Cape Spear Lighthouse – Blackhead Road, Cape Spear, St. John’s, NL A1C 5H2

Lighthouses full of both of both technical functionality and architectural beauty, built on remote sites strategically scattered around the provincial coastline, stand tall and remind us of our rich maritime history.

During the second half of the 19th century and into the first decade of the 20th century when Newfoundland was still a British Colony, nearly all of its economy was dependent upon the sea. Also, at this time,  shipping lanes were crucial to the development of the Canadian economy.

With this marine activity the demand for safe navigable waters grew, which lead to an increased demand for lights and buoys in and around the coast lines of both the colony of Newfoundland and of Canada.

The first light station in Newfoundland & Labrador was constructed in 1813 at Fort Amherst near “the narrows”, the entrance to the St. John’s Harbour. Cape Spear Lighthouse (1836) is the most eastern lighthouse in North America and the oldest surviving lighthouse in Newfoundland and Labrador. The site is a National Historic Site of Canada.

Almost 200 years since the first lighthouse was built in this province, many of these historic lighthouses are still operating as part of the Canadian Coast Guard’s system of navigational aids.

During the 19th century the Colony’s economy was dependent upon the sea. Increasing marine activity necessitated the establishment of a chain of lighthouses along the coast. The number grew quickly from one in 1833 to forty four by 1890. From 1874 onwards, Trinity House, the Northern Lighthouse Board of Scotland, and the distinguished lighthouse engineer Robert Stevenson, advised the Lighthouse Commission.

Most of these structures or their replacements still exist and those at Cape Spear (1836) (above) and Cape Bonavista (1843) (see International Sites) are now historic museums.