Recognized Federal Heritage Building
© Travaux publics Canada / Public Works Canada, 1989.
555 King Street West, Kingston Penitentiary National Historic Site of Canada, Kingston, Ontario
Treasury Board Policy on Management of Real Property
1855 to 1858
Event, Person, Organization:
Correctional Service of Canada
FHBRO Report Reference:
Description of Historic Place
The East Workshop, also known as Building B11, is located in the south yard of Kingston Penitentiary. It is a rectangular, gable-roof structure designed in the Neoclassical style and features high quality stone masonry work. This large building is distinguished by its crowning cornice and the many arched windows along the exterior walls. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The East Workshop is a Recognized Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental value.
The East Workshop is closely associated with the evolution of thought in Canadian penology. Its period as a workshop, between 1855 and 1887, illustrates the theme of reform through labour as part of the rehabilitation process at the Kingston Penitentiary. Its later use, as a prison of isolation and as a treatment centre also reflects important phases in the history of incarceration in Canada.
The East Workshop is a very good example of a mid-19th century, Neoclassical style, industrial workshop. The building also exhibits high quality stone masonry work demonstrated by the tier effect produced on the principal elevation of the workshop. The East Workshop stands as one of Edward Horsey’s largest commissions while architect of the Penitentiary (1846-1869).
The East Workshop reinforces the character of its industrial precinct setting at the south yard of the penitentiary.
Sources: Dana Johnson, Kingston Penitentiary, Kingston, Ontario, Federal Heritage Building Review Office Building Report 89-032; East Workshop (B-11), Kingston Penitentiary, Kingston, Ontario, Heritage Character Statement, 89-032.
The character-defining elements of the East Workshop should be respected.
Its Neoclassical style, industrial architecture and high quality craftsmanship, for example: the symmetrical, rectilinear plan and three storey massing with a medium-pitched gable roof; the end pavilions framed by corner pilasters and the central projecting bay; the arcade treatment of the three exposed walls which consists of semi-circular arches supported on stretched pilasters with recessed panels; the high quality masonry work including the division of the principal elevation into tiers with base and belt courses and a crowning cornice; the varied architectural treatment of the windows on each storey.
The manner in which the East Workshop reinforces the character of its industrial precinct setting at the south yard of the penitentiary, as evidenced by: its key role in physically defining the industrial precinct in the south yard; its consistency of scale, materials, architectural detail and decorative programme with other buildings in the precinct.
Heritage Character Statement
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.
The East Workshop was erected between 1855 and 1858 to a design prepared by Edward Horsey. External modifications include the addition of a two-storey, flat-roofed storage building and one-storey gable-roofed engine house at the north elevation (1858), the erection of a number of shed-roofed structures along the east elevation (n.d.), the modification of the windows in the central projecting bay from a triplet to a pair grouping, the demolition of the shed-roofed structures along the east elevation, the demolition of the engine house, the raising of the central door on the storage building (B11a), and the replacement of the circular brick chimney stack (standing on a square stone base) by a stone tower (1888-1895), the breaking down of eight stone chimney stacks to roof level at the east elevation (1895-1907), the addition of a three-storey, gable-roofed laundry and shower at the south elevation (1955-58), the replacement of the roof and gable end pediments, the demolition of the triumphal arch feature which capped the central projecting bay and the addition of an external fire escape at the west elevation (c.1971) and the cutting down of one window in the central projecting bay to form a door.
Internal modifications include replacement of the heavy timber floor framing system by a stone vaulted system and the construction of two ranges of cells on each of the three floors of the workshop for a prison of isolation, a total of 114 cells (1888-1895), the division of each cell by a wooden partition (1921), the removal of the partitions (1932), a major reconstruction of the interior to serve as a treatment facility for the criminally insane (1951), and the recent reconstruction of the interior of the laundry (C23) as a recreation and activities centre. The former Workshop, with its additions, is currently operated by Correctional Services Canada as a regional treatment centre. See FHBRO Building Report 89-32.
Reason for Designation
The East Workshop was designated Recognized because of its historical associations, architectural significance, the quality of its construction, the integrity of its environment and as an example of an important designer.
The building is associated with the evolution of thought in Canadian penology.
Architecturally the building is a noteworthy example of a mid-19th century, Neoclassical style, stone workshop. This recognition does not extend to include the 1950s' concrete frame and concrete block faced laundry (C23) attached to the south elevation.
The East Workshop and Storage Building exhibit consistently high quality stone masonry work. The tier effect produced on the principal elevation of the East Workshop by an "architectural basement" of pitch-faced and marginal tooled, coursed ashlar walling and equally spaced windows with jack-arch lintels contrasted with two upper storeys of pitch-faced hammer-dressed ashlar walling and equally spaced segmental arched windows demonstrates a thorough familiarity with the stone mason's art and an ability to execute a better class of work.
In the context of various projects undertaken by Edward Horsey while architect of the Penitentiary (1846-1869), the East Workshop stands as his largest commission.
While some changes have been made to the site, they have been carried out with enough sensitivity that the overall character has been retained. Because the building anchors one side of a quadrangle formed by the South and West Workshops and Main Cellblock, a relationship which has existed since 1859, the East Workshop plays a critical role in maintaining the integrity of the whole.
Character Defining Elements
The heritage character of the East Workshop (including the Storage Building, B11a) resides in its status as a very good example of Neoclassical industrial architecture. At the exterior of B11 the characteristic features of this style are: the symmetrical, rectilinear plan; the severe and astylar walls; the division of the principal elevation into tiers masked by base and belt courses and a great crowning cornice; the deliberate variation in surface treatment and opening pattern at various tiers; the end pavilions framed by corner pilasters and capped by a triangular pediment (now removed) and the central projecting bay once topped by a distinctive triumphal arch feature. At the exterior of B11a the characteristic features of the same style are: the compact rectilinear plan; the arcade treatment of the three exposed walls (semi-circular arches supported on stretched pilasters with recessed panels) and the varied architectural treatment of windows on each storey.
The presence of such a large percentage of original fabric, characteristic of the Neoclassical industrial style, means the Recognized designation applies to the whole exterior of the building with the exception of the 1950s' laundry addition (C23) and the various accretions (porch, generator shed and fire escape) added in recent years. Should the opportunity arise, the reinstatement of such key architectural elements as the strongly modeled triangular pediments of the main roof and pavilions and the restoration, where possible, of the various widows adapted for use as doors would greatly enhance the aesthetic qualities of the building.
The key role the East Workshop plays in physically defining the industrial precinct in the south yard and maintaining the consistency of scale, materials, architectural detail and decorative programme of that part of the Institution, was noted. The sensitive treatment of architectural fabric in any future rehabilitation of the East Workshop and a restrained approach to development which would impinge further on the remaining open space of the quadrangle it faces will ensure the heritage character of the building is protected.