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Trial Islands Lighthouse

Oak Bay, British Columbia, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2015/05/29

Historic photograph of Trial Islands Lighthouse ca. 1900-1925; Library and Archives Canada | Bibliothèque et Archives Canada, Albertype Company, PA-032801
Historic photograph
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Other Name(s)


Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1970/01/01 to 1970/12/31

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2016/10/04

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Trial Islands Lighthouse was built in 1970 to replace the original lighthouse erected in 1906. It is a white, cylindrical, reinforced-concrete lighthouse topped by a red aluminum lantern and gallery. The lighthouse is an “apple-core” design, so named because of its likeness to the removed core of an apple. The Trial Islands Lighthouse stands 13 metres (42 feet) tall and is located on the southeast point of the larger of the two Trial Islands. The Trial Islands sit just south of Vancouver Island, at the confluence of the Juan de Fuca and Haro Straits.

There are eight related buildings on the site that contribute to the heritage character of the lighthouse: (1) the 1906 Senior Keeper’s residence, (2) the Storage building, (3) the Junior Keeper’s dwelling (1957), (4) the 1975 Engine Room (former fog alarm building), (5) the 1954 Cisterns (two), (6) the Workshop (former radio beacon and dwelling), (7) the Flammables storage building (former paint shed), and (8) the 1965 Boathouse.

Heritage Value

The Trial Islands Lighthouse is a heritage lighthouse because of its historical, architectural, and community values.

Historical values
The Trial Islands Lighthouse is an excellent example of the mid-20th century efforts by the Canadian government to modernize lighthouses. Planning for the original 1906 Trial Islands lighthouse was initiated following the devastating shipwreck of the American ferry S.S. Clallam in 1904. The southern portion of the Inside Passage, which includes the waters around the Trial Islands, was particularly dangerous for ships due to major riptides and a lack of navigational aids. The original lighthouse was replaced in 1970 by the current reinforced concrete tower, part of a government effort to improve marine aids to navigation and reduce the maintenance required for older lighthouses.
Since the early 20th century, the Trial Islands lightstation has been closely tied to the economic and social development of the City of Victoria, which was an important harbour for commercial vessels and ferries travelling along the West Coast of the United States and Canada. The Trial Islands lightstation has provided an important navigational aid to all vessels approaching Victoria harbour and supported the shipping and commercial activities along the coast of British Columbia.

Architectural values
The Trial Islands Lighthouse is an excellent example of the “apple core” design, which was a popular design for lighthouses on the West Coast in the 1960s and 1970s. The slender apple-core design is a superb example of post-Second World War modern architecture. The simple elegance and minimalist aesthetic of the Trial Islands Lighthouse adhered to the modernist dictum that form must follow function. The modernist ideals of the lighthouse’s design also aligned with the Department of Transportation’s desire to keep maintenance costs to a minimum.
The Trial Islands Lighthouse is a very good example of an innovative design that enables it to thrive in the often unpredictable conditions of coastal British Columbia. It is a slender vertical cantilever tower that relies on rods that run through the base of the lighthouse into the rock below for anchorage. This permits the lighthouse to be tall and slender without fear of collapse. The lighthouse is also constructed of reinforced quartz aggregate and white concrete to give it a white appearance without the need for paint.

Community values
The Trial Islands Lighthouse sits on an elevated point on the barren Trial Islands, one of the numerous islands of the Juan de Fuca Strait, and has as its backdrop the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges. The lighthouse is highly visible from land and from water, and it establishes the dramatic maritime setting of the area.
The Trial Islands Lighthouse is a symbol of the cities of Oak Bay and Victoria. The lighthouse serves as a strong reminder of the area’s cultural, economic, and maritime history. The lighthouse is highly valued by the local community and is a popular visual element of the area.

Related buildings
Eight related buildings, as listed in section 1, contribute to the heritage character of the lighthouse.

Character-Defining Elements

The following character-defining elements of the Trial Islands Lighthouse should be respected:
— its prominent location as a coastal light on the southeast point of the Trial Islands, in the Juan de Fuca Strait;
— its intact, structural form, height, profile, and balanced proportions, characterized by the “apple core” design;
— its original octagonal aluminum lantern capped by a roof;
— its smooth circular shaft in reinforced concrete;
— its superimposed reinforced concrete circular gallery, supported by a flared cornice that transitions from the cylindrical shaft;
— its plain metal railing that surrounds the circular gallery;
— its attached entry vestibule with a flat roof;
— its traditional exterior colour scheme, consisting of white for the tower, and red for the lantern and roof; and,
— its visual prominence in relation to the water and landscape.

The following character-defining elements of the related buildings should be respected:
— their respective built forms, profiles and proportions;
— their traditional red and white exterior colour schemes; and,
— their contextual relationships to the lighthouse within an historic lightstation setting.




Recognition Authority

Government of Canada

Recognition Statute

Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act

Recognition Type

Heritage Lighthouse

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Developing Economies
Communications and Transportation

Function - Category and Type


Navigational Aid or Lighthouse


Architect / Designer

Lorence E. Slaght



Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Heritage Conservation and Commemoration Directorate Documentation Centre 3rd Floor, room 366 30 Victoria Street Gatineau, Quebec J8X 0B3

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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