Toronto Through My Lens

Gibraltar Point Lighthouse

For today’s TOcityscapes we’ll go outside the city just a bit – out to the Toronto Islands, specifically, to take a look at the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse.

The Gibraltar Point Lighthouse was Toronto’s first lighthouse. It was built in 1808, was originally 52 feet tall, and had a fixed white light that burned sperm oil. In 1832, the lighthouse was raised an additional 30 feet to bring the total height to 82 feet. At this point, an improved lighting system was installed. After 1863, coal oil was used to light the tower.

John P. Rademuller was hired as the first keeper of the lighthouse. He served there until he met a tragic end, as reported in the January 14, 1815 edition of the York Gazette:

Died on the evening of the 2nd of January, J.P. Rademuller, keeper of the lighthouse on Gibraltar Point. From circumstances there is moral proof of his having been murdered. If the horrid crime admits of aggravation when the inoffensive and benevolent character of the unfortunate sufferer are considered, his murder will be pronounced most barbarous and inhuman. The parties lost with him are the proposed perpetrators and are in prison.

Three months later, the Gazette reported: No conviction of the supposed murderers of the late J.P. Rademuller. Though the details of what happened that night in January 1815 have been lost, legend has it that soldiers from the York Garrison visited Gibraltar Point that night to obtain beer from Lighthouse Keeper Rademuller. Some accounts say the Keeper refused to sell to the soldiers, and others claim he overcharged them, but all agree that the soldiers became enraged, killed the Keeper, and disposed of his body.

James Durnan and his son George, who between them kept the light from 1832 to 1905, were both known to talk about the murder of the lighthouse’s first Keeper, and in 1893, George Durnan uncovered a jaw bone on the point. Due to the mystery surrounding the demise of Keeper J.P. Rademuller, rumours persist to this day that Gibraltar Point Lighthouse is haunted.

The lighthouse was electrified during the winter of 1916–1917 and Blake Matthews, the light’s last official Keeper, left the following year.

The characteristic of the automated lighthouse was changed in 1945 from flashing white to fixed green, and it retained this latter signature until it was deactivated in 1959 and replaced by a nearby tripod tower that displayed a flashing red light.

Metro Parks took over lighthouse operations and made renovations in 1961-62. Currently unused, the lighthouse is occasionally open for public tours, including the annual Doors Open Toronto weekend.


  1. Bob K

    I love that Toronto has a number of lighthouses around … a reminder of our maritime heritage.

  2. David

    You know I have seen this lighthouse a million times. Never gone up because it is closed, but it sure it a sight to see. Love the stories surrounding it also.

  3. Despina

    Well if it’s haunted then it is worth going!

    Now I can’t wait for Open Doors.

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