Description of Historic Place
The Octagonal Blockhouse is located at the Fort George National Historic Site of Canada, which overlooks the Niagara River, on the outskirts of Niagara-on-the-Lake. The Blockhouse is a polygonal roofed, eight sided, two-storey structure with a rugged, exposed log exterior that features loopholes and an overhanging second storey. A tunnel affords the only access to the structure. The Octagonal Blockhouse is situated within the palisades of the south redan. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The Octagonal Blockhouse is a Recognized Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values.
The Octagonal Blockhouse is a good example of a building associated with the development and expansion of historic sites in Canada during the 1930s Depression as a result of government funded relief work programs. Historic reconstruction, common to this period, followed a North American pattern influenced by the reconstruction of Colonial Williamsburg. Recognition that an increase in private ownership of automobiles would encourage tourism encouraged the reconstruction of Fort George as a tourist destination. The economic development of Niagara-on-the-Lake was facilitated as a result.
The Octagonal Blockhouse is valued for its good aesthetic design. Reconstructions were generally based on extensive research. However, the architects freely interpreted the information about Fort George. The rugged exterior of the reconstructed buildings represents the designer’s preference for a ‘frontier’ aesthetic. This may have been derived from the appearance of the contemporaneous blockhouses at Fort York, after their exterior cladding was removed during a 1934 ‘restoration’. Good use of traditional materials and very good craftsmanship are evident in the log construction.
The Octagonal Blockhouse reinforces the historic character of Fort George National Historic Site and is a familiar landmark to residents and to visitors.
Sources: Shannon Ricketts, Twenty Buildings, Niagara Historic Sites, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office, Building Report 89-015; The Octagonal Blockhouse, Fort George, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Heritage Character Statement 89-015.
The following character-defining elements of the Octagonal Blockhouse should be respected.
Its good aesthetic and good functional design and very good quality materials and craftsmanship, for example:
-the octagonal, two-storey massing;
-the polygonal roof clad with hand split cedar shakes;
-the exterior walls constructed of squared logs with dovetailed corners, and the loopholes;
-the interior configuration;
-the caponier / tunnel that provides access between the structure and the powder magazine pit.
The manner in which the Octagonal Blockhouse reinforces the historic character of the National Historic Site and is a familiar landmark, as evidenced by:
-its simple design and materials that harmonize with the other buildings within the military setting of the fort;
-its role as a component of the group of structures from the Fort George National Historic Site of Canada complex, and its high profile on the south redan, which make it familiar to locals and visitors.