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Kingston Harbour, Shoal Martello Tower

Kingston, Ontario, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1989/03/30

General view of the Shoal Martello Tower, 1987.; Agence Parcs Canada / Parks Canada Agency, M. Armstrong Reynolds, 1987.
General view
General view of the Shoal Martello Tower, 1977.; Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, 1977.
General view
General view of the Shoal Martello Tower, 1924.; National Archives of Canada /Archives nationales du Canada, PA8887, 1924.
General view

Other Name(s)


Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2008/08/19

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

Rising dramatically from the water, Shoal Martello Tower sits offshore in Kingston Harbour. A single entrance doorway and small windows pierce the cylindrical stone tower. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.

Heritage Value

The Shoal Martello Tower is a Recognized Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values.

Historical Value:
The Shoal Martello Tower is closely associated with the defence of British North America and Canada in response to the Oregon Crisis in 1846-1847. The structure was built to defend Kingston Harbour.

Architectural Value:
The Shoal Martello Tower is a very good example of a 19th-century military structure. Strongly built and of massive proportions, it is the only example in Canada surrounded by water. The most significant design aspects are the level of economy and efficiency attained in terms of function, materials, durability and low maintenance. As an example of the last phase of Martello tower design in the British territories, the tower possesses excellent functional design.

Environmental Value:
The Shoal Martello Tower maintains an unchanged relationship to its site and is compatible with the character of Kingston harbour. Located on a shoal it is highly visible throughout the area. The structure is a landmark to local people and to visitors.

Sources: Martha Phemister, Shoal Martello Tower, Kingston Harbour, Kingston, Ontario, Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office Report 88-077; Shoal Martello Tower, Shoal Martello Tower, Kingston Harbour, Kingston, Ontario, Heritage Character Statement 88-077.

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements of the Shoal Martello Tower should be respected, for example:

Its functional, military defence design, aesthetic qualities and good quality materials and craftsmanship, for example:
-the simple geometric massing of the cylindrical tower topped by a shallow, conical snow roof that covers the gun platform;
-the exterior walls built of tightly fitting limestone blocks which incline slightly inwards as it nears the top;
-the massive double wall construction that contains stairs and vents;
-the small windows and entrance on the second level;
-the brick lined, ventilated powder magazine on the lower level;
-the circular, bombproof, barrel vault ceiling of the powder magazine and the second floor barracks.

The Shoal Martello Tower, that maintains an unchanged relationship to its site, is compatible with the present character of its harbour setting and is a regional landmark, as evidenced by:
-its ongoing relationship to its water site;
-its high visibility from the Kingston harbour area, and its role as a point of reference to the harbour for locals and visitors.




Recognition Authority

Government of Canada

Recognition Statute

Treasury Board Heritage Buildings Policy

Recognition Type

Recognized Federal Heritage Building

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Function - Category and Type



Military Defence Installation

Architect / Designer

British Royal Engineers



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




Related Places

Aerial view

Shoal Tower National Historic Site of Canada

Shoal Tower National Historic Site of Canada is a circular stone defensive tower located on a shoal in the harbour, directly offshore from the site of the historic City Hall and…


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