Description of Historic Place
The Powder Magazine, also known as the Fort Lennox Powder Magazine, is located northwest of the parade square in the bastion at Fort Lennox National Historic Site of Canada. Built in 1820 to house up to 1500 barrels of gunpowder, it is a solid, one-storey masonry building of Chazyan limestone with simple decoration. A low hip roof sits atop its rectangular massing, which is pierced by three small windows, slotted ventilation openings, and a southeast-facing entrance. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The Powder Magazine is a Recognized Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values.
The Powder Magazine is a very good illustration of the theme of the defence of Canada in the 19th and 20th centuries. Following the war of 1812, British officers had to reassess their strategy in order to stop enemy incursions into Canada via Lake Champlain and the Richelieu River. Their final decision was to build a fort on Île aux Noix rather than in St. Jean, as that site offered definite advantages in the event of a naval attack. The Powder Magazine played a primary role in the operation of Fort Lennox during the 19th century and continues to remain a major component.
The Powder Magazine is valued for its good aesthetic qualities and excellent functional design. This plain, stone building combines the strength of the model proposed by Vauban in the 17th century with the scientific developments of the 19th century regarding the design of defensive systems. The thick masonry walls with almost no openings, the bombproof barrel-vault and the supporting wall beneath the floor were designed with strength in mind, while an ingenious ventilation system and staggered openings were intended to keep the interior of the building dry. The Powder Magazine was also equipped with a sophisticated lightning rod system. The very good quality of craftsmanship and materials both demonstrate that the structure was built to the highest standards of the time.
The Powder Magazine reinforces the present character of its defensive military setting in Fort Lennox and remains a familiar landmark within the region. Located in the bastion least exposed to the enemy, the Powder Magazine, which was originally hidden behind a protective wall, is now out in the open so that its pure lines can be seen at a glance. What generates interest in the Powder Magazine is equally in its exterior, which blends in with the entire fort, and the reconstructed interior furnishings. This building evokes the military conflicts that took place in the Richelieu Valley in the 19th century and reminds visitors of the role Fort Lennox played in those conflicts.
Sources: Gisèle Piédalue avec la collaboration d’André Charbonneau, d’Yvan Fortier et de Paul Trépanier, La poudrière et les magasins du fort Lennox, Québec, Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office, Building Report, 91-040; Powder Magazine, St.-Paul-de-l’Ile-aux-noix, Fort Lennox, Québec, Heritage Character Statement, 91-040.
The character-defining elements of the Powder Magazine should be respected.
Its good aesthetic design, excellent functional design, and very good craftsmanship and materials, such as:
- its one-storey, rectangular massing with three small windows;
- its stark exterior and cyma reversa cornice at the top of the long walls;
- any interior elements that illustrate the techniques used to prevent sparks inside the Powder Magazine including, the wood floor, furniture and doors with their copper hardware;
- its architectural scheme designed for security and strength, notably, the entrance door that is isolated from the rest of the building to minimize risk;
- its ventilation system of staggered openings, vertical slots and ventilation corridors grooved inside the thick masonry walls, keeping the interior dry;
- its lightning rod system, including rods and an underground tank, that eliminated the risk of explosions caused by lightning;
- its structural system and building materials used for their durability including: the foundations, the supporting wall and solid walls all constructed of Chazy limestone; the bombproof brick vault spanning the entire width of the building and the wood sole plate providing stability.
The manner in which the Powder Magazine retains its relationship to its site, reinforces the defensive military character of its fort setting and is a well-known landmark in the area, as evidenced by:
- its strategic location in the bastion, the area least exposed to enemy fire, in Fort Lennox National Historic Site of Canada;
- its clean and simple architectural treatment which harmonizes with its military setting and surrounding buildings;
- its historic relationship with other defence structures of the fort, notably the North Magazine and, the South Magazine;
- its role as a major component of Fort Lennox, which makes it a familiar landmark to local residents and visitors.