East Quoddy Head Light
(Head Harbour Light)
The lightstation at Head Harbour, one of the
oldest lightstations in Canada, has a long history
as an aid to navigation in the Bay of Fundy and
Passanmquoddy Bay It is located at the northern
extremity of Campobello Island, which is the
largest of a number of Islands in the area of
Passamaquoddy Bay near the Maine-New
Brunswick border.The light is known to local
residents as "Head Harbour Light".
Campobello Island is closer to the coast of Maine
than to the mainland of New Brunswick. Twelve
miles by sea to St. Andrew's, its road link with
the Canadian mainland is by way of a bridge to
Lubec, Maine and a sixty-mile drive through that
state to St. Stephen.
During the Napoleonic Wars, when Britain and
the United States were engaged in economic
warfare, the town of Eastport on the Maine shore
line across from Campobello Island grew rapidly
as a smuggling centre.
On the New Brunswick side, Campobello became
a transfer point for trade as well. As the Islanders
said,"That's why fogs were made".
Although the illicit trade declined by the 1820s,
general trade flourished and traffic grew in the
narrows between Campobello Island and the
Fishing, shipping and shipbuilding were very
important activities in Passamaquoddy Bay but
the famous Fundy fogs, the high tides, and the
treacherous rocks and shoals around the islands
near Campobello Island presented considerable
difficulty to this marine community. The volume
of coastal trade along the Bay of Fundy and the
coast of Maine increased with the 19th century,
and the chain of lights in the dangerous
Passamaquoddy area was strengthened by a
number of other lights.
The first light in the region was the American
West Quoddy Light, established in 1808 on the
Maine coast at about the level of the southern
point of Campobello Island. The first light in
New Brunswick was established in 1791 at St.
John Harbour. The second was in 1829 at Head
Harbour, where it was felt that "trade would be
benefitted and possibly vessels and lives saved" if
the point were lit. An upgraded fog alarm was
installed at Head Harbour in 1880 in response to
repeated requests from mariners, and in 1885 a
second light was established on Campobello
Island at MulhoUand Point near the site of the
modem bridge to Maine.
Today the waterways in the region are still busy,
and the natural hazards to navigation have not
diminished. The Head Harbour light continues,
after over 150 years to provide an essential service
to the marine community in the area. The Head
Harbour lightstation is about two and a half
miles from the nearest community, Wilson's
Beach. The rocky outcropping on which the
station is set becomes an island at high tide and
it is connected with the main body of the island
by more of these rocky quasi-islands.
A road fiom Wilson's Beach runs to a spot within
walking distance of the lightstation. Beyond that
point, the station is accessible by foot at low tide.
At the time it was built, the station was relatively
isolated, and it is unlikely that its establishment
played any significant role in the development
of any community.
The Lighttower is a white, wood, shingle-clad,
tapered octagonal structure about 51' high. It
was built in 1829 of heavy timber construction;
The original lantern was replaced by the present
cast iron model in 1887 The distinctive daymark
in the form of a red cross has been on the tower
at least since Confederation. It was placed there
to distinguish the tower from windrows of snow
in late winter and early spring.
The principal decorative touches are the flared
cornice supporting the lantern base and the
shaped hoods over the windows which have been
replaced on all but one of the faces of the tower.
The tower is attached by a covered walkway to
the dwelling, and it is also accessible from
outside by a door on the southerly side.
Towers with attached dwellings were very
practical in exposed locations where outdoor
activity in stormy weather was potentially very
dangerous.The original stone foundation has been
covered by cement. While the structure has been
reshingled and painted many times, and the
daymark extended to all elevations, photographs
show that since 1902, at least, the appearance of
the tower has changed very little.
The Head Harbour lightstation is now fully
automated, and there is no keeper in residence
there now. The dwelling is used only rarely when
work is being done at the site and personnel have
to stay more than one day.
The Head Harbour lighttower is a well-preserved,
historical example of early lighthouse construction
in Canada. The picturesque grouping of Coast
Guard buildings at Head Harbour is a classic
example of the lightstation as a cultural
The Head Harbour lightstation is very well
known. Pictures of the site appear frequently in
local and provincial tourist literature, and
photographs have been featured on many
As tourism has increased on Campobello Island,
the picturesque setting and the abundance of
wild birds at the site have induced numbers of
visitors to clamber at low tide over the rocks to
the point. The tower, with its distinctive red
cross, is a familiar landmark to mariners, tourists
and residents of Passamaquoddy Bay.
Almost all of the above information is from:
FEDERAL HERITAGE BUILDINGS REVIEW
OFFICE 07/02/91 BUILDING REPORT: 90-284
TITLE: 4 Lightstation Buildings (Tower, Dwelling,
Fog Alarm Building and Work Shed)
Head Harbour Lightstation Campobello Island,
New Brunswick Canada
Margaret Coleman, Architectural History Branch