Kingston Customs House National Historic Site of Canada
Kingston Customs House
Édifice de la douane de Kingston
Links and documents
1856/01/01 to 1859/01/01
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Kingston Customs House National Historic Site of Canada is a handsome two-storey neoclassical building erected between 1856 and 1859 by the Province of Canada. It is constructed of limestone and is situated in the centre of the city of Kingston on a block shared by the former Kingston Post Office and a limestone stable associated with the two public buildings. It is part of a cluster of 19th-century public and commercial buildings, including the Kingston City Hall, in the immediate vicinity. The formal recognition consists of the building on its legal property.
The Kingston Customs House was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1971 because it is a fine example of the architectural quality of mid-19th-century administrative buildings designed in the British classical tradition.
The Kingston Customs House was designed in 1856 in a British neoclassical style for the Province of Canada by the Montréal architectural firm of Hopkins, Lawford and Nelson to complement the adjacent post office constructed at the same time. The Customs House harmoniously blends neoclassical and Renaissance elements in local Kingston limestone to convey the importance of its function and to reflect Kingston’s vital place in pre-Confederation Canada.
In its competent and striking use of neoclassical elements and its careful placement in a government precinct, the Kingston Customs House is also illustrative of major administrative buildings of the period that were designed to instil pride in and respect for government in the rapidly growing Province of Canada.
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, May 1971.
Key elements that contribute to the heritage character of the site include:
- its styling in the British neoclassical tradition, evident in the Italianate or Renaissance elements, its symmetry and the formality of its façade and main entrance;
- the quality of its limestone construction and detailing, as seen in its fine ‘bouchard’ ashlar work, single-stone portico piers, molded architraves, wide plinths and pronounced stringcourses;
- the Itanianate architectural styling, including, the clear distinction made between the ground and first storey through the use of deeply channelled masonry for the ground floor and a smooth ashlar masonry upper storey; its symmetry, its central entrance portico supported by piers carrying a heavy cornice, and the roof parapet;
- Renaissance detailing, including the triple Venetian windows in the side elevations, the bracketed cornice above the triple windows, the delicate architraves around the rounded-arch windows of the upper storey, and the wide plinth separating the storeys;
- surviving interior layout of public spaces associated with its use as a custom house and government office, such as the main entrance, the central hall, and stairwells;
- surviving interior wood, plaster and masonry finishings in major public spaces;
- its relationship to the former post office and the former stable located on the same block.
Government of Canada
Historic Sites and Monuments Act
National Historic Site of Canada
Theme - Category and Type
- Governing Canada
- Government and Institutions
- Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
- Architecture and Design
Function - Category and Type
- Customs Building
Architect / Designer
Hopkins, Lawford and Nelson
Location of Supporting Documentation
National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec
Cross-Reference to Collection
Situated in the Market Square heritage district of Kingston, the Custom House, also known as Kingston Customs House, is a two-storey, flat-roofed, rectangular, stone building,…