Description of Historic Place
The Blockhouse is located at the Fort Wellington National Historic Site of Canada, overlooking the St. Lawrence River. An imposing, pyramidal-roofed structure with massive masonry walls, it is the most prominent structure at the fort. Small windows, loopholes and gun ports add to the structure’s formidable, military appearance. A wooden gallery, clad with vertical wood siding, surrounds the overhanging upper floor. This key defensive feature is cantilevered on large stone and wooden corbels. The structure stands on an open grassed area within the earthworks. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The Blockhouse is a Classified Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values.
The Blockhouse is one of the best examples of a building associated with the period of active defence of Upper Canada, specifically the upper St. Lawrence frontier in the post-Rebellion era. Fort Wellington formed part of the fortifications originally constructed by the British during the War of 1812. A new fort, with the present blockhouse, was built over the ruins of the early fort in response to the Rebellion of 1837 and the threat of the American invasion. The heavily fortified blockhouse was central to the defensive capabilities of the fort; it was the principal building for housing the garrison and storing supplies during the militia phase and later during the occupation by the Royal Canadian Rifle Regiment. The Blockhouse also contributed to the economic development of the garrison town, and to the town of Prescott in the late 1830s and 1840s.
Valued for its excellent aesthetic design Fort Wellington Blockhouse is the largest and most elaborate example of this building type in Canada. The symmetrical, square composition has sparse, evenly spaced wall apertures and quality stonework that lend elegance to the structure. The pyramidal roof is typical of the military type roof. The gallery is one of the key features defining the defensive function of the Blockhouse. Excellent functional design is evidenced in elaborate defensive elements such as the walls that are four feet (1.2 meters) thick at the base and two feet (60 centimetres) thick at the upper storey. The loopholes, machicolations and gun ports would also have provided excellent protection against an assault. Excellent craftsmanship and materials are evident in the masonry walls, the contrasting stone trim, and also in the brick vaulting in the magazine.
The Fort Wellington Blockhouse establishes the historic character of Fort Wellington National Historic Site of Canada and is a well-known regional landmark to residents and to visitors.
Sources: James De Jonge, Four Buildings, Four Buildings, Fort Wellington National Historic Site, Prescott, Ontario, Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office, Building Report 90-305; Fort Wellington Blockhouse, Fort Wellington National Historic Site, Prescott, Ontario, Heritage Character Statement 90-305
The character-defining elements of the Blockhouse at Fort Wellington should be respected.
Its excellent aesthetics, its functional design and quality materials and craftsmanship, for example:
- the square, three-storey massing with pyramidal roof, and the chimneys;
- the massive construction, with evenly coursed masonry walls that extend to the top of the third storey, four feet thick at the base, and two feet thick at the upper storey;
- the upper, third floor surrounded by a wooden gallery clad with vertical wood siding and cantilevered on large stone and wooden corbels, and the loopholes, machicolations and two windows on each elevation of the gallery;
- the centrally placed gun ports of the second floor, each flanked by four single-rifle loopholes trimmed with lighter coloured stonework;
- the single, ground floor entrance on the south façade protected by flanking single rifle loopholes, and also the ventilation ports of the other three façades;
- the interior layout and fabric, including the doors and windows and their placement, and the fittings and hardware;
- the powder magazine and armoury with thick arched ceilings arched with brick, the thick, interior masonry walls that support the beams of the second and third floors, and the non-sparking copper sheeting, wood plank flooring and plaster;
- the foundations that incorporate some of the subterranean foundation of the previous structure.
The manner in which the Blockhouse at Fort Wellington establishes the historic character of the National Historic Site of Canada and is a symbolic and familiar landmark of the region, as evidenced by:
- its simple, massive design and materials that harmonize with the nearby earthworks, front gate, the caponnière and other buildings within the military setting;
- its role as the main component within the group of structures that comprise Fort Wellington National Historic Site of Canada complex, and its tall and highly visible profile that rises above the earthworks, which make it familiar to the local community and visitors.