Description of Historic Place
The Officers’ Quarters at Fort Lennox National Historic Site of Canada is a two-storey, rectangular-plan, masonry construction, measuring 27 by 13 metres, and covered with a metal clad-hipped roof. The building’s austere classical composition combines smooth ashlar limestone courses with contrasting rusticated stonework at the base, corners and arches. An arcaded portico dominates its main elevation, facing the parade square of the fort, which it frames along with the other major buildings of the complex. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The Officers’ Quarters are a Classified Federal Heritage Building because of their historical associations, and their architectural and environmental values.
The Officers’ Quarters are 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 Upper Richelieu Valley. The Officers’ Quarters were erected as an integral component of the fort and form part of the housing infrastructure built within the ramparts to accommodate the British garrison. It has housed many officers belonging to the various infantry and artillery regiments posted in the Montreal area.
Designed by Samuel Romilly, Commanding officer of the Royal Engineers, the Officers’ Quarters are of an excellent aesthetic quality. The building is a well balanced, sophisticated composition which draws on the Palladian style, as can be seen in the front elevation, portico and contrasting ashlar and rusticated stonework, with neoclassical influences, legible in the severe lines of the secondary elevations. Of a very good functional design, the building offers comfortable lodgings well fitted to the status of officers. The well conserved exterior and relatively unchanged interior, with its high quality woodwork and large number of original architectural details, testify to the use of high-quality, durable materials and to the excellent workmanship invested into this structure.
The Officers’ Quarters reinforce the military character of the fort as seen from the exterior and contribute to establishing that of the parade ground. The site and its relationship to the scenic country setting of Ile-aux-Noix have remained unchanged. The well-known image of the building’s front façade and portico make it a familiar regional landmark, which contributes to define the Richelieu valley as the “valley of the forts”.
Sources: André Charbonneau and Yvan Fortier, Logis d’officiers du fort Lennox, Québec. Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office Report 89-057; Officers’ Quarters – Casemates of the North and West Fronts, Saint-Paul-de-l’Ile-aux-Noix, Québec, Heritage Character Statement, 89-057.
The character-defining elements of the Officers’ Quarters should be respected.
The building’s well-balanced, sophisticated composition, which draws on the Palladian Style with neoclassical influences, its very good functional design, offering comfortable lodgings, and its excellent quality materials and craftsmanship, as manifested in:
- the symmetrical, regular composition, simple massing and balanced proportions of the building; its arcaded portico, hipped roof and regular distribution of openings, which all take part in its classical expression;
- the skillful stonework, which contrasts smooth ashlar limestone in narrowly jointed courses with rusticated stones at the base, quoins and arches;
- the many original interior details: banisters on the staircases, door and window frames, that exemplify the rich interior woodwork, the original fireplaces and the other distinctive elements of the interior décor, the plaster and the wallpaper finishes on the walls, all of which reflect the high status of the Officers’ Quarters;
- the distribution of the spaces, which has remained virtually unchanged and reflects its use as private rooms above common spaces.
The manner in which the building reinforces the military character of its setting and serves as a regional landmark, as demonstrated in:
- the deliberate similarity between the Officers’ Quarters and their counterpart, the guardhouse, which creates a symmetrical composition in relation to the entrance to the parade square at the Fort Lennox National Historic Site of Canada;
- the intact quality of the landscape in and around the fortifications, which has remained free of more recent constructions.