Description of Historic Place
The Cobalt O.N.R. Station is situated at 1 Station Road, adjacent to Highway 11B, in downtown Cobalt. The one-and-a-half storey brick railway station was designed in the Edwardian Classical style by architect John Lyle and was opened in 1910.
The exterior, certain elements of the interior and the scenic character of the property are protected by an Ontario Heritage Trust conservation easement (1983). The property is also designated by the Town of Cobalt under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act (Bylaw 79-05) in 2005. In 2002, 12.25 square kilometres called the Historic Cobalt Mining District, which includes the former station, was designated a National Historic Site. The property now serves as the Bunker Military Museum and the Cobalt Visitor's Welcome Centre.
Located in the centre of Cobalt on the O.N. R. right-of-way on the north-east shore of Cobalt Lake, the Cobalt O.N.R. Station is one of the most significant public buildings in Cobalt. Due to its location adjacent to Highway 11B, the main thoroughfare through the Town of Cobalt, the station is a highly visible structure in the community. In combination with other commercial buildings constructed between 1908 and 1927, the Cobalt O.N.R. station is an important element of the historic streetscape of Cobalt.
The Cobalt O.N.R. (Ontario Northland Railway) Station is historically significant for its association with the Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway (T. and N.O.) which facilitated the intense mining development of the area. Built from 1909 to 1910 by the T. and N.O., this structure replaced a smaller 1904 station to facilitate the increased traffic caused by the great silver mining boom that was centred at Cobalt. The mineral rush that occurred in the Cobalt area was initiated, in 1903, during construction of the T. and N.O. Railway line from North Bay to Cochrane, when a railway construction contractor discovered silver in the vicinity. Lasting until the late 1920s, the boom reached a peak in 1911 with at least 70 mines in operation and silver production recorded at 893 tonnes with a value of $15,000,000. In 1909, with activity escalating, and a population exceeding 10,000 people, construction of this substantial station was seen as necessary. Owing to the connection of the T. and N.O., to trans-national rail lines at both its north and south terminuses, the railway developed rapidly and provided easy access for miners, mine owners and investors for the shipment of machinery and the export of silver. During Cobalt's boom years, wagon loads of silver bars waiting to be shipped out were a common sight on the station's platform. The name of the station changed in 1946 when the T. and N.O. Railway became Ontario Northland Railway (O.N.R.). The building functioned as railway station until 1983.
The Cobalt O.N.R. Station is one of the finest railway stations in Northern Ontario. Designed in the Edwardian Classical style and constructed of red brick, with a slate roof and stone detailing, the quality of the Cobalt station contrasted sharply with most of the other modest, wood-frame, T. and N.O. depots. Inspired by the great halls of English domestic architecture, the structure's interior features a lofty waiting room with a timber-truss roof and clerestory windows. The exterior features distinctively curved gables, characteristic of English Renaissance architecture, with round headed windows, combined with typical railway architectural features such as broad, flared eaves with heavy timber braces. Indicative of its original function, numerous doorways for passenger flow and freight and baggage handling punctuate the building. The Cobalt O.N.R. Station was designed by Toronto architect, John M. Lyle (1872 to 1945), who also designed the elaborate T. and N.O. station in Cochrane and Toronto's Royal Alexandra Theatre (1906 to1907). S.F. Whitman of Toronto was the contractor.
Source: OHT Easement Files.
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the Cobalt O.N.R. Station include its:
- original location along the O.N.R. railway tracks on the north-east shore of Cobalt Lake
- highly visible location in the centre of Cobalt adjacent to the main thoroughfare, Highway 11B
- proximity to a concentration of other historic commercial buildings
- one-and-a-half storey, long, regular rectangular plan
- hip roof with broad flared eaves, exposed rafter ends and curved, timber braces
- gable roof dormers
- red brick construction in common bond with stone detailing in window sills, gable coping and brace abutments
- porte-cochère with gable-on-hip roof, curved timber braces and a shingled gable
- double-hung, wooden sash, multi-pane windows
- numerous doorways, some with transom lights, and glazed, multi-pane wooden doors
- baggage and freight doorways with wooden, battened double doors and transom lights
- curved upper-storey gables with stone coping and ball finials, and round headed windows detailed with keystone arches
- heavy-timber truss roof with wooden tongue-and-groove cladding comprising a coved ceiling
- original decorative wooden elements of the interiors such as door and window casings
- brick interior walls with its glazed tile dado