Point Clark Lighthouse

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Point Clark Lighthouse
Point clark lighthouse.JPG
The lighthouse in Point Clark
Point Clark Lighthouse is located in Ontario
Point Clark Lighthouse
Coordinates 44°04′22″N 81°45′26″W / 44.072854°N 81.757217°W / 44.072854; -81.757217Coordinates: 44°04′22″N 81°45′26″W / 44.072854°N 81.757217°W / 44.072854; -81.757217
Year first constructed 1859
Automated 1924
Construction limestone tower
Tower shape cylindrical tower with balcony and lantern
Markings / pattern white tower, red lantern
Height 26.5 metres (87 ft)
Focal height 28.3 metres (93 ft)
Characteristic Fl W 10s.
CHS number CCG 782
ARLHS number CAN-388
Managing agent Township of Huron-Kinloss[1]

Point Clark Lighthouse is located on in a beach community, Point Clark Ontario near a point that protrudes into Lake Huron. Built between 1855 and 1859 under the instructions of the Board of Works, Canada West, it is one of the few on the Great Lakes to be made primarily from stone. It is one of the Imperial Towers, a group of six nearly identical towers built by contractor John Brown for the "Province of Canada" (Canadian government) on Lake Huron and Georgian Bay, all completed by 1859. The location for the Point Clark lighthouse was selected to to warn sailors of the shoals (sandbars) 2 miles (3.2 km) off the Lake Huron coast. It is still functioning as an automated light. A restoration that eventually exceeded $2.3 million started in 2011 and the facility reopened for tourism in June 2015.[2][3]

The origin of the designation Imperial is not certain, but some historians speculate that because the towers were public construction built under the colonial administration while Canada was a self-governing colony of Britain, the name would assure at least some funding from the British Empire's Board of Trade.[4]

Since the lighthouse is on the mainland (not on an island) it can easily reached by bicycle or a vehicle. The original wooden storage building and keeper's house are a Township of Huron-Kinloss museum. The lightkeeper's home and the lighthouse can be toured from mid June to Labour Day for a fee.[5]

The Point Clark tower was formally registered as one of the National Historic Sites of Canada, the only lighthouse on the Great Lakes or Georgian Bay to receive this highest-level designation. It has also been designated under the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act. The keeper's cottage is a designated place of historic interest, and has been listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places since 2008.[6][7]


Before the lighthouse was built, a lantern had been hung on a branch of a pine tree near the beach; this led to the settlement being called Pine Point.[8] Like the nearby Chantry Island Lightstation Tower this one was built at a time when commercial shipping traffic was increasing on the Great Lakes between Canada and the U.S. because of new trade agreements and the opening of the Sault Ste. Marie Canal locks in 1855. Other towers were also built on Lake Huron and Georgian Bay between 1855 and 1859 to act as navigational aids for the ships.[4]

Intended to warn ships about the point and about dangerous shoals in the area, construction started in 1857.[9] The "second order" Fresnel lens was manufactured in Paris and installed by workmen from France.[8] Much of the tower, and the keeper's house, was made of Dolomite limestone, much of it from a quarry about 60 kilometers from Point Clark. The walls are five feet thick at the base but only two feet near the top of the tower.[8]

The light was first illuminated on 1 April 1859. In the early years, it was fueld with spermaceti oil as fuel but in 1860, that changed to colza oil; the latter was less expensive and allowed for the light to burn even on the coldest winter nights. The keeper was required to carry the fuel up the stairs in buckets.[10] Electricity was used since 1863.[11]

The first attempt in automating the light started in 1924. The new system was not considered adequately effective or reliable, so in 1926, it was removed and the original Fresnel lens was again used.[8] The early revolving light mechanism was replaced with an electric motor in 1953. A light keeper was no longer required after 1963 when the light was fully automated. Its light characteristic is a single white flash every ten seconds, emitted at a focal plane height of 93 feet (28 m). The tower is owned by Parks Canada but the site is operated as a tourist attraction by the Township of Huron-Kinloss. The light operates under the control of the Canadian Coast Guard.[6][12]

Like the other Imperial Towers on Lake Huron and Georgian Bay, it is among the few on the Great Lakes made of cut limestone and granite (not brick, wood, metal or concrete), with a functional design that is simple but elegant and pleasing to the eye.[4]

After a $3.7 million reconstruction that lasted four years, the lighthouse and museum reopened for tours in June 2015.[12] An announcement at the reopening ceremony indicated that the Point Clark lighthouse had been designated under the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act because of its "significant heritage value".[13]

Lighthouse design[edit]

The tower is 110 feet (34 m) tall, made primarily of cut limestone brought from Inverhuron by barge, but a section near the top is made of granite for extra rigidity. There are 114 steps from the bottom to the lantern room. The 12 sided cast iron[14] lantern was first lit on April 1, 1859 and is 87 feet (27 m) from the base of the tower.[15]

The light keeper's house, resembling a British stone cottage, is a Recognized Federal Heritage Building, a place of historic interest. The 14 July 1994 summary praises its symmetry, excellent build quality, pleasing appearance and practical design.[16]

The Lightkeepers[edit]

The job of light keeper was an attractive one and positions were often filled on the basis of affiliation with the current political party in power. After WWI and WWII however, preference was given to war veterans. The keeper was required to maintain the property, clean and whitewash the tower as required, and maintain the light. In the years before electricity and automation, he was also required to carry the fuel up the stairs in buckets, and, twice a day, to wind up the clockwork-like mechanism—with weights and pulleys—that enabled the weights to rotate the lens.[8][3]

The following individuals were responsible for the lighthouse and its property over the years:

  • John Young 1859–1882
  • David Small 1883
  • John Rae 1883–1896
  • Murdock McDonald 1897–1914
  • George H. Ray 1914–1924
  • John E. Ruttle 1926–1938
  • John A. Campbell 1938–1946
  • John C. Campbell(1947–1962)[17]

In 1875, John Young's salary would have been approximately $400 per annum, based on published data for the salary at the Chantry Island Lightstation that year. (Another report indicates $435 per annum but does not state the year; that amount may have been paid in a later year.) [18][19][8] On retirement after 20 years, Young's pension was $19.25.

After the light was automated, Elmer MacKenzie was retained as a part-time caretaker for the property (1963-1964) at a salary of $75 per year.[10] Some sources discuss subsequent caretakers Elden Lowry (1964-1967) and Joe Burke.[20] Currently, the light produces a white flash every 10 seconds.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rowlett, Russ. "Lighthouses of West Central Ontario (Lake Huron Area)". The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved January 5, 2016. 
  2. ^ Point Clark Lighthouse National Historic Site
  3. ^ a b "Point Clark, ON". Retrieved 18 March 2017. 
  4. ^ a b c Sapulski, Wayne (1996). "The Imperial Towers of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay". Lighthouse Digest. Foghorn Publishing. Retrieved 16 March 2017. 
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ a b [2]
  7. ^ [3]
  8. ^ a b c d e f [4]
  9. ^ Rowlett, Russ. "Lighthouses of West Central Ontario (Lake Huron Area)". The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 8 September 2008. 
  10. ^ a b [5]
  11. ^ [6]
  12. ^ a b Anderson, Kraig (2016). "Point Clark". Lighthouse Friends. Kraig Anderson. Retrieved 28 March 2017. 
  13. ^ Bernard, Kevin (29 June 2015). "Point Clark Lighthouse Designation". Bayshore Broadcasting. Bayshore Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 29 March 2017. 
  14. ^ Parks Canada - Point Clark Lighthouse National Historic Site of Canada
  15. ^ [7]
  16. ^ [8]
  17. ^ Point Clark Lighthouse Lighthouse Friends
  18. ^ "Chantry Island". Lighthouse Friends. Kraig Anderson. 2010. Retrieved 19 March 2017. 
  19. ^ Official Report of Debates, House of Commons, Volume 1. Ottawa: Government of Canada. 1875. p. 256. 
  20. ^ Dadson, Liz (16 August 2009). "History, music and fun at 150th anniversary of Point Clark Lighthouse". Saugeen Times. Saugeen Shores. Retrieved 20 March 2017. 

External links[edit]