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Fort Wellington National Historic Site of Canada

Fort Wellington National Historic Site is one of the best preserved nineteenth-century fortifications in Canada. Fort Wellington National Historic Site is one of the best preserved nineteenth-century fortifications in Canada.
© Parks Canada

Grand opening of new Visitor Centre at Fort Wellington National Historic Site

On May 19 & 20, 2012, Fort Wellington National Historic Site launched commemorations of the War of 1812 with cannon fire, musket volleys and fireworks over the St. Lawrence River as it hosted a Garrison-Re-enactment Weekend. It was a season opening that will certainly be remembered for many years as thousands of visitors and well over 100 re-enactment participants enjoyed glorious Victoria Day weekend weather and celebrated Canada’s cultural heritage.

Fort Wellington National Historic Site, located in Prescott, Ontario, is one of the best preserved nineteenth-century fortifications in Canada. During the War of 1812, Prescott’s location was of utmost importance to the Canadian and British war effort. Located just west of the last set of major rapids on the river, the town was the easternmost point that larger sailing vessels from Lake Ontario could travel. Here, cargo carried upstream from Montreal could be transferred and forwarded to Kingston and points west. The fate of the forces in Upper Canada depended upon this supply line.

To better tell the 1812 story, Fort Wellington opened its new visitor centre to the public for the first time. Visitor centre exhibits explain how local militia, British military and First Nations interactions protected the St. Lawrence River, Prescott, and British supply lines during the War of 1812. Without doubt, the favourite addition to the visitor centre offering is an incredible gallery – with views to the river – that showcases the remains of an 1812 era British gunboat.

The new gunboat gallery fills a void by linking the importance of the fort and the river together. While Fort Wellington provided one aspect of border defence, another layer of security came from the use of gunboats to defend the river. Gunboats were armed shallow-draft boats that could be manoeuvred in shallow or restricted waters where sailing was difficult for larger ships – ideal for the St. Lawrence River – and Prescott became an important naval staging area where these vessels were stationed throughout much of the war.

The large crowds that flocked through the visitor centre over the long weekend had nothing but compliments for the three years of hard work and dedication that many Parks Canada team members invested to bring this incredible space together on-time and on-budget.

Throughout the summer of 2012, Fort Wellington will have a troop of 1812 living history presenters, cannon and musket fire demonstrations, and fun activities for all ages. Easily accessible along Highway 401, Fort Wellington is just 1 hour south of Ottawa, 2 hours west of Montreal and 4 hours east of Toronto.

Take time out this summer to make good use of your Parks Canada Employee Learning and Discovery Pass by connecting with an important period of Canada’s cultural heritage at a rejuvenated Fort Wellington National Historic Site.