Description of Historic Place
The Work Point Guard House is a one-storey wood frame structure located at the southern end of Head Street, at the entrance to the Work Point Barracks in Esquimalt, British Columbia. The building has a steeply-pitched hipped roof, a masonry chimney and a prominent arched veranda on the south elevation. The building remains in its original location, however the land upon which it stands, formerly included within the boundaries of the military base, has been transferred to private ownership.
The Work Point Guard House has great historical, architectural, social and cultural significance to the Township of Esquimalt.
Constructed in 1890-91 on land that was the principal access point to the newly-established Work Point Barracks and Garrison Headquarters, this building served as an integral part of the military establishment in Esquimalt for over a century. It was used to control access to the barracks, provide facilities for security personnel and as a detainment facility. The building includes four short term detainment compounds with cement and brick walls over two feet thick. It was a silent witness to the departure of many military personnel to serve in the Boer War, the Great War, World War 2, the Korean War and numerous peacekeeping missions over the years.
The Work Point Guard House is valued as one of the last surviving Guard Houses of this design in Canada; the other two are in Quebec and Nova Scotia. It was designed by the Department of Public Works, based on preliminary sketches by architect Henry James of the Department of Militia and Defense. This was one of the first buildings constructed during the founding stage of Work Point Barracks, 1887 to 1891, and was built using fir from the large stands of trees felled at Work Point by C Battery. Minor modifications to the exterior have included construction of the rear annex and the removal of some trim from the front pillars, but the building exterior remains largely intact, including its original arcaded porch. All doors and fenestration are original except for two large front window panels. The interior, with its four original coved ceiling cells, is also largely intact; changes have included the removal of bars and doors and the conversion of two cells into washroom space.
The Guard House is also valued as a reminder of the many important people and military units associated with Work Point over the years. Its location at the gate to Work Point Barracks meant that all visitors and military personnel had to pass the building to enter or exit the site. Notable historical figures who have passed through this gate include Major James Peters, Lt.-Col. Josiah G. Holmes, Lt.-Col. Arthur Currie (later Sir Arthur), HRH Prince of Wales in 1919 (who later abdicated), Brig.-Gen. Andrew G. L. McNaughton, Gen. R. O. Alexander, Lt. Col. Joan Kennedy (who started CWAC), Maj.-Gen. George R. Pearkes, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Lady Patricia Ramsay, Colonel-in-Chief in residence at Work Point Officers' Mess. Among the many military units that have served at Work Point over the years are the Canadian Artillery (later known as the Royal Canadian Artillery), the Royal Marine Artillery, Royal Engineers, and Royal Garrison Artillery, B Company, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (later the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada) and the 3rd Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.
The Guard House also has cultural value for its distinctive design and proportions, as well as for its association with a significant stage in the development of British Columbia's coastal defenses. It is further valued as a prominent local landmark that is visible from Head Street, Work Point Barracks and the shoreline of nearby West Bay.
Source: Township of Esquimalt
Key character-defining elements of the Work Point Guard House include:
- prominent location at the entrance to Work Point Barracks, overlooking West Bay on Victoria Harbour
- visibility from various points in the area
- compact and distinctive architectural form, with a steep, slightly-flared hipped roof and arcaded porch on the south elevation
- remaining original doors and windows, including a central double-leaf door with flanking windows, deeply recessed behind the enclosed arcaded porch