fourth lighthouses and presumed vestiges of the first two, including the landscape elements, associated buildings and structures such as the keeper’s and assistant keeper’s houses, the foghorn building, a garage, the cistern, the generator, the electronic foghorn, and numerous artefacts attesting the presence of the station since 1859.
The Pointe-au-Père Lighthouse was designated National Historic Site of Canada in 1974 because:
- of its historic role as an important piloting services centre;
- it has been an important navigation light in the gulf and the river.
Due to its strategic geographic situation, the Pointe-au-Père Lighthouse became a privileged site for the St. Lawrence River pilots from the early 19th century. Over a century of operations, the station has constantly evolved beginning with the construction of the first lighthouse in 1859, soon to be replaced after a fire. In 1909, the third lighthouse was built in an effort of modernization before the department of Transport initiated, in the 1960s, a lighthouse automation program, which included the Pointe-au-Père Lighthouse. On the other hand, many structures were added to meet new tasks delegated to the lighthouse during the various phases of operations. From 1894 to 1985, it housed a tides and currents surveying station and for fifty years, hosted the piloting station. It also took charge of some of the quarantine activities at the Grosse-Île quarantine station from 1923 to 1937.
The lighthouse station also tested many means of communication, which benefited the aid to navigation. A few years after the development of the international code of flag signals, it was implemented at the Pointe-au-Père station; later on, a Marconi station was implemented. The Pointe-au-Père station used simple cannon and explosive bomb signals, and, in 1903, a foghorn signal building. Its implementation led to the experimentation of two types of signals, i.e. the air fog signal and a modified Canadian version, the diaphone. It also tested acetylene lamps. After monitoring, their usage was recommended and in 1904, the diaphone was the model adopted in most lighthouses in Canada. After 1972, an electronic sound signal replaced the diaphone. In 1997, Fisheries and Oceans Canada closed the aid to navigation station. Today, the station is part of a heritage complex known as the “Pointe-au-Père Maritime Historic Site”.
Source: Commemorative Integrity Statement, 2006.
Key elements contributing to the heritage value of this site include:
- the presence of the lighthouse as an important piloting centre and important light (lighthouse station) for navigation in the gulf and the St. Lawrence River;
- the presence of the main components necessary to operate a lighthouse station;
- all the site’s existing buildings associated with the lighthouse station function.
Architectural components evoking the historical importance of the site:
- the 1909 concrete lighthouse because of its prominence, the rarity of its reinforced concrete, buttressed structure, its eight buttresses, its position with regard to the surrounding elements, the integrity of the spiral staircase, its quasi-unique aesthetics even after restoration, the front porch and the windows at each level of the lighthouse following a regular scheme, the rotation and prism devices kept in place;
- the keeper’s house because of its shape and materials (two-story square wooden building with wood shingled four-slope roof);
- the assistant keeper’s house because its a very rare example of keepers’ houses built at the turn of the 20th century and the only one in Québec with a mansard roof (mansard roof with breaks and drip molds, wood shingles, and three front gable dormers which stand out against the red roof);
- the foghorn building because of its original architectural character, still identifiable through the simple shape of its wooden elements and its fenestration (wood, rectangular shape, original cedar shingle face and two-slope roof).
Elements revealing the historical importance of the privileged geographic situation of the site:
- the present configuration of the site and visual relation to the river help understand why the site was chosen to establish a navigation aid station;
- the landscape marked by a group of buildings with prevailing red and white colours, presenting architectural characteristics which vary from one period to another and the presence of the wharf and the evocation of the pilots’ shelter;
- the viewpoints considered as significant (from the station towards the sea, whether looking east, north or west; from the station towards the Pointe-au-Père dock; towards the lighthouse and the station from the rue du Phare; from the rue du Phare and avenue du Père-Nouvel towards the lighthouse and the station; from the wharf (in the 1905 limits) towards the lighthouse and the station; and from the top of the lighthouse.
Elements testifying of the evolution of the site:
- the presumed remains located in the southwest sector (old station sector) and in the eastern section, which are the only witnesses of the two first phases of the lighthouse station and the association of the remains of the second lighthouse and their relation with the St. Lawrence pilots;
- the buildings testifying of the first phase of modernization, among which the foghorn building, the oldest building on the site, the concrete lighthouse, a symbol of the history of river navigation in Canada, the assistant keeper’s house, while the keeper’s house and the garage testify of a more recent period in the site’s history;
- the buildings testifying of the station’s automation, including the clerestory tower, the cistern, the generator and the electronic foghorn;
- the archaeological collection and artefacts found on the site testify of the site’s occupation during the whole occupation period, from the 19th to the 20th century, including aid to navigation tools and objects attesting the efforts of modernization of Pointe-au-Père and, in turn, of Canadian lighthouse stations.