Description of Historic Place
Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada Armoury National Historic Site of Canada is located on a busy thoroughfare at the centre of Montréal, Québec. The irregularly- planned armoury consists of two flat-roofed two-storey blocks at the front and rear joined by the large gable-roofed drill hall between them. The symmetrical primary façade is faced with rusticated and textured grey Montréal limestone and with motifs suggestive of a Scottish baronial castle and the current and previous names of the regiment in metal letters above the entrance. The other three façades are of brick. Official recognition refers to the building on its footprint.
Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada Armoury was declared a national historic site of Canada in 2007 because:
- it is home to the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada, one of Canada's oldest regiments and its oldest surviving Highland Regiment, established by Scottish residents of Montréal's Golden Square Mile, and whose descendants were the driving force behind the construction of the armoury;
- it is a testament to the important roles played by armouries in Canada, and particularly in Montréal, the country's greatest metropolis at the turn of the 20th century; and,
- it has been and continues to be an important focus and centre for civic activities in the city of Montréal and for organizations associated with the regiment.
Since 1906, the armoury has been the home of the Black Watch, one of Canada’s oldest regiments. Created by Montréal’s Scottish business community in 1862 as the Royal Light Infantry, the regiment was raised at the same time as five other infantry regiments as part of the rapid expansion of Canada’s Active Volunteer Militia. The Black Watch regiment of Canada participated, along with its Scottish parent regiment, in the Boer War, and both World Wars. Following the Second World War, the regiment saw action in various other military and peacekeeping operations up until 1970, when it was removed from the Regular Force, leaving only its militia elements active.
In reference to the Scottish origins of the regiment, the primary façade of the armoury was designed in the martial Scottish Baronial style, with its associated military motifs, including towers, turrets, and an imitation portcullis. Black Watch Armoury is one of six purpose-built armouries in Montréal. Designed for storage and training, this armoury and others of its type, with their drill, classroom and recreational facilities, played an important role in the modernization of the militia.
The Black Watch regiment and the armoury continue to play an important role in the community, participating in many events that are well attended by the public. The regiment is particularly well known for its annual church parade, as well as its involvement in various other parades throughout the year. The regiment also assists with a number of charitable causes for veterans and affiliated organizations. The armoury is regularly used for community and fundraising events and in support of the Gaelic community, both in Montréal and the surrounding area.
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, July 2007.
Key elements that relate to the heritage value of this site include:
- its prominent location on a busy thoroughfare at the centre of Montréal;
- its irregular plan and massing, consisting of two, two-storey blocks joined by a drill hall;
- its symmetrical primary façade, which is faced with grey, rusticated, and textured Montréal limestone;
- the motifs suggesting a Scottish baronial castle, such as a portcullis with chains, twin semi-circular towers and the early heraldic boar crest of the regiment above the door;
- the name of the regiment at the time of the armoury’s construction, (5th Royal Highlanders of Canada) and below it, attached to the wall in metal letters, the current name (The Black Watch Royal Highland Regiment of Canada;
- the drill hall, which is spanned by double-hinged steel trusses, that rises through two storeys and is lit by tall windows on either side;
- its functional sloped entrance ramp, leading directly into the open drill space;
- the banners and flags representing the Freedom of the Cities granted to the regiment by seven cities, including Montréal;
- the massive wooden plaques inscribed in gilt with all of the regiment’s 43 Battle Honours, the bronze plaques commemorating the six officers and men who served in the regiment and were awarded the Victoria Cross in the First World War and another plaque that commemorates those who fought at the raid on Dieppe in 1942.
- its ongoing use by the regiment as the Regimental Museum, the Regimental and Command offices, the Officers’ Mess and library;
- the evidence of the original and ongoing use of the building as the headquarters of the regiment and for educational and training purposes, such as office spaces, lecture and training rooms, and accommodation spaces for cadets.