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

1930 - Sketch of old Queen's Wharf in 1837 (Toronto Public Library r-2428)
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 Toronto.

In 1837, for ease of 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

1980's - Queen's Wharf Lighthouse between Fleet St & Lake Shore Blvd W, with Molson's Brewery in background
1980’s – Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse between Fleet St & Lake Shore Blvd W, with Molson’s Brewery in background

In 1861, the original lighthouse was replaced with “Little Red” or the Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse. Little Red had a fog bell and projected a red light and worked in conjunction with a second lighthouse that projected 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.

2020 - Queen's Wharf Lighthouse between Fleet St & Lake Shore Blvd W
2020 – Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse between Fleet St & Lake Shore Blvd W

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.

Little Red received heritage status in 1973. The lighthouse underwent a restoration in 1988 and today, the lighthouse is medium brown in colour with a red top.

Did you know?

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

Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse Photos

1930 - Fleet St extension, loop around Queen's Wharf Lighthouse with Tip Top Tailors & Maple Leaf Stadium
1930 – Fleet St extension, loop around Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse with Tip Top Tailors & Maple Leaf Stadium
Queen's Wharf Lighthouse between Fleet St & Lake Shore Blvd W in Toronto (2020)
Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse between Fleet St & Lake Shore Blvd W in Toronto (2020)
1980's - Queen's Wharf Lighthouse between Fleet St & Lake Shore Blvd W, with Molson's Brewery in background
1980’s – Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse between Fleet St & Lake Shore Blvd W, with Molson’s Brewery in background
1981 - Queen's Wharf Lighthouse between Fleet St & Lake Shore Blvd W
1981 – Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse between Fleet St & Lake Shore Blvd W
1950 to 1969 - Queen's Wharf Lighthouse between Fleet St & Lake Shore Blvd W
1950 to 1969 – Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse between Fleet St & Lake Shore Blvd W
1950 - Queen's Wharf Lighthouse between Fleet St & Lake Shore Blvd W
1950 – Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse between Fleet St & Lake Shore Blvd W
1929 - Queen's Wharf Lighthouse being moved to new location between Fleet St & Lake Shore Blvd W
1929 – Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse being moved to new location between Fleet St & Lake Shore Blvd W
1929 - Queen's Wharf Harbour Master's House & Lighthouse, no longer in service in photo
1929 – Queen’s Wharf Harbour Master’s House & Lighthouse, no longer in service in the photo
1926 - Queen's Wharf, no longer in service in photo (Toronto Public Library 942-1-53)
1926 – Queen’s Wharf, no longer in service in the photo (Toronto Public Library 942-1-53)
1923 - Queen's Wharf Bell House & Lighthouse, no longer in service in photo
1923 – Queen’s Wharf Bell House & Lighthouse, no longer in service in the photo
1925 - Queen's Wharf Harbour Master's House & Lighthouse, no longer in service in photo
1925 – Queen’s Wharf Harbour Master’s House & Lighthouse, no longer in service in the photo
1918 - Queen's Wharf, no longer in service in photo (Toronto Public Library 942-1-54)
1918 – Queen’s Wharf, no longer in service in the photo (Toronto Public Library 942-1-54)
1918 - Queen's Wharf Lighthouse with Maple Leaf Stadium in background (Toronto Public Library 942-1-55)
1918 – Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse with Maple Leaf Stadium in the background (Toronto Public Library 942-1-55)
1910 - Construction of Fleet St at the foot of Bathurst St with Queen's Wharf in background
1910 – Construction of Fleet St at the foot of Bathurst St with Queen’s Wharf in background
1907 - Queen's Wharf
1907 – Queen’s Wharf
Around 1900 - Queen's Wharf (Library and Archives Canada e016153)
Around 1900 – Queen’s Wharf (Library and Archives Canada e016153)
1930 - Sketch of old Queen's Wharf in 1837 (Toronto Public Library r-2428)
1930 – Sketch of old Queen’s Wharf in 1837 (Toronto Public Library r-2428)
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