Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse – “Little Red” Built in 1861

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1930 - Sketch of old Queen's Wharf in 1837
1930 – Sketch of old Queen’s Wharf in 1837 (Toronto Public Library R-2428)

The Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse is located between Fleet St and Lake Shore Blvd W (west of Bathurst St) in the Niagara neighbourhood of Toronto. The lighthouse is encircled by the TTC streetcar Fleet Loop.

In 1837, to ease unloading supplies heading to Fort York, the British Parliament granted funds for a wharf to be built at the foot of Bathurst St. Known as Queen’s Wharf, it was completed in 1838 and had a small lighthouse. At that time, the western entrance of the harbour was the only channel entering or exiting Toronto’s harbour (the Eastern Gap did not exist until 1858).

Little Red & the Wharf

Between 1980 and 1988 – Looking northeast towards the Queen's Wharf Lighthouse with Molson's Brewery in the background
Between 1980 and 1988 – Looking northeast towards the Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse with Molson’s Brewery in the background (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 359, Item 23)

In 1861, the original lighthouse was replaced with “Little Red” or the Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse. Little Red had a fog bell, projected a red light, and worked in conjunction with a second lighthouse that cast a white light. When the red lantern was aligned with the white range light, that indicated to the vessels the approach to the harbour.

Little Red and the keeper’s house, which stood beside it on the wharf, was designed by architect Kivas Tully. Little Red is a wooden structure, and while square, it has trimmed corners giving it an octagonal shape.

With their red and white beacons, the lighthouses helped navigate more than 300,000 vessels into the harbour’s west entrance, past the sand spit and into Toronto’s port. At the time, their lamps were fueled by whale oil.

The lighthouses were in service until 1911. They were no longer needed as the new western channel into the harbour was completed. In 1918, the white range lighthouse was destroyed by fire.

March 29, 2024 – Looking north towards a recently restored "Little Red," on Lake Shore Blvd W, wet of Bathurst St. The restoration process involved replacing old cedar shingles, repairing damaged wood, and applying a coat of red paint to live up to its name
March 29, 2024 – Looking north towards a recently restored “Little Red,” on Lake Shore Blvd W, wet of Bathurst St

The Relocation of Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse

For several years, Toronto’s waterfront had been undergoing lake filling. In 1929, to save Little Red from demolition during the lake filling, it was moved using wooden rollers and pulled to where it stands today—about 450 m west of the original foot of Bathurst St.

Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse was granted heritage status in 1973. In 1988, it underwent a restoration, which included a fresh coat of paint – a medium brown base with a red top.

Fast-forward to 2023, and Little Red, as it is affectionately known, was once again restored. The process involved replacing old cedar shingles, repairing damaged wood, and applying a coat of red paint to live up to its name.

For decades, this beautiful little lighthouse has been an integral part of the city’s waterfront landscape, and its restoration ensures that it will continue to be a cherished landmark for generations to come.

Did You Know?

Queen’s Wharf was originally going to be called Government Wharf or King’s Wharf, but the name was changed in 1837 when Queen Victoria ascended to the throne.

Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse Photos

1930 - Queen's Wharf Lighthouse with Tip Top Tailors and Maple Leaf Stadium in the background. Notice the Fleet St TTC streetcar loop encircling the lighthouse
1930 – Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse with Tip Top Tailors and Maple Leaf Stadium in the background. Notice the Fleet St TTC streetcar loop encircling the lighthouse (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Series Item 21235)
March 29, 2024 – The Queen's Wharf Lighthouse underwent restoration recently. It's always great to see historical landmarks being preserved and maintained for future generations to enjoy
March 29, 2024 – The Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse underwent restoration recently. It’s always great to see historical landmarks being preserved and maintained for future generations to enjoy
2020 - Queen's Wharf Lighthouse or Little Red is located between Fleet St and Lake Shore Blvd W in the Niagara neighbourhood of Toronto
2020 – Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse or Little Red is located between Fleet St and Lake Shore Blvd W in the Niagara neighbourhood of Toronto
Between 1980 and 1988 – Looking northeast towards the Queen's Wharf Lighthouse with Molson's Brewery in the background
Between 1980 and 1988 – Looking northeast towards the Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse with Molson’s Brewery in the background (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 359, Item 23)
1981 - The Queen's Wharf Lighthouse is located between Fleet St and Lake Shore Blvd W, west of Bathurst St in the Niagara neighbourhood of Toronto
1981 – The Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse is located between Fleet St and Lake Shore Blvd W, west of Bathurst St in the Niagara neighbourhood of Toronto (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 60, Item 1)
March 29, 2024 – Looking north towards a recently restored "Little Red," on Lake Shore Blvd W, wet of Bathurst St. The restoration process involved replacing old cedar shingles, repairing damaged wood, and applying a coat of red paint to live up to its name
March 29, 2024 – Looking north towards a recently restored “Little Red,” on Lake Shore Blvd W, wet of Bathurst St. The restoration process involved replacing old cedar shingles, repairing damaged wood, and applying a coat of red paint to live up to its name
Between 1950 and 1960s - The Queen's Wharf Lighthouse is located between Fleet St and Lake Shore Blvd W. Notice the TTC streetcar on the right
Between 1950 and 1960s – The Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse is located between Fleet St and Lake Shore Blvd W. Notice the TTC streetcar on the right (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 492, Item 139)
March 12, 1931 – Looking northeast towards the horse-drawn snow plow in front of Queen's Wharf Lighthouse on Fleet St in the Niagara neighbourhood of Toronto
March 12, 1931 – Looking northeast towards the horse-drawn snow plow in front of Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse on Fleet St in the Niagara neighbourhood of Toronto (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 23376)
2022 – Looking northwest towards the Queen's Wharf Lighthouse and the Fleet St TTC streetcar loop located in the Niagara neighbourhood of Toronto
2022 – Looking northwest towards the Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse and the Fleet St TTC streetcar loop located in the Niagara neighbourhood of Toronto
March 18, 1936 – Looking northwest towards the Queen's Wharf Lighthouse on Fleet St in the Niagara neighbourhood of Toronto. Notice the Princes' Gates on the far left and Fort York Armoury at 660 Fleet St on the right
March 18, 1936 – Looking northwest towards the Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse on Fleet St in the Niagara neighbourhood of Toronto. Notice the Princes’ Gates on the far left and Fort York Armoury at 660 Fleet St on the right (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 11281)
2022 – Looking northwest towards the Queen's Wharf Lighthouse, or Little Red, is located between Fleet St and Lake Shore Blvd W in the Niagara neighbourhood of Toronto
2022 – Looking northwest towards the Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse, or Little Red, is located between Fleet St and Lake Shore Blvd W in the Niagara neighbourhood of Toronto
March 29, 2024 – Looking northwest towards "Little Red" at the TTC streetcar Fleet St loop on Lake Shore Blvd W, west of Bathurst St. The historical landmark recently underwent a restoration
March 29, 2024 – Looking northwest towards “Little Red” at the TTC streetcar Fleet St loop on Lake Shore Blvd W, west of Bathurst St. The historical landmark recently underwent a restoration
1950 - Queen's Wharf Lighthouse between Fleet St & Lake Shore Blvd W
1950 – Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse between Fleet St & Lake Shore Blvd W (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1128, File 380, Item 46)
2022 – Looking north towards the Queen's Wharf Lighthouse, or Little Red in the Niagara neighbourhood of Toronto
2022 – Looking north towards the Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse, or Little Red in the Niagara neighbourhood of Toronto
1929 - Queen's Wharf Lighthouse is being moved to the new location between Fleet St & Lake Shore Blvd W in the Niagara neighbourhood of Toronto
1929 – Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse is being moved to the new location between Fleet St & Lake Shore Blvd W in the Niagara neighbourhood of Toronto (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 18723)
March 29, 2024 – Looking east towards the Queen's Wharf Lighthouse and heritage plaque. In 2023, the landmark underwent a restoration, which included new cedar shingles, wood repairs, and a fresh coat of red paint
March 29, 2024 – Looking east towards the Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse and heritage plaque. In 2023, the landmark underwent a restoration, which included new cedar shingles, wood repairs, and a fresh coat of red paint
January 31, 1929 - Queen's Wharf Harbour Master's House and the Lighthouse at the foot of Bathurst St. The Queen's Wharf Lighthouse was no longer in service in the photo
January 31, 1929 – Queen’s Wharf Harbour Master’s House and the Lighthouse at the foot of Bathurst St. The Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse was no longer in service in the photo (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 15655)
1926 - Queen's Wharf Lighthouse was no longer in service in the photo at the foot of Bathurst St
1926 – Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse was no longer in service in the photo at the foot of Bathurst St (Toronto Public Library 942-1-53)
2022 – Looking northwest towards the Queen's Wharf Lighthouse and the Fleet St TTC streetcar loop located in the Niagara neighbourhood of Toronto
2022 – Looking northwest towards the Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse and the Fleet St TTC streetcar loop located in the Niagara neighbourhood of Toronto
Circa 1926 – The Queen's Wharf Lighthouse at Bathurst St and Fleet St in the Niagara neighbourhood of Toronto
Circa 1926 – The Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse at Bathurst St and Fleet St in the Niagara neighbourhood of Toronto (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Series Item 10075)
1923 - Queen's Wharf Bell House and Lighthouse was no longer in service in the photo
1923 – Queen’s Wharf Bell House and Lighthouse was no longer in service in the photo (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1548, Series 393 Item 18434)
1925 - Queen's Wharf Harbour Master's House and Lighthouse was no longer in service in the photo
1925 – Queen’s Wharf Harbour Master’s House and Lighthouse was no longer in service in the photo (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266 Item 5953)
1918 - Queen's Wharf Lighthouse was no longer in service in the photo
1918 – Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse was no longer in service in the photo (Toronto Public Library 942-1-54)
1926 - Queen's Wharf Lighthouse with Maple Leaf Stadium in the background
1926 – Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse with Maple Leaf Stadium in the background (Toronto Public Library 942-1-55)
Circa 1910 - Construction of Fleet St at the foot of Bathurst St with Queen's Wharf Lighthouse in the background
Circa 1910 – Construction of Fleet St at the foot of Bathurst St with Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse in the background (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 7073)
1907 - Looking northeast towards the white range lighthouse on the left, "Little Red" in the centre background and the Harbour Master's House on the right on Queen's Wharf, which was once at the foot of Bathurst St
1907 – Looking northeast towards the white range lighthouse on the left, “Little Red” in the centre background and the Harbour Master’s House on the right on Queen’s Wharf, which was once at the foot of Bathurst St (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 187)
2022 – Looking north towards the Queen's Wharf Lighthouse, or Little Red in the Niagara neighbourhood of Toronto
2022 – Looking north towards the Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse, or Little Red in the Niagara neighbourhood of Toronto
November 4, 2023 – The Queen's Wharf Lighthouse covered by scaffolding during renovations
November 4, 2023 – The Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse covered by scaffolding during renovations
Circa 1900 – Notice the white range lighthouse on the left, "Little Red" in the centre background and the Harbour Master's House on the right on Queen's Wharf
Circa 1900 – Notice the white range lighthouse on the left, “Little Red” in the centre background and the Harbour Master’s House on the right on Queen’s Wharf (Library and Archives Canada e016153)
2023 - Queen's Wharf Rd located in the Harbourfront-CityPlace neighbourhood of Toronto
2023 – Queen’s Wharf Rd located in the Harbourfront-CityPlace neighbourhood of Toronto
2022 - The heritage plaque reads:

Queen's Wharf Lighthouse
 
"Now landlocked on Fleet Street, this Lighthouse once stood on the Queen's Wharf. The wharf - originally known as New Pier - was built in 1833 to stimulate commercial activity in the west part of the harbour.

This Lighthouse, constructed in 1861 on the north side of the west extension, was the second built for the Queen's Wharf. Noted architect Kivas Tully, later architect of the Ontario Department of Public Works, designed its octagonal plan for what became, in 1911, the Toronto Harbour Commission. The Queen's Wharf Lighthouse, along with a lighthouse farther west on the pier, guided ships safely into the western harbour.

Beginning in the 1880s, the area west of Queen's Wharf was filled with lake dredging. The old channel into the harbour could not be maintained, and in 1911, the Lighthouse was decommissioned. In 1929, the Toronto Harbour Commission transferred ownership of the Lighthouse to the City of Toronto. The Lighthouse was moved to its present site later that year."

City of Toronto Inventory of Heritage Properties - Heritage Toronto 2012
2022 – The heritage plaque reads:

Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse

“Now landlocked on Fleet Street, this Lighthouse once stood on the Queen’s Wharf. The wharf – originally known as New Pier – was built in 1833 to stimulate commercial activity in the west part of the harbour. This Lighthouse, constructed in 1861 on the north side of the west extension, was the second built for the Queen’s Wharf. Noted architect Kivas Tully, later architect of the Ontario Department of Public Works, designed its octagonal plan for what became, in 1911, the Toronto Harbour Commission. The Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse, along with a lighthouse farther west on the pier, guided ships safely into the western harbour. Beginning in the 1880s, the area west of Queen’s Wharf was filled with lake dredging. The old channel into the harbour could not be maintained, and in 1911, the Lighthouse was decommissioned. In 1929, the Toronto Harbour Commission transferred ownership of the Lighthouse to the City of Toronto. The Lighthouse was moved to its present site later that year.”

City of Toronto Inventory of Heritage Properties – Heritage Toronto 2012
September 29, 1981 - The heritage plaque reads:

Queen's Wharf Lighthouse
 
"This Lighthouse, was built in 1861, stood on the Queen's Wharf 450 metres to the east, near the original foot of Bathurst Steet, and marked the only navigable entrance to Toronto Harbour at the time. It supported a fog bell and a red lantern which, when aligned with a white range light, indicated the approach to the harbour. In service until 1911, it became redundant when a new western channel was established. The Lighthouse was moved to this site in 1929." 

Toronto Historical Board 1978
September 29, 1981 – The heritage plaque reads:

Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse

“This Lighthouse, was built in 1861, stood on the Queen’s Wharf 450 metres to the east, near the original foot of Bathurst Steet, and marked the only navigable entrance to Toronto Harbour at the time. It supported a fog bell and a red lantern which, when aligned with a white range light, indicated the approach to the harbour. In service until 1911, it became redundant when a new western channel was established. The Lighthouse was moved to this site in 1929.”

Toronto Historical Board 1978 (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 60, Item 4)
September 29, 1981 - The heritage plaque reads:

The Queen's Wharf Lighthouse 

"This Lighthouse was built in 1861 and stood on the Queen's Wharf 500yds east of here. It marked the western entrance to Toronto Harbour until 1911. To save it from demolition during land filling of the waterfront it was moved to this site in 1929." 

  Administered by Toronto Historical Board
September 29, 1981 – The heritage plaque reads:

The Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse

“This Lighthouse was built in 1861 and stood on the Queen’s Wharf 500yds east of here. It marked the western entrance to Toronto Harbour until 1911. To save it from demolition during land filling of the waterfront it was moved to this site in 1929.”

Administered by Toronto Historical Board (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 60, Item 3)
1930 - Sketch of old Queen's Wharf in 1837
1930 – Sketch of old Queen’s Wharf in 1837 (Toronto Public Library R-2428)
SOURCE

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