Description of Historic Place
The Caponier at Fort Wellington is located at the Fort Wellington National Historic Site of Canada, which overlooks the St. Lawrence River. Jutting out of the earthworks into the south ditch, the Caponier is a simple defensive structure with low masonry walls laid in a U-shaped footprint. Regularly placed musket loopholes pierce the thick walls and contribute to its military appearance. The curved southern end of the structure is followed by the elegant curve of the pitched roof. The northern end of the structure disappears into the earthworks, where it narrows to a tunnel leading under the earthen mound and out into the fort interior. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The Caponier at Fort Wellington is a Recognized Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values.
The Caponier, as part of Fort Wellington, is one of the best examples of a building associated with the period of active defence of Upper Canada, in the context of the upper St. Lawrence frontier in the post-Rebellion era. The threat of an American invasion prompted military authorities to upgrade the principal fortifications in Upper Canada and to improve the defensible works along the Rideau Canal. Fort Wellington was a “revolt station” or a focal point for the militia in the event of a crisis. As part of the fort, the Caponier is also broadly related to the development of the garrison community within the fort, and with the development of the town of Prescott in the late 1830s and the 1840s, when military affairs and the military presence dominated the community. The fort has been operated as a National Historic Site of Canada by Parks Canada since the 1920s.
The Caponier at Fort Wellington is valued for its good aesthetics and is integral to the defence of the fort by providing defenders with a sweeping fire of the south ditch and thereby preventing invaders from breaching the fort’s outer defences. Its good, functional, 19th century military design is expressed through defensive military features such as the thick walls, musket loopholes, and the protected subterranean access tunnel. Good craftsmanship and materials are evident in the masonry walls and the pitched roof with its elegant curve.
The Caponier maintains an unchanged relationship to its site, reinforces the historic military character of Fort Wellington National Historic Site of Canada and is a well-known regional landmark to local residents and to visitors.
Sources: James De Jonge, Four Buildings, Fort Wellington National Historic Sites, Prescott, Ontario, Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office, Building Report 90-305; The Caponier at Fort Wellington, Fort Wellington National Historic Site, Prescott, Ontario, Heritage Character Statement 90-305.
The character-defining elements of the Caponier at Fort Wellington should be respected.
Its good aesthetics, its functional military design and good craftsmanship and materials, for example:
- the simple geometric massing and the pitched roof, clad in metal shingles that is curved at the south end;
- the robust construction using heavy materials, the massive masonry walls, evenly coursed at the exterior face, roughly coursed at the interior;
- the interior with a ceiling of heavy logs, and the strategically placed loopholes at ground level;
- the long narrow masonry access tunnel and the single open space with its stone slab floor;
- its internal configuration and details.
The manner in which the Caponier at Fort Wellington maintains an unchanged relationship to its site, reinforces the historic military character of the National Historic Site of Canada and is a symbolic and familiar landmark of the region, as evidenced by:
- the ongoing relationship of the Caponier to the grassed ditch in which it sits;
- its simple design and materials that harmonize with the earthworks and maintain a physical relationship between the entrance passageway, the palisade and the south ditch, and other buildings within the military setting;
- its role as an important component within the group of structures that comprise Fort Wellington National Historic Site of Canada complex, and its strong physical presence and highly visible profile that jut out of the earthworks into the south ditch, which make it familiar to the local community and visitors.