Wall Stabilization Project - Summer 2012
The scaffolding is coming down! For the past several years, members of the Churchill community and visitors have witnessed much activity at Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site (NHS) as Parks Canada staff, with the help of summer students and local businesses, have worked to stabilize the fort walls. Parks Canada is pleased to report that the project has come to a conclusion as scheduled in summer 2011. Summer 2012 will see the stonemasons conducting some final repointing work as part of the ongoing maintenance program and a site clean-up taking place.
Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site, on the shores of Hudson Bay and the Churchill River © Parks Canada
Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site stands as a monument to the fur trade and as a reminder of the 18th century French-English rivalry for control of the territory and resources around Hudson Bay. The Hudson’s Bay Company built the Fort between 1731 and 1771 in the French Vauban, or star-shaped, fortification design to protect its operations in the region.
Although abandoned after a French naval force laid siege and partly destroyed it in 1782, the Fort’s substantial remains endured into the twentieth century. When it was designated a national historic site in 1920, the core of the original rampart, or defensive wall, was still largely intact. Federal Government work projects during the 1930s, 1950s and again in the 1960s, were conducted to re-assemble and repair original elements of the Fort. Since then, with limited conservation work and the impact of extreme environmental conditions, original sections of the Fort’s massive stone walls became unstable and, in 1997, a section of wall collapsed.
Learn more: History of Prince of Wales Fort
Masons work to repair and stabilize the walls of Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site © Parks Canada
Why was the wall stabilization project necessary?
Water freezing and thawing within the rubble interior of the walls for over 250 years has taken its toll on the walls, contributing to the weakening and collapse of some sections. Original sections of the stone on the ramparts inside the Fort, which came into the 20th century with remarkable integrity, began to exhibit signs of sudden deterioration in the latter half of the century. Further investigation revealed that the degradation of the stonework was accelerating, particularly on the north side of the Fort.
Learn more: Prince of Wales Fort Wall Stabilization Project
In response to the deterioration of some of the wall sections, Parks Canada undertook a comprehensive research and monitoring program with the involvement of international experts to understand the Fort’s construction and condition, and its rate of and reasons for deterioration. Implementation of a multi-year conservation program to stabilize the walls of Prince of Wales Fort followed. The program was completed on schedule in 2011.
The project consisted of two main components. The first component was the stabilization of the deteriorated areas of the walls involving the dismantling and rebuilding of the walls by heritage masons over numerous summers. The masons carefully removed the outer face stones, stabilized the inner core stones and reset the face stones back in their original locations.
The second component was the design and installation of a new drainage system which was completed in the summer of 2011. This included re-sloping the ramparts with light-weight materials and installing an impermeable membrane and protective cover to improve water evacuation away from the outer walls. As a result of the re-sloping, meltwater and rainwater are now channelled into small trenches and drainage wells that are designed to speed water movement from the ramparts into the groundwater.
Throughout the project, archaeologists worked ahead of the stonemasons to complete archaeological investigations of the ramparts before the waterproof membrane was installed.
During the course of the archaeological work, a previously unknown section of the original 25-foot inner wall constructed between 1731 and 1740, was discovered.
Some additional wall sections still require conservation. These sections have been braced with large wooden trusses until resources can be identified to conduct the work. In the meantime, data collection instruments have been installed into the rampart fill and masonry walls to monitor temperature and moisture levels. This data will be gathered yearly as part of an overall monitoring strategy for the Fort.
Parks Canada’s investment of approximately $3.9 million in the Prince of Wales Fort NHS wall stabilization project represents an ongoing commitment to protecting this important heritage site for the benefit of all Canadians.
Learn more: Algonquin College Heritage Masonry Students Join the Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site Wall Stabilization Project