Description of Historic Place
The Fort Lennox North Front casemate forms an enfilade of 6 vaulted spaces built into the fort embankment and faced with similar ashlar stone façades. It is composed of two identical pairs which frame the passage of the fort entrance, and of a pair of kitchen casemates later added to the west of this series. The North Front casemate is located behind the officers’ quarters and guardhouse to which it is closely related. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The North Front casemate at Fort Lennox are a Recognized Federal Heritage Building because of their historical associations, and their architectural and environmental values.
The North Front casemate at Fort Lennox is closely associated with the established defensive strategy for Canada’s borders between 1820 and 1830. In the wake of the War of 1812-1814, the British military authorities reviewed their defensive strategy for warding off attacks from the south, by way of Lake Champlain and the Richelieu River, and decided to build a new fortification at Ile-aux-Noix. The fort and its buildings thus also illustrate the strategic and tactical discussions that influenced the development of the Haut-Richelieu Valley. The North Front casemate was erected as an integral component of the fort and forms part of the storage and services infrastructure built within the ramparts.
Attributed to Samuel Romilly, commanding officer of the Royal Engineers, the North Front casemate is of a very good aesthetic quality. Symmetrically disposed on either side of the fort entrance, the first four casemates possess a refined masonry façade in which classical influences predominate, and the later two units present a similar visual quality. Functionally, the casemates are good, typical examples of military engineering of the period, which made use of the rampart embankment to erect bomb-proof vaulted structures. Good quality materials and craftsmanship were used with the intent of making these structures long lasting and resistant, but the superior quality of finishes of the North Front casemate is also associated with its use by the higher ranking officers of the fort.
The North Front casemate creates the effect of a succession of apertures under the ramparts and reinforces the military character of the fort. The symmetry of the casemate's façades on either side of the fort entrance contributes to the formality of this path leading to and from the parade square. The site and its relationship to the scenic country setting of Ile-aux-Noix has remained unchanged. Through their somewhat mysterious quality, the underground vaults of the casemates reinforce the traditional imagery of old fortifications, popular with visitors to the site, and help make them a familiar landmark of the area.
André Charbonneau, Les casemates du fort Lennox, Québec. Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office Report 89-57.
Officers’ Quarters – Casemates of the North and West Fronts, Saint-Paul-de-l’Ile-aux-Noix, Québec. Heritage Character Statement, 89-57.
The following character-defining elements of the North Front casemate should be respected, for example:
The structure’s well-balanced, aesthetic quality, which draws on neo-classical influences, its efficient functional design, typical of engineering works of the period, and its good quality materials and craftsmanship, as manifested in:
-The simple massing and logical form of the casemate, which creates a regular succession of bays set into the fort ramparts;
-The bomb-proof elliptical masonry vault of each unit;
-The stone façade, with its arches above the doorways and masonry ribbon decoration (as can be seen on the four earlier units), which contributes to the more polished appearance of this casemate, better suited to the higher status officers; or, in the case of the later two units, with the simple composition of a central door flanked by two side windows;
-Elements such as the fireplaces, the hand-basins, the brick walls and vaults and the flagstone paving which are associated with the former use of the two later caemates as the officers’ kitchens.
The manner in which the building reinforces the military character of its setting and serves as a local landmark, as demonstrated in:
-The siting of these underground spaces in the embankment of the fort ramparts;
-The symmetrical disposition of the four earlier casemates, which contributes to the formality of the entrance passage leading to and from the fort’s parade square;
-The intact quality of the landscape in and around the fortifications, which has remained free of more recent constructions.