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Branch Tower West

Kingston, Ontario, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1997/03/20

Exterior photo; (Graham, October 1996.)
Exterior photo
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Other Name(s)

Branch Tower West
West Branch Ditch Tower
Tour Branch Ditch ouest

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)


Listed on the Canadian Register: 2006/01/23

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

Standing sentinel at the waters edge the West Branch Ditch Tower is a specialized defensive structure integral to Fort Henry. It comprises of a massively built 45 foot high circular stone tower, which inclines slightly inwards as it rises. Topped by a timber built snow roof of conical shape, facetted and covered in sheet metal. The Tower is situated on a corner at the extremity of a defensive ditch enclosed by an attached loopholed wall. A regular musket gallery sits on the opposite flank and a semi-circular caponier projects from the front base of the Tower. The stone wall of the caponier joins the tower in distinctive ogival arches. The solidly built interior spaces demonstrate a simple geometry with plain surfaces. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.

Heritage Value

The West Branch Ditch Tower is a Classified Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations and its architectural and environmental values.

Historical Value
The West Branch Ditch Tower is a very good example of a structure associated with the theme of the active defence of Canada from the ongoing threat of the United States. The Oregon crisis precipitated the construction of the Tower which is a masonry fort component designed for the mounting of smoothbore artillery and musketry. Its task was to defend the ditch, shore and dead ground in front of the Advanced Sea Battery. Its construction, the subsequent economic benefits and the resulting influx of personnel had a significant impact on Kingston.

Architectural Value:
The West Branch Ditch Tower is an excellent example of a functional 19th century military defence design. Regarded as a modified Martello tower, its specialized features, construction techniques and its use of materials express its excellent functional design. It exhibits very good quality work and craftsmanship.

Environmental Value:
As an integral component of both the Fort Henry Defence Complex and the line of Martello towers along the Kingston waterfront, the West Branch Ditch Tower remains unchanged and has retained its character. The Tower reinforces the coastal defence and military setting of Fort Henry and its distinctive form is familiar to the both the townsfolk and visitors to Kingston.

Fern Graham, Fort Henry, Kingston Ontario. Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office Report 95-051
Fort Henry, West Branch Ditch Tower, Kingston, Ontario.Heritage Character Statement 95-051

Character-Defining Elements

The following character-defining elements of the West Branch Ditch Tower should be respected, for example:

Its functional military defence design and good quality materials and craftsmanship as evidenced in:

-The conical shaped snow roof of timber and sheet metal.
-The simple geometric massing of the massively built ashlar faced circular tower.
-The strategically placed loopholes in the Tower exterior, gallery and in the caponier at ground level.
-The two single iron sheathed doors on the landward side of the Tower one at ground level and one above it.
-The cut stone walling of the caponier which joins the tower in distinctive ogival arches.
-The stone voussoired dome supporting the terreplein.
-Internal details such as the configuration of the artillery platform mounted in the top of the Tower.
-The bombproof roof on the third floor.
-The heavy timber framing of the middle and third floors.
-The flight of steps with winder cut into the exterior wall of the Tower.

The manner in which the West Branch Ditch Tower reinforces the military character of Fort Henry.




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)


Theme - Category and Type

Function - Category and Type




Military Support

Architect / Designer




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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