Former Married Privates' Quarters, Building 523
Recognized Federal Heritage Building
Esquimalt, British Columbia
(© Parks Canada/Parcs Canada, 1989)
CFB Esquimalt - Signal Hill, Esquimalt, British Columbia
Treasury Board Policy on Management of Real Property
1904 to 1904
Signall Hill No. 523
FHBRO Report Reference:
Description of Historic Place
The Former Married Privates’ Quarters, Building 523, is situated on the main road leading to the naval dockyard. The red brick and masonry structure is a one-and-a-half-storey, rectangular, gable-roofed building with large chimneys placed at regular intervals. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The Former Married Privates’ Quarters, Building 523 is a Recognized Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values.
The Former Married Privates’ Quarters, Building 523 is an example of a residential building integral to the Signal Hill complex. It was constructed as part of the Victoria-Esquimalt coastal artillery system to defend the dockyard and the Victoria coastline against enemy attack. Its former role was that of Married Privates’ Quarters to house members of the British Army Ordnance Corps, and it was among the last structures completed during the joint Anglo-Canadian development phase.
The Former Married Privates’ Quarters, Building 523 is a very good example of the multiple-unit barracks built in Canada by the Royal Engineers, based on Georgian design antecedents. Superior craftsmanship is evident in the quality of the masonry construction and ornamental brickwork, characteristic of the Royal Engineers’ work.
The property of the Former Married Privates’ Quarters, Building 523, along with the adjoining Former Armament Artificer's and Sergeant’s Quarters, form an isolated residential enclave. It is compatible with the present military character of Signal Hill and the Canadian Forces Base at Esquimalt. Previous use as a naval museum has made the structure a regional landmark.
Ian Doull, Signal Hill, CFB Esquimalt (10 Buildings), Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt, British Columbia. Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office Report 89-203
Signal Hill Gun Emplacement No. 523, CFB Esquimalt, Esquimalt, British Columbia. Heritage Character Statement 89-203
The following character-defining elements of the Former Married Privates’ Quarters, Building 523 should be respected, for example:
Its functional design and good quality materials and craftsmanship, for example:
The simple, large massing of the one-and-a-half-storey, rectangular, gable-roofed building with large brick chimneys. The main entrances accessed through projecting front and rear shed-roofed vestibule entrances. The organisation into identical sections, the projecting frieze, the plinth and pilasters of rounded brick, the large corbelled brick chimneys, and the brick voussoirs. The ornamental brick and stonework, the large six-over-six sash painted windows, and the grey slate roof. The British style exterior plumbing drainpipes located on the rear elevation.
The manner in which Former Married Privates’ Quarters, Building 523 is compatible with the present military character of Signal Hill and CFB Esquimalt and is a regional landmark as evidenced in:
Its scale, simple massing and red brick exterior that matches similar buildings in the vicinity. Its size, prominent location, and prior use as a museum that has made the structure a regional landmark.
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 Married Privates' Quarters (Building #523) was built in 1904 by the British Royal Engineers as part of the British Army Ordnance Corps facilities at Signal Hill. The structure became the property of the Navy during the Second World War, and served as a Maritime Museum during the 1950s and 1960s. The building is now part of the CFB Esquimalt Alcohol Rehabilitation Centre. The Department of National Defence is the custodian. See FHBRO Building Report 89-203.
Reasons for Designation
The former Married Privates' Quarters was designated Recognized as a result of its association with the construction of Signal Hill to defend Canada's western coastline, and for its classically-inspired design, high quality materials, superb craftsmanship, and landmark status.
Financed jointly by the British and Canadian governments, the Signal Hill portion of the coastal artillery system was designed to defend the Esquimalt naval dockyard and the Victoria coastline, and to house technical and other support facilities for the system. The Married Privates' Quarters housed members of the British Army Ordnance Corps, and was among the last structures completed during the joint Anglo-Canadian development phase.
The Married Privates' Quarters is a good example of the multiple-unit barracks built in Canada by the Royal Engineers, based on Georgian design antecedents. It is a one-and-a-half storey gable-roofed structure, rectangular in plan. The interior layout accommodating four residential units is expressed on the exterior through shed-roof vestibule entrances and prominent chimneys and dormers at regular intervals. The superior quality of the masonry construction and ornamental brickwork is characteristic of the work of the Royal Engineers.
The building, prominently sited along the road leading to the naval dockyard, is well known on the base. Previous use as a naval museum has made the structure a regional landmark.
Character Defining Elements
The heritage character of Building #523 resides in its formal massing, fine detailing, superior construction and materials, and visual prominence in its setting.
The formal organization of the structure into identical sections is classically inspired. Projecting front and rear vestibules, large chimneys, and gable dormers produce a lively silhouette, while the contrasts in colour and texture of the red brick, white-painted trim, large six-over-six sash windows, and grey slate roof add to the visual richness. The British-style exterior plumbing drainpipes located on the rear elevation are functional curiosities virtually unknown in Canada outside the unduate climate zone of Victoria.
The integrity of the overall exterior appearance should be preserved, and modifications which detract from it reversed; for example, electrical boxes on the front facade should be moved to a less obtrusive location. Similarly, removal of two of the four rear sheds and the bricking-in of one of the rear windows have disrupted the regularity of that facade. Future work should be predicated on an understanding of the building's intended symmetry and careful detailing.
The quality of the masonry is noteworthy. The projecting frieze, plinth and pilasters of rounded brick, the large corbelled brick chimneys, and the brick voussoirs are typical of the late nineteenth-century work of the Royal Engineers, and should be carefully preserved. Repairs or replacement should be carried out in kind, while any masonry repairs should be undertaken in consultation with a masonry conservation expert.
While the principal divisions of the interior plan remain, changes in the building's function have disrupted its integrity. The four original side-hall units are now connected by passageways at both levels, and the staircases in two units have been removed. However, several original fireplaces are extant. All remaining original finishes and fittings should be identified and preserved, and early circulation patterns restored where possible.
The front of the site is landscaped with grass and trees appropriate to a residential setting. The rear is occupied by a large paved parking lot backed by a fence separating it from the industrial area to the rear. The appearance of the site could be enhanced by introducing soft landscaping elements into this paved area. The property, along with the adjoining former Armament Artificer's and Sergeant's Quarters, forms an isolated residential enclave: this historic relationship should be preserved.