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Swallowtail Light Keeper's House

50 Light House Road, Grand Manan, New Brunswick, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2010/01/11

Image of the Swallowtail Light Keeper's House in winter, 2010, showing the windows boarded up.  Swallowtail Lighthouse is on the left.; Grand Manan Historical Society
Swallowtail Light Keeper's House, 2010
This historic image shows the Swallowtail Light Keeper's House, constructed in 1958, with its outbuildings and a boathouse. ; Laurie Murison
Swallowtail Light Keeper's House ca 1960
No Image

Other Name(s)

Swallowtail Light Keeper's House
Swallowtail Light Inn
Auberge Swallowtail Light

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)


Listed on the Canadian Register: 2010/03/12

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Swallowtail Light Keeper’s House is located on an isolated peninsula at the northern tip of the community of North Head, Grand Manan Island. Access to this location is down very steep cement stairs, across a footbridge over a deep gully and a walk on a gravel path over hilly ground. The large two-storey residence and one-and-a-half storey boathouse sit on a grassy area on the cliff top. On the hilly peninsula beyond the house is Swallowtail Lighthouse. The Grand Manan ferries come around this point as they approach the dock. To islanders and visitors, the lighthouse is a symbol that they have arrived on Grand Manan Island.

Heritage Value

The Swallowtail Light Keeper’s House on Grand Manan Island is designated a Local Historic Place for its association with the Island’s long history attached to the sea. Swallowtail Light was first lit in 1860. The current Light Keeper’s House was built in 1958 to replace the existing accommodations. This large two-storey building was a duplex for the light keeper and family on one side and the light keeper's assistant and family on the other side. There were wooden walkways to the light house from the keeper’s residence. In bad wind storms, the families had to keep checking the walkway to make sure it was still intact. In 1986, Swallowtail Lighthouse was automated and the Light Keeper’s House was closed. The house was turned over to the Village of Grand Manan by the Canadian Government. From 1997 to 2003, the Light Keeper’s House was leased and run as a seasonal bed and breakfast called “Swallowtail Inn”. From 2003 to 2007, the building was closed. Through 2008-2009, a group of interested Grand Manan residents formed The Swallowtail Keepers Society to work to preserve this integral part of the Island’s heritage.

The original one-and-a-half storey boathouse pre-dates the current Light Keeper’s House dating possibly from the 1860’s. It is built on posts covered in a wooden skirt. The uneven doors on the southern end of the building were used to facilitate the moving in and out of a skiff. This simple utilitarian building has seen very little retrofit over the years.

Source: Grand Manan Archives – Local Historic Places files

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements that describe the Swallowtail Light Keeper's House include:
- rectangular two-storey massing;
- hipped roof with two chimneys;
- original size and placement of windows;
- central enclosed portico;
- cedar shingle siding.

The character-defining elements relating to the interior include:
- the division of the house, each side representing a separate dwelling with its own entrance, basement cistern and chimney.

The character-defining elements that describe the boathouse include:
- utilitarian one-and-a-half storey rectangular plan;
- post construction with wooden skirt;
- cedar shingle siding;
- uneven double doors on the southern end;
- no insulation;
- front-facing gable roof with no eaves;
- interior spatial layout, including loft and attic.

The character-defining elements related to the grounds and context of the buildings include:
- proximity to the Swallowtail Lighthouse;
- remnants of a rail system that facilitated trolleys down the cliff face.



New Brunswick

Recognition Authority

Local Governments (NB)

Recognition Statute

Local Historic Places Program

Recognition Type

Municipal Register of Local Historic Places

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1986/01/01 to 1986/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Peopling the Land
People and the Environment
Developing Economies
Communications and Transportation
Peopling the Land

Function - Category and Type


Historic or Interpretive Site


Multiple Dwelling

Architect / Designer



McDowell and Cook

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Grand Manan Archives, 1141 Route 776, Grand Manan, NB

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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