Colonel R. S. McLaughlin Armoury

Recognized Federal Heritage Building

Oshawa, Ontario
Exterior photo (© DND, 1990)
Exterior photo
(© DND, 1990)
Address : 53 Simcoe Street North, Oshawa, Ontario

Recognition Statute: Treasury Board Policy on Management of Real Property
Designation Date: 1991-08-19
Dates:
  • 1914 to 1914 (Construction)

Event, Person, Organization:
  • Sam Hughes  (Person)
  • Frederick Borden  (Person)
  • Engineering and services branch, Department of Militia and Defence  (Architect)
Other Name(s):
  • Oshawa Armoury  (Other Name)
Custodian: National Defence
FHBRO Report Reference: 89-096
DFRP Number: 09830 00

Description of Historic Place

Situated in downtown Oshawa, and bounded by streets on three sides, the Colonel R.S. McLaughlin Armoury occupies a compact site. The large structure, constructed of brick on a stone foundation, contains a large drill hall. It is distinguished on the principal façade by crenellated towers and a low-arched entrance. Buttress-like pilasters, arched windows and stone trim enliven the otherwise functional design. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.

Heritage Value

The Colonel R.S. McLaughlin Armoury is a Recognized Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values.

Historical Value:
The Colonel R.S. McLaughlin Armoury is associated with the armoury construction program initiated by Frederick Borden. Sam Hughes, the Minister of Militia and Defence from 1911 to 1916, accelerated this program due to the threat of First World War. The design of the majority of armouries was given to his engineering services branch in order to increase efficiency and reduce costs. The Branch in turn devised a set of standard plans based on five sizes of armouries. When the First World War broke out, the armoury was used as a training and recruitment centre.

Architectural Value:
The Colonel R.S. McLaughlin Armoury is valued for its good aesthetic design, as well as for its functionality, which is clearly expressed. The square towers that flank the drill hall façade emphasize its fortress motif. As an example of a mid-size, standard plan armoury, it emphasizes functionality over aesthetic design and exhibits minimal decorative elaboration. The rectangular, unobstructed drill hall is the dominant feature. The crenellated parapets and the brick and stonework exhibit good craftsmanship and materials.

Environmental Value:
The Colonel R.S. McLaughlin Armoury is compatible with the present downtown character of the setting and is a conspicuous local landmark.

Sources:
Jacqueline Adell, Colonel R.S. McLaughlin Armoury, 53 Simcoe Street North, Oshawa, Ontario, Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office Report 89-096; Colonel R.S. McLaughlin Armoury, 53 Simcoe Street North, Oshawa, Ontario, Heritage Character Statement 89-096.

Character-Defining Elements

The following character-defining elements of the Colonel R.S. McLaughlin Armoury should be respected:

Its good aesthetic, very good functional design, and good quality materials, for example: the building’s two-storey massing, scale and proportions; the towers that flank the facade of the large drill hall, and the low-arched main entrance; the red brick exterior walls and stone foundation; the decorative elements such as crenellated towers, buttress-like pilasters, segmentally-arched windows and stone trim; the large, unobstructed interior of the drill hall spanned by steel trusses; the service rooms supporting viewing galleries located at either end of the drill hall.

The manner in which the Colonel R.S. McLaughlin Armoury is compatible with the present character of its downtown setting and is a conspicuous landmark in the area, as evidenced by: its scale, design and distinctive profile that contribute to the character of its downtown setting; the structure’s specialized military role that make it a well-known community landmark.

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.

The Oshawa Armoury was built in 1914 to designs by the Engineering Services Branch of the Department of Militia and Defence. The building continues to serve as a drill hall. The Department of National Defence is the custodian. See FHBRO Building Report 89-96.

Reasons for Designation
The Oshawa Armoury was designated Recognized as a result of its contribution to the urban environment, its architectural merit, and its association with the provision of drill halls for the Active Volunteer Militia under Sam Hughes.

The armoury occupies a compact site bounded by streets on three sides, and is easily accessible and highly visible. The building continues to serve its original function and is a community landmark.

Under threat of war, Sam Hughes, Minister of Militia and Defence from 1911 to 1916, expedited the program of armoury construction initiated by Frederick Borden. In the interests of efficiency and cost reduction, Hughes turned over the design of the majority of armouries to his Engineering Services Branch. The Branch devised a set of standard plans based on five sizes of armouries: the Oshawa Armoury is a Type D, able to accommodate six companies. The standard designs emphasized functionality, with decorative elaboration kept to a minimum. The rectangular drill hall is the dominant feature, with the administrative block reduced in size. The Oshawa Armoury is a good example of the medium-sized Type D design, featuring square towers flanking the front facade of the drill hall. The towers and the brick and stone construction in the Oshawa Armoury are in keeping with the fortress motif symbolic of Canadian armouries. They are also of note considering the economies required by the war, and reflect the symbolic importance of these structures.

Character Defining Elements
The heritage character of the Oshawa Armoury resides in its functional design, quality materials and craftsmanship, and interior volumes and finishes.

The Oshawa Armoury clearly expresses its function in the visually dominant gable-roofed hall. The characteristic fortress motif is found in the symmetrical front facade, with its crenellated towers and low-arched entrance, in the limited fenestration particularly evident on the side elevations, and in the buttress-like pilasters on all elevations. The addition of vents on the drill hall roof detracts from the appearance of the structure as viewed from the side; such changes to the profile should be avoided.

The contrast between the red brick walls and the stone foundation, roof trim and window dressings is an essential part of the design aesthetic and must be carefully preserved. Repairs to the masonry should be undertaken with the assistance of a masonry expert.
The segmentally-arched windows found on the front elevation retain their original glazing pattern, but other windows have been modified. If possible, this alteration should be reversed, and care taken in future to repair or replace in kind.

The large, unobstructed interior of the drill hall is achieved through the use of steel trusses. Service rooms located at either end of the drill hall support viewing galleries above. This organization of space is characteristic of drill halls designed by the Engineering Branch in this period, and should be preserved. All early interior finishes and fabric should be maintained and repaired in kind.

Modifications to the site include the provision of a vehicular compound at one side, and of additional parking spaces on the other. Landscaping at the front of the structure provides an unobstructed view of the major facade; this should be preserved.