For those who may wish to stand at the most easterly place in North America, Cape Spear is your answer! It is now a national historic site, after many years of providing continuous service as an manned lighthouse. To get there, head west from downtown St. John's towards the Harbour Arterial. Just past the west end of St. John's Harbour, swing left and over the hill, and then follow the road back east about 10 kilometers (6 miles) to the Cape Spear parking lot. You will lots of hiking trails and spectacular scenery at this spot so bring your walking shoes and a camera.
Although Newfoundland had been inhabited for at least two centuries, it wasn't until 1810 that the first sea navigational light was established at Fort Amherst, on the south shore entrance of St. John's Harbour. In 1832, the Newfoundland legislative assembly authorized the construction of a second lighthouse, this time further east at Cape Spear, but still in sight of the harbour entrance. In September 1836, the lighthouse was operational, a two story structure with the light tower set in the middle of the building. A fog horn was added in 1878 to help guide mariners into St. John's Harbour in all weather conditions.
Many different light systems were used since 1836, including a variety of fuel sources. Electricity finally became available in 1930 and in 1955, the light system was moved to an unmanned tower near the original site.
During the second world war, Cape Spear was used by allied forces to protect the entrance to St. John's Harbour. Two 10 inch guns were constructed in concrete bunkers at the tip of the Cape. In fact, a German U-boat did fire two torpedoes into the harbour in 1942 but no serious damage occurred. The site today has been restored to the conditions and furnishings that the lighthouse keepers experienced in the 1840s. There is a visitor information center and a gift shop. Tour guides are available to help you interpret the history of Cape Spear. Hiking trails connect several on site observation and information centers. A longer hiking trail (3 to 4 hours) leads west over a very scenic route to Maddox Cove.
For more information, you can write to the Area Superintendant, East Coast National Historic Sites, P.O. Box 1268, St. John's, Newfoundland, A1C 5M9.
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