Description of Historic Place
The building at 53 Front Street, commonly known as the Sioux Lookout CNR Station, is situated in downtown Sioux Lookout between the community's main street and the railway yards. The large two-and-a-half-storey station was constructed in 1911, but its appearance was dramatically altered in 1937 when the exterior was refinished in a Tudor-inspired timber and stucco design.
The exterior of the building and the scenic character of the property are protected by an Ontario Heritage Trust conservation easement. The station is also recognized federally under the Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act and is designated by the Municipality of Sioux Lookout under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act (By-law 38-01).
Located slightly south of the terminus of Fourth Avenue at Front Street, the Sioux Lookout CNR Station stands in the centre of town as the community's most imposing structure. Its position between the rail yards and the community's main commercial street provides exclusive sightlines to the station and its presence offers a reminder of the town's earliest days. As a divisional point, the rail yards previously included a roundhouse, water tower, coal dock, express building and a section house, but these features were demolished during the 1960s and 1970s when CN switched from coal operations to diesel. The station is the most prominent heritage landmark in Sioux Lookout and represents the community's history as a distinguished railway town.
The Sioux Lookout CNR station is representative of the early 20th century expansion of the railway which contributed to the development of Sioux Lookout. The station was originally planned as one of a string of divisional stations located at 180 km intervals along a new railway traversing the remote wilderness of Northern Ontario. This new railway formed part of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway/National Transcontinental Railway (GTPR/NTR) system, a project endorsed by, the then Prime Minister, Sir Wilfred Laurier to provide a direct link between the ports of Atlantic Canada and the grain operations of the Prairies.
The construction of the Sioux Lookout station in 1911 was a clear indication of the high expectations for the new line, as its large size and expensive price-tag were otherwise unjustifiable for the virtually uninhabited site. The railway was complete by November 1913, but due to the financial restrictions of the GTPR, its operations were transferred to the Canadian Government Railway (CGR) in 1915. In 1918 the railway again transferred hands, this time to the Canadian Northern Railway (CNR), but by 1919 its management woes were finally settled when its operations were reassigned to the newly incorporated Canadian National Railway (CNR).
The Sioux Lookout station enjoyed success for many decades after its construction and its prominence as a divisional stop related directly to the early development of the community. The railway remained the main source of jobs, transportation, communication and delivery of goods for Sioux Lookout until permanent roads were constructed to and from the community in the 1960s. Unlike many other Ontario communities, this is Sioux Lookout's first and only railway station. It remains in operation for passenger service by VIA Rail and recent renovations have converted part of the building for a hospitality use.
The Sioux Lookout CNR station is a rare example of a railway station with a Tudor-inspired design. While the station is typical of Northern Ontario divisional stations in size and massing, its cladding with half timbers and stucco differentiates it from others. Changes to the exterior of the structure since its construction have been numerous and it is these changes that are responsible for the station's unique appearance. It was originally clad in clapboard and ornamental cedar shingles, however, a corporate initiative by CNR to 'renew' its stations and cut operating costs led to the insulating and stuccoing of the exterior of the building in 1937. During the same year, the ornamental entrance at the west end of the north façade was removed and two of the three arched openings of the ground floor arcade were closed. In its present state, there is no evidence of the former arcade on the station as the entire ground floor of the north elevation has been reworked. Despite the above listed alterations, the original massing and the low level of ornamentation has remained consistent throughout the building's history.
Source: Conservation Easement Files, Ontario Heritage Trust
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the Sioux Lookout CNR station include its:
- traditional size and massing as a divisional station
- unusual Tudor-inspired exterior design of stucco and half-timbering
- elongated, simply massed, and modestly ornamented architectural presentation
- prominent symmetrical roofline accented with twin cross gables at the building's ends
- passenger canopies running along the north and south elevations of the station
- large operator's bay at the west end of the south façade
- paired windows with louvered shutters of the upper storey on the north and south elevations
- elongated hipped roof with centrally-located eyebrow dormers on all sides
- tall and narrow brick chimney at the western side of the roof's southern slope
- location at the historic centre of the town
- landmark value as the pre-eminent heritage building in the town