Sambro Island, Nova Scotia
Sambro Island Lighttower (Classified)
Sambro Island Gas House (Recognized)
HERITAGE CHARACTER STATEMENT
The Sambro Island lightlower was constructed in 1758 or 1760. Alterations have occurred apace with developments in the technology for lanterns, and in 1906 the tower was raised 20 feet, changing its height from 62 to 82 feet. The lighthouse was designated a national historic site in 1937. The origins of the gas house on the site are obscure; it is known to have existed by 1939. Transport Canada is the custodian of the structures at the site. See FHBRO Building Report 95-34.
Reasons For Designation
The lighttower at Sambro Island was designated Classified for its historical associations, its environmental significance, and also for its architectural design.
One of the most historically important lighthouses in Canada due to its age and its association with Halifax Harbour's marine traffic for over 235 years, this stone and concrete tower is considered the oldest operating lighthouse in North America. It has seen many developments in lighthouse design and apparatus technology, from its beginnings as a massive stone structure with a wood-framed sash-windowed lantern.
The construction of this lighthouse at the approach to Halifax gives evidence of the city's growing maturity at this time, and is one of few remaining structures from this period. Inherently a landmark, the lighthouse dominates Sambro Island and has a considerable presence within the larger community.
The nearby gas house was designated Recognized largely for its environmental significance as a character reinforcing component of the cultural landscape that is Sambro Island.
Character Defining Elements
The heritage value of the lighttower and gas house at Sambro Island reside in their simple yet elegant functional design, surviving early materials, and site relationships. The simple well-proportioned tower is octagonal and tapered, with a flaring lantern platform and a small, utilitarian aluminum lantern. The stone and concrete shaft with narrow slit openings is concealed under wooden shingles, which have been painted in alternating red and white bands. The profile and massing of the station should not be altered. The original portion of the tower is built of cut granite, five feet thick at the base and tapering to four feet where it joins the concrete extension added in 1906-07. A thick hardwood column supports a winding wooden staircase which climbs up through the tower's center. Structural interventions in the 1950s introduced additional concrete and reinforcing to stabilize the listing structure, and grouted the masonry at the base. Any further interventions should be based on an understanding of the original structural concept, and on the principles of reversibility and minimal intervention. The advice of a conservation professional with experience in stone and concrete preservation is recommended for any intervention.
The light apparatus and related elements are integral to the function, and therefore the character, of the structure and should be maintained in place, with attention given to ensuring proper protection of metal surfaces. Paint types and colours should be based on precedent. The shingles should be renewed when they reach the end of their service life. The colour scheme - wide bands of red and white - dates from 1 908 and provides a distinctive identity for the structure which should be protected.
The gas house, a shingled building of simple design and pleasing proportions, is nestled close to the water's edge on a prominent platform made of large dry-laid granite blocks. Its massing is of interest, with small gabled enclosures projecting from two facades. The utilitarian placement of windows and doors is in keeping with the functional character of the site and should not be altered. The wood-shingled roof is in keeping with the materials of the site. The sidewall shingles are extremely weathered and will require replacement in kind. Careful attention should be paid to ensuring that the openings are weatherproof and that roof intersections are properly flashed to keep water out of the structure. The brick chimney with simple corbelling at the upper courses merits masonry conservation expertise.
The character of Sambro Island and its built heritage remains virtually unchanged. The lighthouse, by its very function and design, has been the dominant structure on the island since its completion ca.1760. The gas house and a number of small wooden structures, including a fog alarm building, are scattered across the rugged, exposed site and act as an appropriate foil to the lighthouse. The simple, utilitarian character of the site should be protected.
Contributor: Kathy Brown
Sources: The Sea Road to Halifax, Hugh F. Pullen; The Lighthouse, Dudley Whitney; Lighthouses and Lightships, Lee Chadwick; Rip Irwin, in conversation, and in articles in The Lightkeeper, newsletter of the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society.