Description of Historic Place
Located at 43 Castlereagh Street, at the northwest corner of Castlereagh and Davy Streets, the Niagara Historical Society Museum consists of two historical buildings Memorial Hall and Niagara High School, adjoined by a more recent board and batten bridge structure. Memorial Hall was constructed in 1906, and the Niagara High School was constructed in 1875.
The Niagara Historical Society Museum has been recognized for its heritage value under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act by the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake (By-law 1463-84).
The Niagara Historical Society Museum consists of two distinct structures, Memorial Hall and the Former Niagara High School. Memorial Hall is designed in the Edwardian Classicism style while Niagara High School is a simplified interpretation of the Italian Villa style.
Memorial Hall, designed by W. B. Allan of St. Catharines, was constructed by the Niagara Historical Society in 1906. A plaque erected by the Ontario Archaeological and Historic Sites Board commemorates the achievements of the Society's first president and curator, Janet Carnochan, and notes that the building was the first museum building in Ontario. The coursed rubble foundation of Memorial Hall is believed to come from the ruins of the Indian Council House and Hospital on the Common, which was constructed in 1816 and destroyed by fire in 1881.
Memorial Hall is a two storey structure with a hip roof, with a stepped front gable. The deep elaborate portico is an element of the Edwardian Classicism style, which often features exaggerated frontispieces on a relatively plain building. The door and window openings of the first and second floors are all finished with segmental heads while the windows in the gable have semi-circular heads. The window heads are constructed of buff brick, which contrasts nicely with the red brick adorning the body of the building. On the ground floor, a double doorway with glazed upper panels is balanced by two windows with single-hung, divided sash windows. On the second floor, there is a row of seven windows, three of which are grouped in the centre. Four square corner columns support an impressive gable roof over the porch. On the face of the porch, the columns are spanned by a corbelled arch, and topped by the eave return of the roof.
The former Niagara High School, constructed in 1875, is recognized as the first high school in Niagara-on-the-Lake and operated as such until 1947. The building and property were transferred to the Historical Society in 1949.
The former Niagara High School is a single storey rectangular red buff brick building with a medium pitch gable roof. A projected rectangular brick tower, which is the dominant feature of the main facade and designed as a modest interpretation of the Italianate Villa style of architecture, originally divided the face of the building into two proportionate wings each with two segmental headed window openings. The windows have double-hung divided sashes, six panes in each sash. The segmental headed door opening of the main entrance located at the base of the tower originally contained panelled double doors and door transom with two panes of glass divided by vertical glazing bar. Emphasis is given to the trim of the door and window heads by use of buff brick. The eaves of the roof on the main structure is supported by a row of brackets, and faced with a plain horizontal cornice. The brackets of the main building are echoed in the horizontal eaves of the tower, terminating at the front gable. The gable, decorated with bargeboard and turned pendants accenting the rising eaves of the gable, contains a round gable light. The ridge of the roof of the front gable is interrupted by the addition of a mansard roof, which is indicative of the Second Empire style of architecture. The top of the mansard roof forms the bottom of the belfry. In 1910, a brick extension was built form the southeast end wall to provide space for the auditorium.
From 1971 to 1973, the Society carried out a renovation programme, which included the construction of a joining bridge between the two buildings. Eight windows which were obtained from the parish of St. Mark's Church circa 1886 were removed from the Parish Hall when it was renovated in 1965 and installed in the front facade of the bridge.
Source: Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, By-law 1463-84
Character defining elements that reflect the heritage value of the Niagara Historical Society Museum include its:
- Edwardian Classicism facade with stepped gable
- massive front portico with gable roof
- squared columns
- corbelled arch
- segmental and semi-circular windows
- double doorway with glazed panels
- projected brick tower
- dichromatic brick work
- segmental headed front door with panelled double doors
- elaborate buff brick keystone
- cornice brackets
- turned pendants
- round gable window
- mansard roof