Description of Historic Place
The former RCMP post consists of six simple, rectangular structures with medium-pitch roofs. The six buildings served the following functions: detachment, employee housing, warehousing, and storage. These simple, modest buildings are wood clad and painted white. The buildings are located on high ground along the Alexandra Fiord, which is a natural inlet on the Johan Peninsula of Ellesmere Island in the Qikigtaaluk Region of Nunavut. The Inuktitut name for Alexandra Fiord is Sanannguavvik, meaning the place where people carve. The designation is confined to the footprints of the six buildings.
The RCMP Detachment at Alexandra Fiord is a grouping of “Recognized” Federal Heritage Buildings because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values.
The former RCMP detachment is the only surviving Arctic site that is associated with both the themes of historical importance of the planned relocation of the Inuit to Ellesmere Island and the efforts to support Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic. The RCMP post was established in 1953, decommissioned approximately ten years later, and remains the only site to capture the two themes. Inuit were to be relocated from Baffin Island and northern Quebec to this site, but this relocation didn’t take place and the post remains associated with this intention. The surviving buildings also have strong associations to RCMP officer Henry Larsen (1899-1964) and a number of Inuit Special Constables, including Abraham Pijamini, Killiktee, Panikpakuttuk, Arreak, and their families. While the Special Constables contributed to the construction of the site and occupied the site with their families for a few years, Henry Larsen established the detachment and helped construct it. Larsen is a celebrated person of historic significance who received many honours for his accomplishments in the Arctic.
This cluster of buildings is considered to have been part of a network of outpost communities in the south - south-east part of Ellesmere Island. Being approximately the fourth establishment in that region, and with minor changes over time, the buildings represent the creation of the detachment, and one of the few built presence in a vast and deserted area. To a minor degree, the buildings are associated with the Baffin and northern Quebec Inuit communities that were supposed to be relocated to Alexandra Fiord.
The detachment buildings were assembled from 1953 to 1955 and are considered to be good examples of prefabricated, utilitarian models of constructions adapted to very remote locations. The appropriate design and layout of these buildings have met a very good, although standard, program requirement. Construction methods enabled quick and easy assembly. The quality of craftsmanship is attested through the survival of the buildings materials and the integrity of the design that have resisted the test of time better than other High-Arctic detachments on Ellesmere Island.
The six buildings are grouped along the fiord, with the detachment and quarters being on high ground near the airstrip. The cluster of buildings is considered to be picturesque and reinforces the character of a rocky landscape that has not changed since its early years. These buildings are conspicuous to the Inuit community of Pond Inlet and Grise Fiord through their history and association with the Inuit Special Constables. They are also linked to a less familiar community of present and recent users, such as a limited number of researchers and RCMP staff.
The following character-defining elements of the RCMP Detachment, Alexandra Fiord that should be respected include:
- Features that give evidence of the RCMP Detachment’s prefabricated and purpose-built utilitarian construction, as seen in:
- whitewashed/white paint colour;
- simple, modest, and undecorated building envelope;
- medium-pitch gable roofs;
- rectangular form and plan;
- porch on some of the buildings, and other architectural features designed for weather protection; and
- self identification to the RCMP through the blue color trim, inscriptions and crest.
- The functional qualities of the detachment ensemble, as evidenced in:
- internal layouts in the two larger buildings (Detachment and Employee Housing) designed for the purpose of heat loss reduction and to separate private and common spaces; and
- construction methods that enabled quick and easy assembly includes an interlocking panel system and small windows with plain doors.
- The quality of craftsmanship and the use of common materials, as illustrated in:
- ply-wood panels and wood cladding, stone foundation, and metal roofs; and
- durability of the buildings materials over time, compared to other High-Arctic detachments.
- Evidence of the original site character that remains, as seen in:
- the grouping of the buildings along the fiord, with the Detachment and quarters being on high ground near the airstrip; and
- pathways between buildings outlined with white painted stones.
For guidance on interventions, please refer to the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada. For further information contact FHBRO.