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 Strawberry Island, ON    
Lighthouse best viewed by boat or plane.Photogenic lighthouse or setting.
Description: Strawberry Island lies just west of the northernmost section of Manitoulin Island and its town of Little Current. Vessels using the protected North Channel to sail between Georgian Bay and Lake Superior need to follow an intricate channel that winds between numerous islands. In December 1878, P.M. Campbell, master of the Northern Queen, sent a chart of Lake Huron to the government with red dots indicating where additional lighthouses were needed. “The lights most required at present,” Campbell wrote, “are Cape Robert, Strawberry Island, Papoose Island and Cabot’s Head.” Parliament allocated $1,500 for a lighthouse on Strawberry Island in April 1880, and shortly thereafter tenders were invited for its construction.

Strawberry Island Lighthouse an outbuildings in 1907
Photograph courtesy Library and Archives Canada
The Department of Marine provided the following description of the lighthouse in its report for 1881:

A new lighthouse upon the northernmost point of Strawberry Island, off the north coast of the Great Manitoulin Island, Georgian Bay, was satisfactorily completed and put in operation in September last. A fixed white catoptric light is shown, elevated 40 feet above water mark, and should be visible 11 miles from all points seaward. The building consists of a square wooden tower, 44 feet high, with keeper's dwelling attached.

Charles Taylor was paid $1,545 to construct the lighthouse and E. Chanteloup received $624.70 for the lantern and lighting apparatus. Bryan McKay was appointed the first keeper of at an annual salary of $300, and he would serve five years in this capacity, before William McKenzie, the longest-serving keeper of Strawberry Island Lighthouse, took charge in 1886 at the age of thirty-five. Keeper McKenzie and his wife Mary Jane raised seven children on the island. The family would cross over to Strawberry Island by sleigh in March before the ice melted and leave in October.

In June 1915, the fixed white light shown from Strawberry Island Lighthouse was improved by substituting a fourth-order lens for the lamp and reflector formerly used in the lantern room.

After the lighthouse lost its last resident keeper in the late 1960s, the property has been leased as a summer cottage. Today, the light atop the tower is solar powered, but the dwelling has no electricity or running water.

Strawberry Island Lighthouse in 1935
Photograph courtesy Library and Archives Canada
In 2006, Strawberry Island Lighthouse was declared a Recognized Federal Heritage Building. The following is a portion of the justification for recognizing the building and explains why the lighthouse seems to catch the eye of many a passing sailor:

Its very good aesthetic design, very good functional design, and its good quality craftsmanship and materials, as manifested in:
  • its pleasing proportions and picturesque qualities, characterized by its form, low massing, tapered walls, straight cornice, and cast-iron octagonal lantern set within a railed observation platform;
  • its distinctive profile, consisting of a square tapered tower integrated with an attached one-and-a-half-storey gable-roofed dwelling and shed-roofed kitchen;
  • the vertical alignment of window openings on each of three sides of the tower with pediments projecting from the tapered walls;
  • its simple interior plan, with living space located on each floor of the tower, as well as in the dwelling and kitchen extension, and wooden interior stairs providing access to the light;
  • the use of basic durable materials, such as a wood frame construction clad with clapboard and set on a stone foundation;
  • the use of white colour for the walls and contrasting red colour for the window surrounds, lantern and roofs of the dwelling, which increase the structure’s daytime visibility.


Information on Strawberry Island Lighthouse
History Light Characteristics Focal Height Nominal Range Description/Height of tower above ground
First lit in 1881. White flash every 4 seconds. 14.6 m. - M Square, white tower with attached dwelling. 12.3 m.

Head Keepers: Bryan McKay (1881 – 1886), William McKenzie (1886 – 1921), Carl W.D. Deiter (1921 – 1922), Roxie Smith (1922 – at least 1936), George Alvin Stewart (1941 – 1964), James Young (1964 – 1966).

References

  1. Annual Report of the Department of Marine, various years.
  2. “FBHO Heritage Character Statement Strawberry Island Combined Lighthouse and Dwelling, Strawberry Island, Ontario,” Parks Canada.

Location: Located on the northernmost point of Strawberry Island, roughly 5 km (3.1 miles) east of Little Current.
Latitude: 45.973499
Longitude: -81.854201

For a larger map of Strawberry Island Lighthouse, click the lighthouse in the above map or get a map from: Mapquest.


Travel Instructions: Strawberry Island Lighthouse is best seen by boat, though a distant view is possible from Little Current.

The lighthouse is owned by the Canadian Coast Guard. Grounds/tower closed.

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