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St. Helen's Complex: St. Helen's

440 King Street West, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1988/09/06

General view of the front elevation of the building, 1980.; Parks Canada | Parcs Canada, 1980.
Front view
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Other Name(s)

St. Helen's Complex: St. Helen's
St. Helen's Residence / Main Building
Résidence St. Helen's / bâtiment principal

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1837/01/01 to 1838/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2010/04/07

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

St. Helen’s, also known as Building No. 1 or the Main building, is a mid-19th-century villa located on landscaped grounds within the St. Helen’s Complex, in Kingston, Ontario. It is a grand, two-storey building of pebble-cast stucco set on a bed of cut stone. Designed in the Picturesque Regency style, it features massive chimneys, cantilevered eaves, and evenly-spaced varying fenestration. St. Helen’s has a central front entrance dominated by a porte-cochere, and a single storey wing attached to its eastern side. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.

Heritage Value

St. Helen’s is a Classified Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values.

Historical Value
St. Helen’s, as part of the St. Helen’s Complex, is strongly associated with the early 19th-century upper class movement from urban to suburban living typical of the Regency Age (1790-1840). It was one of the first permanent homes to be built on the western outskirts of Kingston, which is indicative of the burgeoning local economy and development of transportation networks. St. Helen’s is also strongly associated with the military and took on a new importance in the effort to provide medical aid for soldiers returning from combat During World War I. The existing buildings were converted for hospital use as many citizens offered their homes for convalescing soldiers in a patriotic wave that swept Canada. The complex is closely associated with figures of national importance in the early history of Upper Canada and Kingston: including Thomas Kirkpatrick; James Morton; and Sir George Airey Kirkpatrick.

Architectural Value
St. Helen’s is valued for its excellent aesthetic design and it is one of the finest examples of Picturesque Regency architecture in Canada, reflected in its stuccoed surfaces, large centrally-placed chimneys, and contrasting window sizes. The layout of the building exemplifies the residential planning trends popular in the Regency period, including the building’s symmetry, and the relationship between public and private spaces. Excellent craftsmanship and materials are evident in the building’s construction and detailing.

Environmental Value
Located on the shores of Lake Ontario, St Helen’s retains its historical relationship with its landscape and the dual relationship between the pastoral lake side and the functional, business-oriented front. It reinforces the picturesque character of its villa setting and is a familiar landmark within the region.

Sources: Martha Phemister, St. Helen’s, Kingston, Ontario, Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office, Building Report, 87-113; St. Helen’s Complex, 440/462 King Street West, Kingston, Ontario, Heritage Character Statement 88-113.

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements of St. Helen’s should be respected.

Its excellent aesthetic design, very good functional design, and excellent materials and craftsmanship, including:
- the central house’s two-storey massing and two bay façade, with a recessed alcove in-between;
- the single storey wing with a hip roof and central chimney, joined to the main building by a gable-roofed section;
- its brick construction, covered with an overlay of pebble-cast stucco exterior, set on a bed of cut stone;
- the centrally-placed entranceway, set in a semi-elliptical opening with overhead fanlight, side lights and a double door;
- its regularly placed multi-paned, casement and oriel windows;
- those elements that speak to its Regency style of architecture including its wide, cantilevered eaves, massive chimneys, and contrasting window sizes;
- its exterior forms including the semi-circular extension with an awning-type roof on the western façade; the balustraded, two-storey portico on the rear elevation; and the two structural bays surrounding a recessed alcove with a porte-cochere on the main façade;
- the dark green trim of the shutters, triangular gable peaks and the porte-cochere which reinforce its Picturesque style as a striking contrast to the off-white stucco;
- its interior centre-hall plan which remains a clear statement of the social and residential planning ideals of the Regency period.

The manner in which St. Helen’s retains a historical relationship with its landscape, reinforces the picturesque character of its villa setting and is a familiar landmark within the region, as evidenced by:
- its commanding position on a hill overlooking Lake Ontario;
- its design, proportions and massing, which harmonize with the picturesque landscaped gardens and the other inter-related buildings within the complex;
- its setting within the St. Helen’s Complex, whose current use by Correctional Services Canada contributes to its profile within the region and whose grounds attract visitors.




Recognition Authority

Government of Canada

Recognition Statute

Treasury Board Heritage Buildings Policy

Recognition Type

Classified Federal Heritage Building

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1855/01/01 to 1855/01/01
1910/01/01 to 1910/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Function - Category and Type


Single Dwelling



Architect / Designer



William Coverdale

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Indigenous Affairs and Cultural Heritage Directorate Documentation Centre 3rd Floor, room 366 30 Victoria Street Gatineau, Québec J8X 0B3

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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