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Pointe-à-la-Renommée Lighthouse: A Jewel on the North Gaspé Coast

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Matthew Farfan

larger_renommee1.jpgBilled as "the world's most travelled lighthouse," due to the fact that it spent twenty years in the Port of Quebec, the Pointe-à-la-Renommée Lighthouse is by far one of the most spectacular maritime sites on the north Gaspé coast.

The history of the light is an interesting one. The current lighthouse dates to 1906 and was built adjacent to an existing, earlier light dating to 1880. In 1904, the site was chosen by wireless telegraphy pioneer Guglielmo Marconi as the location for the first maritime radio station in North America.

larger_renommee2.jpgThe original lighthouse and attached light keeper's house, both built in 1880, were demolished in 1927. A new house, on the same foundation, was built next to the second lighthouse. The light keeper's house that we see today is a replica of the original dwelling.

larger_renommee3.jpgThe first lighthouse keeper at Pointe-à-la-Renommée was James Ascah. Ascah, who took up residence at the station in 1880, later served as a semaphore and telegraph operator at the site.

The Pointe-à-la-Renommée light operated until 1975, when it was replaced by a solar-powered steel tower erected in the nearby village of l'Anse-à-Valleau.

In 1977, the decommissioned lighthouse was dismantled and transported to the Old Port in Quebec City, where it was reassembled in 1981, and where it stayed as a kind of pier-side tourist attraction until 1997, when the CLD in l'Anse-à-Valleau had it returned to its original location.

The lighthouse is of the prefabricated, cast-iron, construction that common for these structures in the early years of the twentieth century. The 15-metre tower was built by the French firm of Barbier, Rénard & Turenne of Paris.

larger_renommee4.jpgWhat makes this lighthouse so outstanding is, among other reasons, the impeccable way that the entire site is maintained. The lighthouse, which is painted a stunning shade of red, is beautifully kept, as are the grounds.

Guided visits to the top of the lighthouse are possible, as is a promenade on the upper gallery. The lighthouse still boasts its original crystal prism, manufactured in St. Gobain, France. When it was lit, by means of an acetylene burner, the light had a range of up to 80 km (50 miles). On clear days, it was visible as far away as Anticosti Island.

larger_renommee5.jpgThe reconstructed light keeper's house features exhibits of artifacts from the lighthouse's heyday, including a foghorn, spyglasses, model ships, miniatures of the lighthouse and its surroundings, and interpretive panels on the history of the lighthouse and its keepers.

larger_renommee6.jpgPerhaps most impressive of all, however, about Pointe-à-la-Renommée is its location.

To get here, visitors must drive down a steep, four-kilometre gravel road that winds its way from the main highway (Route 132) to a promontory overlooking the windswept north Gaspé coast.

But the view here is awe-inspiring. To the north is wide-open ocean (in reality, we are looking at the mouth of the St. Lawrence, which is about fifty miles across at this point). On a clear day, we can just make out Anticosti Island to the northeast.

larger_renommee7.jpgTo the east and west, the shoreline of the Gaspé coast is rugged and unpopulated, and plunges steeply down to the sea. The lighthouse sits high atop a precipice, overlooking a seemingly endless expanse of sea and sky: the sight is magnificent.

larger_renommee8.jpgFor more information on the Pointe-à-la-Renommée Lighthouse, including opening hours, guided tours and entry fees, click here: