Description: Given its location at the foot of a large, protected bay, it isn’t surprising that Manitowaning was selected in 1837 as the site for the first European settlement on Manitoulin Island. Evidence of the importance of Manitowaning as a port is the old steamship wharf, which, along with the SS Norisle, is part of the community’s Museum Heritage Complex. The SS Norisle sailed between Tobermory and South Baymouth before being replaced by the MS Chi-Cheemaun in 1974.
During 1884, John Waddell of Kingston was awarded a $9,023 contract for the construction of lighthouses at Cape Robert and Manitowaning on Manitoulin Island, along with three lighthouses for the western end of the North Channel near St. Joseph Island, but when Waddell failed to carry out his contract, the Department of Marine was obliged to complete the works at his expense.
An article in a Manitoulin paper recorded that status of the lighthouse on September 20, 1884:
LET THERE BE LIGHT
Completed in 1885, Manitowaning Lighthouse consists of a square, wooden, pyramidal tower that stands thirty-four feet tall from its base to the weather vane atop its hexagonal lantern room. Thanks to the hill atop which it stands, the lighthouse has a focal plane of eighty feet above Manitowaning Bay and serves as a leading light, directing vessels from the mouth of the bay to the village docks. Benjamin Jones was appointed first keeper of the light on October 3, 1884.
In time for the 1951 season, the light was changed from fixed white to fixed green, which made it easier to distinguish from the other lights in town. John Clarke, the last keeper of the lighthouse, served into the 1960s when the tower was automated.
The Coast Guard had the tower renovated in 1995, just in time for the town’s anniversary the following year. Contractors removed the iron lantern so rotten beams in the upper portion could be replaced, and when put back together, the whole tower was covered in new cedar shake shingles.
Head Keepers: Benjamin Jones (1885 – 1887), Matthew Irving (1888 – 1895), Matthew Hunter (1896 – 1897), Matthew Irving (1898 – 1900), John Gourley, Jr. (1900 – 1912), John J. Morrow (1912 – at least 1923), John Clarke (1936 – 1964).
Located on a hill in the village of Manitowaning, on the north shore of Manitoulin Island. The lighthouse is owned by the Canadian Coast Guard. Grounds open, tower closed.
The lighthouse is owned by the Canadian Coast Guard. Grounds open, tower closed.
Pictures on this page copyright Kraig Anderson, used by permission.