|Blockhouse Point, PE|
Description: Blockhouse Point Lighthouse is located on the west side of the entrance to Charlottetown Harbour, overlooking Northumberland Strait on the south shore of Prince Edward Island. This historic area was the site of large Mi'kmaq gatherings each summer. In 1720, the French established a settlement called Port-la-Joye nearby, and in 1758 the British built Fort Amherst to assert control over the area.
In the Journal of the House of Assembly for Prince Edward Island of 1846, it is recorded that Thomas Owen was paid £10 for “the expense occurred by him in constructing a Lanthorn at the Blockhouse, as a Harbour Light for Charlottetown, and keeping the same in operation.” Given the amount spent on establishing the light, it was likely a makeshift affair.
In 1856, a more substantial structure was constructed as indicated by the following expenditures. John Smallwood was paid £46 “for building and fitting up a place on the upper part of the Block-house for a light” using 11,000 ft. hemlock boards, 24lbs. wrought nails, 3,000 ft. pine plank, and six lights of plate glass. James Millner was then paid £25 to supply zinc, sheet iron, copper and labour to make the lighthouse “secure from fire.” Finally, George W. Millner was paid £2 to paint the exterior and interior of the lantern.
A year after Prince Edward Island joined the Confederation of the Dominion of Canada in 1873, the General Superintendent of lighthouses toured the island and found its lighthouses and lighting apparatus were very inferior and required “large amounts of repairs and improvements.” The following observations were made for the Blockhouse Point Lighthouse. “The buildings at this station are so much decayed by age as scarcely to merit repair, and it was thought advisable to perform only slight temporary repairs, till arrangements could be made to erect a new light-house and dwelling. It is proposed to erect a tower of the height of 30 feet to show a fixed white light to all points of approach, and to show also a powerful red light in the direction of the outer buoy on Governor Island Reef.”
After Parliament appropriated $4,000 for a new lighthouse on Blockhouse Point, the current structure was built in 1876 by James W. Butcher at a contract price of $2,750. The lighthouse was built of wood and consists of a square tower, 12.8 metres (42 feet) high, attached to a dwelling. The surrounding red sandstone cliffs contribute to give the light a focal plane of 18.3 metres (60 feet) above the water. Besides the main fixed white light in the lantern room, a red light was shown from a lower window to lead mariners to a bell buoy in Hillsboro Bay.
Blockhouse Point Lighthouse is a considerable structure, the tower being broad and short and the two-storey, flat-roofed dwelling being larger than most. The flared cornices on the tower and dwelling and the pedimented tower windows were installed between 1890 and 1914. The cornices were originally bracketed and the tower windows were similar to the windows presently on the dwelling.
The dwelling consists of a kitchen, a parlor and two bedrooms on the ground floor and four more bedrooms and a bathroom on the upper floor. The inside of the tower is lined with ‘tongue-and-groove wallboarding.’ The beacon was originally a catoptric light, but in 1909 a more efficient fourth-order Fresnel lens was installed with a mercury vapour light source. The present seven-foot, octagonal lantern room was put in place the following year. The current signature of the light is a three-second flash, followed by a one-second eclipse.
Made unnecessary by the establishment of the Hazard Range Lights, the red light shown from a window in the Blockhouse Point Lighthouse was discontinued with the opening of navigation in 1890.
Blockhouse Point Lighthouse has seen a few alterations over the years. A porch that ran down the dwelling's south elevation was removed along with a balustrade on the dwelling's roof and an attached shed.
Several keepers have served at Blockhouse Point Lighthouse. Archibald McLaine was appointed keeper in 1867; Alex S. McNeil was made keeper in 1901; Nelson Currie was appointed keeper on May 6th, 1912. William Stanley Taylor became keeper of the light on October 15th, 1936, a position he would hold until February 3rd, 1963. He then took on the role of caretaker of the lighthouse until January 1st, 1967. The lighthouse was automated on July 25th, 1962.
Merrill Taylor, son of Keeper Taylor, leased the lighthouse as a summer residence for several years until the Coast Guard discontinued the Blockhouse Point lease and one for the New London Rear Range Lighthouse in 2000.
The Blockhouse Point Lighthouse has twice escaped planned replacement, first in 1963-64 and again in 1969-70.
Keepers: Thomas Owen (1846 – 1852) William Coates (1853 – 1854), John Jamieson (1853 – 1854), Thomas Smith (1855 – 1858), Neil Campbell (1859 – 1866), Archibald McLaine (1867 – 1900), Alexander S. McNeil (1901 – 1912), Nelson W. Currie (1912 – 1936), William Stanley Taylor (1936 – 1963).
Located on the west side of the entrance to Charlottetown Harbour. 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.