In 1875, the village of Lion’s Head consisted of only a post office and one store, the only store in the township, but just four years later, the village boasted several dwellings, two hotels, a grist mill, a saw mill, a blacksmith shop, and about 100 residents. A sandbar at the entrance to the village’s harbour prevented its use until 1883, when the Canadian government dredged a thirteen-foot channel.
The first light to mark Lion’s Head Harbour, a square, tubular lantern hoisted atop a pole, was established in 1903 on the outer end of the breakwater at a cost of $197.16. This fixed red light, which had a height of twenty feet above the lake and could be seen for up to six miles, was first cared for by Charles Knapp, a former shoemaker, who received an annual salary of seventy-five dollars.
In 1913, J.C. Kennedy of Owen Sound was paid $825.22 to construct a square, pyramidal tower on the breakwater. That November, Hurricane-force winds accompanying the Great Storm of 1913 knocked the new tower off its perch. Recovered from the beach south of the harbour by John H. Tyndall, the tower was repaired and restored to a position on the pier by W.B. Lemont at a cost of $342.60.
It wasn’t wind but rather fire that damaged the tower in 1933. In the end, however, it wasn’t wind, fire, or water that did in the little lighthouse, but rather the Canadian Coast Guard, who dismantled the tower in 1969, burned its remains in the local landfill, and replaced it with a nondescript metal tower topped by a flashing light. Enraged by the unannounced destruction of their cherished lighthouse, locals pressed the Coast Guard for an explanation and were told that the old lighthouse was “rotten beyond repair.”
Using the plans for the original lighthouse, students at the Bruce Peninsula District School finished a replica in 1983 under the direction of teacher Brian Swanton and assisted with funds from the Lion’s Head Rotary Club. The students’ tower wasn’t a replacement for the metal light tower on the breakwater but rather sat unlit on the nearby shoreline. Then in 2000, a violent spring storm damaged the metal pole, and the Coast Guard decided to replace it with the student-built replica. A proper functioning lighthouse proudly marked Lion’s Head Harbour again until a powerful storm in January 2020 demolished the tower. A piar of storms during the previous fall had damaged the lighthouse, but the winter storm swept it off its foundation and left it in numerous pieces.
Officials of Northern Bruce Peninsula immediately announced that they were committed to rebuilding the lighthouse. The municipality decided to accept donations and volunteer help so the local community could take ownership of the rebuild. A small team of volunteers, led by the now retired Brian Swanton along with Doug Hill, a local builder, worked during several weekends over the summer on the tower. On September 21, 2020, the four walls were lifted into place on a new foundation located roughly twenty feet back from its earlier location where it will not be as exposed.
Description/Height of tower above ground
Present tower dates from 1983.
White. 2 seconds on, 2 seconds off.
White tower, red lantern. 8.6 m.
Head Keepers: Charles Knapp (1903 – 1912), Peter Webster Brady (1912 – 1924), Ivan Butchart (1924 – 1956), Ed Rouse (1956 – 1969).