The Fort Amherst Lighthouse, also known as the Fort Amherst Light, is a lighthouse located in Fort Amherst, Newfoundland and Labrador. The first lighthouse was built at Fort Amherst in 1813, and the current lighthouse (built in 1951) is the third to stand on the site. The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1982 and designated a national historic site in 2014. The lighthouse is currently protected, and the buildings surrounding it are owned by the family of a former keeper.
The original Fort Amherst lighthouse, built around 1813, was Newfoundland’s first. The lighthouse was built by the British inside a fort to defend their claim to Newfoundland and its rich fishing grounds, and it served the region’s expanding fishing and commercial interests. Many captured American ships were towed into the harbour by the lighthouse during the War of 1812. Due to the deterioration of the original lighthouse, a new one was built in 1852. This second lighthouse would become synonymous with naval efforts during wartime, having witnessed military activity during both World Wars.
During WWII, the Canadian Department of National Defense officially took over the lightstation and converted it into a Naval Signal Station and barracks. The current wooden tower was constructed in 1951, while the second lighthouse and fort ruins were demolished a few years later.
St. John’s Harbour, a naturally sheltered and ice-free port, is active all year and is regarded as one of the most important harbours on the East Coast. For over two centuries, the site’s lighthouses have guided vessels of all shapes and sizes, significantly contributing to the region’s socioeconomic development. Fishers from St. John’s and around the world use the lighthouse on their journeys, with the port serving as a stopover for mariners from Spain, Portugal, and Estonia. While the cod fishery in Newfoundland was impacted by the cod moratorium in 1992, other fisheries such as snow crab, scallop, and lobster continue to thrive. The offshore petroleum industry, as well as St. John’s growing popularity with cruise ship companies, has resulted in more visitors.
The Fort Amherst light station is a popular and well-loved destination for both locals and tourists visiting St. John’s. Previously, the site was a gathering place for the community, with tea rooms, a small store, and a museum in operation. Locals have worked hard to preserve memories of the lighthouse through books, recordings, and the formation of preservation groups; in recent years, a descendant of a former lightkeeper has renovated the lightkeeper dwellings into vacation homes. Visitors enjoy the views from the lighthouse, which can include sightings of icebergs and whales, as well as views of the light station from various vantage points throughout the city, including from the water and from Signal Hill across the Narrows. The lighthouse is also prominent in tourist memorabilia in the city.