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Reconstructed Sites and Heritage Value

The role of the heritage community has been invaluable in increasing knowledge pertaining to national historic sites. Historical and archaeological research has been vital in identifying why a site is important and its special characteristics. Decisions made by the heritage community can also alter the narrative of a site in significant ways. In some cases this narrative in itself holds value. This becomes evident when considering a number of early national historic site reconstructions in Canada. Many have been determined to now have heritage value both for their historic value and as representations of early conservation practice in Canada.

Following the example of U.S. President Roosevelt's New Deal, the Canadian Federal Government passed the Public Works Construction Act in 1934. Despite the weak economy, this supplied large sums of money that were used to finance large scale reconstruction projects at both the national and provincial level; these would create jobs and could generate tourism, thereby reinvigorating economically depressed areas. The economic success and popularity of reconstructed sites south of the border, such as Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain recreated in 1907 and Colonial Williamsburg opened in 1933, encouraged similar projects here at home. An increase in the number of professional archaeologists and historians across Canada created confidence that enough data could be recovered to accurately recreate heritage sites, though this was not always the case.Fort Anne, Parks Canada / Fort-Anne, Parcs Canada

In 1917 the military reserve in Annapolis Royal Nova Scotia, Fort Anne, became a Dominion Park under the Department of the Interior. It had been protected locally since 1886 when railway expansion brought to light its merit in the emerging tourism industry. The Fort had played an important role in early European colonization, settlement and government in Acadia and Nova Scotia in the 17th and 18th centuries and was the centre of changing social, political and military relations among the Mi'kmaq, the Acadians and the British living in the area. In 1934-35 the British officers' quarters was ruthlessly restored to such an extent as to now be considered reconstructed. The old wooden barracks was transformed into an attractive and efficient museum, the wood framing being replaced with poured concrete. In 1984 a management-plan recommendation was tabled to return the exterior and parts of the interior to a conjectural 1835 appearance. The proposal was submitted to the Federal Heritage Building Review Office in 1988 where the building was recognized for its importance as an excellent example of early conservation. The proposed plan was not implemented as it would have obliterated the very features of the building that made it worth preserving.  Blockhouse at Fort George, Parks Canada / Blockhaus au Fort-George, Parcs Canada

Fort George National Historic Site was originally built by the British in 1796-99.  Located in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, it served as the principal fortification on the Niagara Peninsula during the War of 1812 and was destroyed by the Americans in 1813. Because of its historic value, it was designated a National Historic Site in October 1920. Fort George was later reconstructed as a make-work project under the Niagara Parks Commission. The reconstruction was inaccurate because many Officers' Quarters at Fort George, Karoline Szabados / Logis d'officiers du Fort-George, Karoline Szabadosdecisions were made to accommodate practical requirements and to appeal to a romanticized view rather than the controlled, orderly Georgian reality. The architect overseeing the project identified and tried to correct inaccuracies but to no avail. In 1991 the site was reviewed and this new narrative was deemed worthy of commemoration.

These sites serve as excellent examples of a single site having many different narratives and of the importance of valuing the entire history of a site. The history of the heritage effort itself has value.