Waterloo Pioneer Memorial Tower

Classified Federal Heritage Building

Kitchener, Ontario
View of the Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower, showing its multi-coloured and textured local fieldstone, 1987. (© Agence Parcs Canada / Parks Canada Agency, 1987.)
General view
(© Agence Parcs Canada / Parks Canada Agency, 1987.)
Address : 437 Tower Road, Doon, Kitchener, Ontario

Recognition Statute: Treasury Board Policy on Management of Real Property
Designation Date: 1989-05-25
  • 1925 to 1926 (Construction)

Event, Person, Organization:
  • W.H. Breithaupt  (Person)
Custodian: Parks Canada
FHBRO Report Reference: 88-078
DFRP Number: 10512 00

Description of Historic Place

Built in 1926, Waterloo Pioneer Memorial Tower commemorates the arrival of the Pennsylvania-German pioneers to the Waterloo region between 1800 and 1803. The 18.9 metre high tower is located along the banks of the Grand River in Waterloo Regional Municipality, Ontario. The tower's random-coursed fieldstone, tapered "Swiss" copper roof, and the Conestoga wagon weather vane reflect the German speaking European origin and farming lifestyle of these early settlers. It has a simple well-proportioned profile, a tapered cylindrical shaft of random coursed fieldstone supporting a moulded concrete cornice under a hexagonal gallery platform. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.

Heritage Value

The Waterloo Pioneer Memorial Tower is a Classified Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values.

Historical Value:
The tower represents the theme of the commemoration of ethnic German pioneer settlers in Ontario and is also a very good early example of a regional commemorative structure. This building is visible symbol of the rise of German-Canadian nationalism during the 1920s, which resulted from anti-German sentiment, and cultural sanctions imposed on the community during the First World War. The tower was an opportunity for German-Canadians to express their historical contribution and loyalty to Canada in the form of German-Canadian nationalism as well as a method for the community to re-establish its self worth. The Pioneer Memorial Tower is also associated with W.H. Breithaupt, a prominent engineering consultant in Kitchener (previously named Berlin), who has been recognized as the initiator of the scheme.

Architectural Value:
The Waterloo Pioneer Memorial Tower is a very good example of a well-scaled design of simply detailed construction with a picturesque aesthetic. The tower shows excellent quality of craftsmanship and materials as evidenced by the cut fieldstone, and by the work on the tower’s entrance and observation deck.

Environmental Value:
The Pioneer Memorial Tower was erected near the earliest focus of Pennsylvanian-German settlement. The tower stands in a grassed area enclosed by a locked fence. The property also contains a small pioneer cemetery. The area surrounding the tower is mixed agricultural and urban development with wooded areas on the west shore of the river. The tower is a landmark to both residents and tourists by virtue of its prominence and significance.

Sources: Marilyn E. Armstrong-Reynolds, Waterloo Pioneers Tower, 437 Tower Road, Kitchener, Ontario. Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office Report 88-078; Waterloo Pioneer Tower, Kitchener, Ontario, Heritage Character Statement 95-034.

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements of the Waterloo Pioneer Memorial Tower should be respected.

Its very good aesthetic and functional designs, and excellent quality of craftsmanship and materials, such as: the building’s form and massing which consists of a tall slightly tapered cylindrical tower clad in multi-coloured and textured local fieldstone; the building’s sturdy construction of self-standing exterior wall with concrete inner core; the building’s clean lines and subtle ornamentation and picturesque silhouette; the steeply pitched “Swiss-style” roof sheathed in copper; the decorative ironwork placed around the exterior of the platform; the six stone corbels decorating the moulded concrete cornice; the original glazed windows of the tower, with limestone lintels and plain lug sills; the front portico and entrance, framed by a cut limestone lintel of classical design; the Conestoga wagon weather vane.

The manner in which the Waterloo Pioneer Memorial Tower is compatible with the picturesque setting of Waterloo Regional Municipality and is a symbol of the region, as evidenced by: its overall scale, design and materials that harmonize with its mixed agricultural and urban setting. its role as a memorial to the early German settlers of Ontario, which makes it a symbol of the region and well-known to residents and visitors.

Heritage Character Statement

Disclaimer - The heritage character statement was developed by FHBRO to explain the reasons for the designation of a federal heritage building and what it is about the building that makes it significant (the heritage character). It is a key reference document for anyone involved in planning interventions to federal heritage buildings and is used by FHBRO in their review of interventions.


Waterloo Pioneer Tower
Kitchener, Ontario

The Waterloo Pioneer Tower was built in 1925-26 in Kitchener (formerly Doon), Ontario to designs prepared by architect William Langton for the Waterloo County Pioneer's Association. It is now the property of Environment Canada. It was designated a National Historic Site by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board in August 1926. See FHBRO Building Report 88-78.

Reason for Designation

The tower was designated Classified equally for its historical value, its architectural significance and its environmental importance.

The Waterloo Pioneer Tower is a visible symbol of the rise of German Canadian nationalism during the 1920s. Its erection provided an opportunity for German-Canadians to affirm their self-worth in the years following the First World War, and to recognize the value of their pioneering contributions. The impetus for its construction and its recognition by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board may be attributed to W.H. Breithaupt, an engineering consultant and second generation leader of one of the community's most influential families.

The tower was one of the last commissions of architect William Langton, a noted critic and early contributor to the development of the architectural profession in Ontario.

Character Defining Elements

The character of the tower resides primarily in the architectural materials and forms through which the monument conveys its symbolic messages. Its random-
coursed fieldstone, tapered "Swiss" copper roof, and its weathervane, depicting the arrival of the Pennsylvania settlers by Conestoga wagon, reflect the Swiss origin and agrarian lifestyle of the early Pennsylvania German settlers to Waterloo county. The observation deck incorporates astronomical and cartographical references, to both true north and the Grand River trail used by the first settlers.

The tower, its fieldstone outer wall erected around a concrete core with evident care and craftsmanship, and its copper roof have required little remedial work since construction.

Every effort should be made to preserve surviving original materials and construction systems. Where these may require replacement (e.g. repointing necessary for open or deteriorated joints), materials should conform in appearance, composition, and characteristics to the original.

It is particularly important in upgrading and managing the site for visitor enjoyment, to minimize alterations to the surrounding landscape and elements within it, such as the pioneer cemetery. Introduction of any new elements in the landscape should compliment the heritage character of the building and site.