Guide to the Preparation of Commemorative Integrity Statements
Guideline No. 6 - Developing the Statement of Commemorative Intent
6.0 Commemorative Intent
Each CIS contains a Statement of Commemorative Intent (SOCI). The SOCI provides the answer to the question: why was this place designated as a national historic site?
6.1 Guidelines for the Preparation of the SOCI
Documentation for the SOCI is derived from the records of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. The HSMBC minutes typically contain the following information:
- Chairman's Report
- Secretary's Report
- Committee Reports
- Narrative discussion pertaining to the recommendations
- In addition, there are the approved plaque texts, many of which are contained in the Minutes.
Only items 4-6 are used to develop the SOCI.
6.1.1 Hierarchy of information
The hierarchy of information to be used to determine the reasons for designation of a site is as follows:
- a. recommendation(s) for national significance, including recommendations for cost sharing that contain an explicit reference to reason(s) for national significance;
- b. explicit references to "national significance" or "national importance" in an approved plaque text;
- record of discussion in HSMBC minutes which may precede or follow the HSMBC's recommendation;
- HSMBC recommendations for what should be in the plaque text;
- approved plaque texts used to clarify HSMBC minutes;
- approved plaque texts, where the plaque has been erected or the text has been approved within the previous five years;
- HSMBC recommendations for interpretive programming.
Beginning at the first level (1a and 1b) in the hierarchy, if reasons for designation are found, it is not necessary to go further down the list to prepare a site's SOCI. Section 6.2 contains more details on the hierarchy.
6.1.2 Use the words of the HSMBC
The reasons for designation should be expressed using the words and phrases in the HSMBC minutes and approved plaque texts in a way which remains faithful to the HSMBC's intent. Adjustments may be made in some cases, e.g. First Nation for Indian tribe, pre-contact for pre-historic.
If the translation of the HSMBC minutes from English to French or vice versa is poorly done, the translation can be adjusted in the preparation of the SOCI but it must remain faithful to the other official language. Because plaque texts are approved by the HSMBC in both official languages (and sometimes in a third language), the text must not be re-translated.
6.1.3 Succinct and non-repetitive
The reasons for designation should be written in a succinct and non-repetitive way, providing sufficient information for the reader to understand the reasons for designation but going no further. The reasons should be distinct from each other.
6.1.4 Format for the SOCI
In order to ensure that the SOCI presents the necessary information in a consistent manner, it is to be prepared as follows:
XY was designated a national historic site in (give year). The reasons for designation, as derived from the (give year) HSMBC minutes or the (give year) plaque text, are:
- it served as ...
- it became ...
- it was associated with ...
Where the reasons for designation are derived from references which originate in different years, the format in the following example should be used:
Fort Livingstone was designated a national historic site in 1923. The reasons for designation, as derived from the 1924 and 1963 plaque texts, respectively, are:
- it was the first capital of the Northwest Territories, 1876-1877.
- it was the original headquarters and first post built specifically for the North-West Mounted Police.
6.1.5 Reference to historic and architectural importance
The HSMBC's early recommendations for national significance refer almost exclusively to a site's national historic significance. In the mid-1950s the definition of "historic place" in the Historic Sites and Monuments Act was amended to include "buildings or structures that are of national interest by reason of age or architectural design." Beginning in the 1950s and continuing until 1997 recommendations variously referred to historical and architectural significance, historical significance or architectural significance.
Where a site is designated as being of historic and architectural significance, it is reasonable to anticipate that the SOCI will contain at least two reasons for designation, one relating to its historic importance, the other to its architectural importance. Where information on historic or architectural importance is not available from the HSMBC minute or plaque text, it may be necessary to seek clarification from the HSMBC.
In some cases the historical reasons are not particularly clear and the SOCI may provide a single reason which incorporates both historical and architectural significance:
- St. George's Church (Halifax) - This site was recognized as being of both architectural and historic significance. The site was designated because:
- it illustrates a refined but rare aspect, dating to 1800, of the Palladian architectural style.
- St. John's (Stone) Church (Saint John) - This site was recognized on both counts. The site was designated because:
- it is one of the earliest and best examples of a Gothic Revival church, in the Romantic phase, in Canada.
In both cases, historical was interpreted to mean by reason of age - "dating to 1800," and "one of the earliest examples."
6.1.6 Reference to architectural importance
Beginning in the late 1950s and increasingly in the 1960s, the HSMBC began to make reference to a site's architectural importance with or without reference to the reasons for its historic importance. These designations increased in the 1970s and 1980s as a result of building type and style studies prepared for the HSMBC.
The examples, below, illustrate a designation arising out of a building-type study, one arising out of a style study and a designation for architectural reasons which was independent of any building type or style study:
- Elora Drill Shed . This was designated as a result of the study on the architecture of the drill shed in Canada, a building type study out of which came a series of designations in 1989. The minutes note that " those recommended for designation ... would in most cases be seen to be good representative examples of an important historical phenomenon rather than structures of great intrinsic merit." The HSMBC recommended the Elora Drill Shed as an example " from the first stage in the evolution of the Canadian Drill Hall (1863 to 1871)." The plaque text for the drill shed makes reference to "this handsome stone structure, built in 1865, represents the earliest phase of drill hall construction in Canada" which repeats the reason for designation.
- St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church (North Vancouver) was designated in 1980 as being of national historic significance. After its original designation on historical grounds, St. Paul's was considered as part of the Gothic Revival style study in 1990 and designated as a nationally significant example of the "Gothic Revival Style in Canada." Accordingly the SOCI would recognize the architectural style as being one reason for designation.
- Trestler House . The May 1969 HSMBC minutes state that Trestler House " is of national architectural importance." The plaque for the site states " It is a fine example of traditional Quebec architecture, with its slightly extended eaves, its walls of quarried rubble and many chimneys and openings."
6.2 The Hierarchy of Information
6.2.1a Recommendations for national significance
Ministerially-approved recommendations of the HSMBC are assigned the highest priority. Recommendations were not formally approved as a matter of course by the Minister until the passage of the Historic Sites and Monuments Act of 1953. Pre-1953 HSMBC deliberations were not framed as recommendations but rather as "moved" and "carried". These have been accepted as designations unless explicitly rejected by the Minister or senior departmental officials.
6.2.1b Using references to national importance / national significance in plaque texts
A few plaque texts 1 make explicit reference to the reasons for designation:
- St. Anne's Church (Toronto) "St. Anne's vibrant wall paintings make this church a place of national historic significance."
- Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints " A striking modern building dominating Canada's first Mormon settlement, the Alberta Temple is an architectural and historical monument of national significance."
In these cases, the reference to national importance or national significance in the plaque text can be used in the SOCI.
References to "important" or "significant" in a plaque text can not be used to determine commemorative intent if the modifier "national" is missing.
6.2.2 Using the record of discussion
HSMBC Minutes frequently contain a record of the HSMBC's discussion relating to the subject being considered for designation. This discussion may precede or follow the recommendation itself. In the absence of reasons cited as discussed in 6.2.1, commemorative intent may be gleaned from the record of discussion.
6.2.3 Using references in the HSMBC minutes to what should be included in the plaque text
References to what is to be included in plaque texts should be used only when the minutes do not clearly articulate commemorative intent for the site. For example:
Banff Park Museum In the 1985 minutes, the HSMBC recommended that:
- "the Banff Museum is of national historic significance and should be commemorated by means of a plaque. Further, while the Board felt that the plaque should make some reference to the building's architectural style, so characteristic of early federal buildings in Rocky Mountain Park, it requested that the inscription emphasize the role played by Norman Bethune Sanson in the development of this "museum of museums" which so effectively illustrates an early approach to the interpretation of natural history in Canada."
Since there are no other references to national significance for the Banff Park Museum, the Banff Park Museum was designated because of its architectural style and because of its importance as a "museum of museums," illustrating an early approach to the interpretation of natural history in Canada, developed by Norman Bethune Sanson.
Metropolitan Theatre and Capitol Theatre (Winnipeg) HSMBC minutes for June 1991 record the recommendation for the Metropolitan Theatre:
- The Metropolitan (Allen) Theatre and the Capitol Theatre, fine examples, respectively, of the work of prominent American theatre architects C. Howard Crane and Thomas Lamb, are of national historic and architectural significance and should each be commemorated by means of a plaque, the texts of which, while making brief reference to the Theatres' architecture and cultural impact, should focus on the corporate struggle between the Allen and Famous Players Theatre chains for supremacy in the film distribution industry in Canada.
Here there are three reasons for designation: the architects and architecture, the theatre's cultural impact, and the corporate struggle between the chains.
The example below illustrates an instance where references to plaque text do not form part of the site's commemorative intent:
- Marysville District The March 1994 HSMBC minutes make reference to five reasons for the district's designation. The minutes later note that "the Board suggested that the plaque inscription for the Marysville historic district make reference to the architectural firm which appears to have been responsible for the design of all extant elements."
6.2.4 Use of plaque texts to clarify the HSMBC's recommendation from the minutes
In a small number of cases, plaque texts can be used when the reasons for designation are only cryptically referred to in the HSMBC recommendation:
- St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church (North Vancouver) The June 1980 minutes state that "St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church is of national historic significance, for social reasons." Because the social reasons are not stated in the minutes, it would be reasonable to draw the relevant information from the plaque text.
- Skoki Ski Lodge In the October 1992 minutes there is reference to the "variety of historical themes with which rustic buildings in national parks are associated, prominent among which are tourism development and outdoor recreation, private/public ownership in parks and federal make-work projects in the Depression years" . Site specific information on these "historical themes" can be drawn from the Skoki plaque: "rare and little-changed link with the early days of ski tourism ... first such facility to operate on a commercial basis in Canada."
- Xá:ytem / Hatzic Rock In June 1992 the HSMBC recommended that "because of the age of the Hatzic Rock habitation site and its close association to a transformer site of clear importance to the St :lo people, both elements of the site are of national historic significance." The Minute does not describe what is meant by the importance of the transformer site; however, the plaque text explains the significance of the transformer site: it exemplifies the importance of preserving St :lo history, culture and spirituality.
6.2.5 Using plaque texts
Where no reason for designation is given in the HSMBC recommendation(s) and none of the cases outlined in sections 6.2.1 through 6.2.4 apply, plaque texts should be used to identify commemorative intent.
22.214.171.124 Plaque texts prepared by members of the HSMBC versus those prepared by staff
Those plaque texts prepared by members of the HSMBC, especially those prepared within a short time of designation, have a stronger likelihood of clearly expressing the HSMBC's reasons for the site's designation than those written by staff, particularly after the 1960s. The earlier plaque texts are usually briefer and, as a result, more focussed. It is sometimes easier to draw conclusions about why the HSMBC thought the site was important.
At the same time, later texts (generally prepared by staff) often reflect different historiographical perspective(s), more extensive research, and provide mini-histories of the subject being commemorated.
Texts, regardless of authorship, are all approved by the HSMBC before the plaque is erected. All merit consideration. Not all statements within a text can be considered to communicate reasons for designation.
126.96.36.199 Opening sentence in plaque texts
Instructions to plaque text writers over the years have suggested that the opening sentence should incorporate the reason(s) for the site's designation. For a variety of reasons (including lack of consistency, changes in the text following review of the inscription, problems with the logical flow of text), one can not assume that the first sentence contains references to national significance. In determining reasons for designation, no preference should be accorded to the first sentence.
188.8.131.52 Concluding sentence in plaque texts
Writers of plaque texts often conclude with a statement which rounds out the site's story, usually by bringing it to the present. These sentences typically do not contain reasons for designation.
Statements which are not considered reasons for the site's designation are usually those that reflect a long chronological gap or have no direct connection to reasons identified prior to the concluding sentence. Some examples:
- Boat Encampment "Bypassed by the railways, this historic spot was made accessible to visitors by the completion of the Big Bend Highway in June, 1940."
- L'Anse aux Meadows "The site also contains evidence of a long sequence of native North American cultures occupying the area before and after the Norse." (draft text)
- Fort La Tour "A few years later, the Simmonds, Hazen and White Company established a flourishing trade on this site which eventually grew into the city of Saint John."
Concluding sentences can also contain information relating to reasons for designation, and may be used for determining commemorative intent in the same ways as the rest of the text. For example:
- Jasper Park Information Centre "As the first major building in the townsite, it helped to define the character of Jasper's early development ..."
- Fort Langley "On 19 November 1858 the colony of British Columbia was here proclaimed."
184.108.40.206 Firsts, uniqueness, rarity and superlatives used in plaque texts
Attention is often focused on the superlatives in plaque texts in order to distill reasons for designation. For example, one could use the following sentence to identify a reason for designation:
- Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres - "this double-decker complex was unique in Canada"
See 6.3.2 for a case study dealing with "firsts."
220.127.116.11 Test question
When attempting to determine reasons for designation from plaque texts, it is important to ask the following question - "Would all sites which have this characteristic be of national historic importance?" The answer to this question cuts to the heart of national historic significance and frequently provides the necessary touchstone upon which to evaluate whether a statement should be considered a reason for designation.
In preparing the SOCI, testing individual reasons for designation will draw out comparisons with other sites with similar characteristics. This process will assist in determining whether the reason(s) for designation are sufficiently delineated and ensures a degree of consistency in the use and interpretation of plaque texts.
It is unlikely that posing the test question about a reason for designation will be conclusive. However, it will weed out possibilities that do not merit being cited as reasons for designation because of the comparative and contextual rigour that such a question imposes.
18.104.22.168 Use of texts for plaques which were not erected
Sometimes the HSMBC approves a plaque text but the plaque is never erected. Texts approved for plaques that were not erected, or that have not been erected within 5 years of approval, will not be used to determine commemorative intent. The current policy of the HSMBC is to have a text reconsidered by the HSMBC if the plaque is not erected within 5 years of approval. Plaque texts approved within the last 5 years can be used to assist in determining commemorative intent even though the plaque has not yet been erected.
New plaque texts written after the SOCI has been established will not change the commemorative intent for the site.
6.2.6 Use of HSMBC recommendations for interpretive programming
In the absence of reasons for designation in the minutes or an approved plaque text, recommendations for interpretive programming should be used to formulate the SOCI.
In most cases, however, such references appear in addition to clear reasons for designation. In such cases, the recommendation for interpretive programming should not form part of the SOCI, as illustrated in the following examples:
- Diefenbunker The Spring 1994 minutes state that the Diefenbunker should be designated "because it is symbolic of the Cold War and the strategy of nuclear deterrence as well as a people's determination to survive as a nation following nuclear war." The minutes go on to suggest that if the bunker "became an operational national site, some attention should be paid in its interpretation to its importance as an engineering achievement and to the critical path method of planning used in its construction."
- Hershey Pavilion The Fall 1997 minutes recommend that Hershey Pavilion (along with 4 other nurses' residences) is of national historic significance because of the association with the "contribution of nurses and nursing to scientific medicine and to women's agency as health care professionals." The minutes go on to suggest that "through interpretation of nursing at one of the above residences, appropriate attention be given in the interpretation to the fact that as it emerged people of colour, Aboriginals, Jews and other minority groups had been denied early entry into the nursing profession."
6.2.7 Use of submission reports
Since the 1960s, submission reports (formerly called agenda papers) have been prepared for the consideration of the HSMBC on subjects being proposed for designation. Submission reports are part of the designation process, containing important information taken into consideration by the HSMBC. Submission reports are prepared for the information of the HSMBC but are not approved by it or by the Minister.
Submission reports are valuable for the context that they provide for the HSMBC's recommendation and assist readers in understanding commemorative intent as reflected in the HSMBC minutes and plaque texts. While they help in understanding commemorative intent and in providing a focus for the examination of the plaque text, they cannot be used to determine a site's commemorative intent.
6.3 Development of the SOCI - Case Studies
The content of these examples has been developed to be consistent with advice provided in this Guideline . Quotations from the minutes and plaque texts are in italics. The recommendations are indented.
6.3.1 Central Emergency Government Headquarters NHSC (Diefenbunker), Carp, Ontario
The "Diefenbunker" was considered twice by the HSMBC, first for the original designation and the second time after the Department of National Defence had stripped the site of its furnishings and equipment. This SOCI demonstrates the relative importance of HSMBC statements in determining why the site was designated.
The "Diefenbunker": The Central Emergency Government Headquarters at Carp and the Continuity of government.
Following a lengthy discussion, the Board was unanimous in recommending that
- the Central Emergency Government Headquarters at Carp, Ontario, known as the "Diefenbunker" should be designated a national historic site and commemorated by means of a plaque, because it is symbolic of the Cold War and the strategy of nuclear deterrence as well of a people's determination to survive as a nation following nuclear war.
Further, as the Board felt that the "Diefenbunker", a poignant, tangible reminder of what was arguably among the most critical periods in the modern history of mankind, was of exceptional significance at the national level, it recommended that every effort be made to ensure that the facility, or a portion of it, is preserved, presented and made accessible to the public. In that regard, the Board urged Parks Canada to approach the owning department, other government agencies such as the National Museums, and the private sector and explore with them the feasibility of developing the "Diefenbunker", through co-management or otherwise, as an operational national historic site. The Board also urged that business, marketing and other studies which may be required to determine if the development of the "Diefenbunker" as a national historic site was a viable option, be undertaken at the first opportunity.
Finally, the Board recommended that if, as it hoped, the "Diefenbunker" became an operational national site, some attention should be paid in its interpretation to its importance as an engineering achievement and to the critical path method of planning used in its construction.
The Board was then informed, by Dr. MacDonald, that the Central Emergency Government Headquarters at Carp, Ontario, the "Diefenbunker", had recently been stripped of its furnishings and fixtures. While the Canadian War Museum and the Museum of Civilization had been fortunate enough to be able to save a number of the artefacts, the majority of them had been or were to be disposed of through Crown Assets. Dr. MacDonald was of the opinion that, without its original equipment and furnishings, it would not be possible to develop the facility as an operating national historic site, an option which the Board had urged be most vigorously investigated when it recommended the "Diefenbunker" be designated a national historic site at its June 1994 meeting.
The Board was extremely upset to learn that the facility had been gutted, as it believed that the "Diefenbunker" had been the most important surviving Cold War site in Canada. It was doubly disappointed to learn of the stripping of the facility as it understood that National Defence had been aware of its interest and had, in fact, been requested to advise the Program if it intended to move forward with its decommissioning.
The Board stated, however, that it was not prepared to rescind its recommendation regarding the national significance of the "Diefenbunker". Rather it urged the Program to actively investigate the possibility of capping and sealing the facility, so that it might be "frozen in time". It was hoped that, if this could be accomplished, at some time in the future it might be possible to reopen it and, through the reintroduction of those fittings seen to be essential to the telling of its story, or other means, provide Canadians with a meaningful interpretation of the story it so poignantly symbolizes - Canada and the Cold War.
The following plaque text was approved by the HSMBC on 8 May 1998:
Irreverently known as the "Diefenbunker," this structure is a powerful symbol of Canada's response to the Cold War. Designed in the 1950s to withstand all but a direct hit by a nuclear weapon, it was intended to shelter key political and military personnel during a nuclear attack. Fortunately, it never served its intended purpose, although the Diefenbaker government made plans to retreat to its protection during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. The bunker functioned as the hub of a communications network and civil defence system until it closed in 1994.
The recommendation contains the reasons for designation: because it is symbolic of the Cold War and the strategy of nuclear deterrence as well of a people's determination to survive as a nation following nuclear war. In order to ensure that the SOCI can be used to develop the messages expressing the reasons for designation, the clause can be broken into two components.
Consideration was given to the following from the HSMBC's discussion: (1) a poignant, tangible reminder of what was arguably among the most critical periods in the modern history of mankind and (2) some attention should be paid in its interpretation to its importance as an engineering achievement and to the critical path method of planning used in its construction as reasons for designation. However, because the recommendation already contained clear reasons for designation, it was not necessary to use information contained in the HSMBC's discussion.
When the HSMBC reconsidered the Diefenbunker in November 1994, it stated that it believed that the "Diefenbunker" had been the most important surviving Cold War site in Canada . This statement was not included as part of commemorative intent because
- the statement was not part of a recommendation.
- it appeared that the HSMBC was simply contrasting the state of the bunker in June 1994 when it had been the most important surviving Cold War site in Canada with its unfurnished state in November 1994 when it was not.
If this were to be included as part of the SOCI, it would need to be returned to the HSMBC for consideration.
The plaque text is not needed to determine the reasons for designation because there are sufficient reasons contained in the HSMBC minutes on the designation of the site.
Statement of Commemorative Intent
The Central Emergency Government Headquarters, known as the "Diefenbunker", was designated a national historic site in 1994. The reasons for designation, as derived from the June 1994 HSMBC minute, are:
- it is symbolic of the Cold War and the strategy of nuclear deterrence .
- it is symbolic of a people's determination to survive as a nation following nuclear war .
6.3.2 St. Paul's Anglican Church NHSC, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Although St. Paul's was recommended for designation in 1981 and recommended for cost-sharing in 1986, there were no reasons given for the site's national significance. It was necessary to derive the reasons for designation exclusively from the 1985 plaque text.
St. Paul's Church, St. Paul's Hill, Halifax, Nova Scotia
The Board recommended that
- St. Paul's Church is of both national historic and architectural significance and should be commemorated by means of a plaque."
St. Paul's Church, St. Paul's Hill, Halifax, Nova Scotia
The Board first reaffirmed its November 1981 recommendation that
- "St. Paul's Church is of both national historic and architectural significance and should be commemorated by means of a plaque."
Further the Board stated that
- "St. Paul's Church, Halifax, is of exceptional significance to Canada both historically and architecturally."
Consequently, the Board also recommended that
- "Parks consider St. Paul's to be a priority with respect to possible cost-sharing and that it enter into discussions with the Province of Nova Scotia, the City of Halifax and any other interested parties, in order to investigate the possibility of co-operating with them in the restoration of the Church's historic fabric."
The plaque text for St. Paul's was approved by the HSMBC at the June 1985 meeting. It reads:
Completed in 1750, St. Paul's was the first church outside Great Britain to be designated an Anglican cathedral. Between 1787 and 1864 it served as the cathedral church of the See of Nova Scotia. For 96 years St. Paul's was also the official garrison church for the army and navy establishment. The design of the building is based on that of St. Peter's, Vere Street, London, England, by James Gibbs. St. Paul's is the first building erected in the Palladian style in Canada. Despite the addition of wings and chancel, the original wooden frame, pre-cut in Boston, still forms the main body of the church.
The original HSMBC recommendation of 1981 with respect to St. Paul's provides virtually no guidance on national significance except that the reasons are both historical and architectural - St. Paul's Church is of both national historic and architectural significance . Accordingly it would be reasonable to expect that St. Paul's would have reasons for designation relating to its history and to its architecture.
Consideration for cost-sharing in 1986 resulted in little additional information except to note that the site was of exceptional significanc e (a phrase which gives it priority with respect to the cost-sharing program) and that restoration of the Church's historic fabric was a priority.
Because of the lack of information in the minutes (for either designation or cost-sharing), it was necessary to turn to the 1985 plaque text which provided the following:
- "St. Paul's was the first church outside Great Britain to be designated an Anglican cathedral." Use of the word "first" and the relative importance of the designation provides an indication of significance.
- "St. Paul's is the first building erected in the Palladian style in Canada." This statement illustrates an important achievement in design and indication of significance.
Statement of Commemorative Intent
St. Paul's Church was designated a national historic site in 1981. The reasons for designation, as derived from the 1985 plaque inscription, are:
- it was the first church outside Great Britain to be designated an Anglican cathedral,
- it is the first building erected in the Palladian style in Canada.
6.3.3 St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Basilica NHSC, St. John's, Newfoundland
The reasons for the Basilica's designation were not stated with the recommendation for designation in November 1983. However, they were stated (albeit somewhat obtusely) in the consideration for the cost-sharing program in February 1989. Given that the reasons for designation stated as part of the site's evaluation for cost-sharing take precedence over the 1984 plaque text, it was not necessary to consider the plaque text to develop the SOCI.
The Basilica of St. John the Baptist, St. John's, Newfoundland
The Board recommended that
- "the Basilica of St. John the Baptist is of both national historic and architectural significance and should be commemorated by means of a plaque."
The Basilica of St. John the Baptist, St. John's, Newfoundland
The Board first reaffirmed its November 1983 recommendation that
- the Basilica of St. John the Baptist is of both national historic and architectural significance and should be commemorated by means of a plaque.
During the course of the Board's discussion of the question of possible financial assistance, through the National Cost-Sharing Programme, to aid in the restoration of the Basilica, it was noted that the Building had been an important focus for the religious, social and political life of Newfoundland. There was, however, general agreement that there were a number of religious institutions in Canada which could make similar claims and it was, therefore, recommended that further consideration of the Basilica be deferred pending the preparation of a brief paper placing it in the context of other large cathedrals of the period, which had, over time, comparable influence on the development of their regions.
The Basilica of St. John the Baptist, St. John's, Newfoundland
In November 1983, the Board considered the Basilica of St. John the Baptist and recommended that the Basilica of St. John the Baptist is of both national historic and architectural significance and should be commemorated by means of a plaque.
In November 1988, the Basilica went back to the Board for consideration as a potential candidate for funding through the National Cost-Sharing Program and during the course of the Board's discussion it was noted that the building had been an important focus for the religious, social and political life of Newfoundland. There was, however, general agreement that there were a number of religious institutions in Canada which could make similar claims and it was, therefore, recommended that further consideration of the Basilica be deferred pending the preparation of a brief paper placing it in the context of other large cathedrals of the period, which had, over time, comparable influence on the development of their regions.
The Board had no hesitation in reaffirming its November 1983 recommendation respecting the national significance of the Basilica of St. John the Baptist. The Board also noted once again that the Basilica had played an important role in the religious, social and political life of its region; however, the study before it, Mid-Nineteenth Century Cathedrals, indicated that the Basilica was by no means unique among Canadian cathedrals in this regard and , consequently, it could not be seen to be of exceptional national significance. Nonetheless, the Basilica's Lombard Romanesque architectural style was of great interest and the Board recommended that:
- when those cost-sharing projects that are considered to be priorities have been completed, the Program should enter into discussions with the City of St. John's, the Province of Newfoundland and other interested parties with a view to entering into a cost-sharing agreement to restore the Basilica of St. John the Baptist - federal monies being directed to the restoration of the Cathedral's exterior historic fabric.
The HSMBC approved the plaque text for the Basilica of St. John the Baptist in June 1984. It reads:
The Roman Catholic Church was formally established in Newfoundland by Irish settlers at the end of the 18th century and since that time has played a key role in the religious, political and social history of the province. The Basilica of St. John the Baptist stands as the principal symbol of the church in Newfoundland. Begun in 1841 it was an ambitious project for its time and reflected the intent of Bishop Michael Anthony Fleming to erect a cathedral of unusual elegance, extent and beauty. The design, inspired by romanesque churches of Italy, was one of the earliest examples of this stylistic revival in North America.
The HSMBC's original recommendation in November 1983, recommended only that the Basilica was of both national historic and architectural significance . The 1989 recommendation does not speak to commemorative intent.
Although a plaque text was approved in June 1984, the priority for determining commemorative intent is the record of discussion associated with the cost-sharing recommendation. In February 1989, the HSMBC identified the two reasons for the site's designation:
- the Basilica's....important role in the religious, social and political life of its region.
- the Basilica's Lombard Romanesque architectural style .
With respect to its role in the region, the HSMBC noted that the Basilica was not of exceptional [emphasis added] national significance and by no means unique among Canadian cathedrals in this regard . The word " exceptional" was used in the context of establishing cost-sharing priorities, and was not intended to be interpreted as meaning "nationally significant."
Because commemorative intent was established as a result of the cost-sharing recommendation, it was not necessary to use the plaque.
Statement of Commemorative Intent
The Basilica of St. John the Baptist was designated a national historic site in 1983. The reasons for designation, as derived from the 1989 HSMBC minute, are:
- the Basilica's important role in the religious, social and political life of its region.
- the Basilica's Lombard Romanesque architectural style .
6.3.4 Province House NHSC, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
Province House was the subject of two HSMBC recommendations (1966 and 1980), both of which contribute reasons for the site's designation. Province House is also mentioned in the designation for the Great George Street historic district. Other plaques mounted at the site do not contribute to reasons for the site's designation.
The Board recommended the following resolution:
- The Board is satisfied that the Province Building is of national historic significance but it cannot recommend that the Federal Government aid in its preservation and maintenance under the terms of the letter of April 21, 1966 which the Premier of Prince Edward Island has sent to the Chairman of the Board.
The Committee agreed that an ad hoc approach to the identification of Canadian Court Houses of national significance would not serve the purposes of the Board. A lengthy discussion of possible selection criteria ensued, following which the Committee recommended that Court Houses selected for commemoration by the Board would be identified as falling into one of three distinct categories:
These categories are:
One Court House in each province which is to be commemorated as being representative of the judicial institution in that province.
The Committee then began the selection of those Court Houses which were to be recommended for commemoration by means of a plaque, under Category I.
The Committee recommended the following Court Houses to be of both national historic and architectural significance as being representative of the judicial institution in their respective provinces and in the Yukon Territory.
4) For the Province of Prince Edward Island
Province House, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
The Committee recommended that as the judicial function of Province House will be handled in the interpretation of the structure no action be taken. Should the Law Courts Building in Charlottetown be restored the Committee recommended that it be plaqued as being representative of the judicial institution in Prince Edward Island
The following text for Province House was approved in 1970 but the plaque was not erected:
Completed in 1847 from grey freestone cut in Nova Scotia, this legislative building has remained unchanged to the present day. Its Georgian style is a fine example of the regularity, symmetry and order of the eighteenth century classical form. In September, 1864, the first conference on Canadian federation was held in the Legislative Council room, now the Confederation Chamber.
A new plaque text was approved in November 1981.
Completed in 1847, this neo-classical building was designed and built by local architect Isaac Smith to accommodate the provincial legislature and administrative offices. It also housed the Island's Supreme Court until 1872. Province House retains its central role in Island public life, with the Assembly holding sessions here. In September 1864 it was the scene of the first conference on colonial union. Delegates from the colonies of Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Canada met in the legislative council chamber, now the Confederation Chamber, to begin discussions which led to confederation in 1867.
Related Designations and Other Plaques
- Great George Street "stretching from Richmond Street to the Charlottetown waterfront and including Province House" was recommended as an historic district by the HSMBC in November 1990.
- Plaques commemorating the seven Island Fathers of Confederation are located on the grounds of Province House.
With the initial recommendation in 1966, the HSMBC recommended only that Province Building is of national historic significance but did not provide any reasons.
When considered under the Canadian court houses study, the HSMBC recommended that Province House was of national historic and architectural significance as being representative of the judicial institution in Prince Edward Island.
In order to determine the reasons for designation related to the initial recommendation it is necessary to analyze the 1981 plaque text. The 1970 plaque text is not considered as it was never erected.
Based on the analysis of the 1981 plaque text one of the reasons for designation relates to the Charlottetown Conference.
- In September 1864 it was the scene of the first conference on colonial union ... which led to confederation in 1867.
The Great George Street historic district designation should be clearly mentioned in the CIS as a designation which includes Province House, but it does not form part of the SOCI for Province House. Rather, it should follow the SOCI and be introduced as follows: It should be noted that Province House forms an integral part of Great George Street NHSC.
Plaques commemorating the seven Island Fathers of Confederation are related to the reasons for the site's designation but do not contribute to the SOCI. The plaques are resources not related to the reasons for designation.
Statement of Commemorative Intent
Province House was designated a national historic site in 1966. The reasons for designation, as derived from the 1981 plaque inscription and the 1980 HSMBC minute, are:
- it was the site of the first conference on colonial union in 1864 which led to confederation in 1867.
- it is representative of the judicial institution in P.E.I.
6.3.5 Augustine Mound NHSC, Red Bank, New Brunswick
In some instances where the HSMBC minutes record only that the site is nationally significant but no reasons are given and there is no plaque text, it will not be possible to develop a SOCI without referring the matter to the HSMBC.
Dr. Thomas next presented for decision by the Board the question of the Augustine Mound Site in New Brunswick. A slide presentation and illuminating commentary by Drs. Wright and MacDonald convinced the Board that this was a most exciting discovery and the recommendation of the Fur Trade and Indigenous Peoples Committee was adopted as follows:
- that the Augustine Mound Site in Northumberland County, N.B., is a site of national historic significance, and that appropriate means should be taken to ensure its preservation and interpretation.
No plaque texts have been approved.
Related Designations and Plaques
In June 1982, the HSMBC recommended that
- "the Oxbow Site in New Brunswick is of national historic significance"
[and that] the Atlantic Region, Parks Canada, be encouraged to develop the relationship between the Oxbow Site and the Augustine Mounds [sic] which were declared to be of national significance in 1975.
Augustine Mound is of national historic significance but no reasons were given for its significance.
Statement of Commemorative Intent
It was not possible to derive a SOCI from the information which is available. Consequently, the question was referred to the HSMBC.
A searchable database of about 500 approved plaque texts (most also erected) was established to search for references to "significance," "importance," "important," etc. The database is available through Parks Canada's intranet connection at . The database does not include all sites, and contains no people or events. Work on the database is on-going.