Recognized Federal Heritage Building
© Agence Parcs Canada, Bureau régional de l'Ontario / Parks Canada Agency, Ontario Regional Office, 1989.
Fort George NHSC, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario
Treasury Board Policy on Management of Real Property
1939 to 1939
Event, Person, Organization:
W.L. Somerville and Edward Carswell
FHBRO Report Reference:
Description of Historic Place
The Officers’ Kitchen is located at the Fort George National Historic Site of Canada, which overlooks the Niagara River, on the outskirts of Niagara-on-the-Lake. The Kitchen is a simple, single-storey, log structure with a gable roof and a brick chimney. Small multi-pane windows light the structure and flank one of the two doors on the asymmetrical façade. Situated within the fort palisades, the Officers’ Kitchen stands behind the Officers’ Quarters in a large grassed area crossed by paved walkways. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The Officers’ Kitchen is a Recognized Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values.
The Officers’ Kitchen is a very good example of a building associated with the development and expansion of historic sites in Canada during the 1930s Depression, as a result of government funded relief work programs. Historic reconstruction, common to this period, followed a North American pattern influenced by the reconstruction of Colonial Williamsburg. Recognition that an increase in private ownership of automobiles would encourage tourism, promoted the reconstruction of Fort George as a tourist destination. Both the reconstruction process and the subsequent attraction of the public to the area contributed to the economic development of Niagara-on-the-Lake.
The Officers’ Kitchen is valued for its good aesthetic design. Reconstructions were intended to commemorate and interpret important events in history and were generally based on extensive research. The Officers’ Kitchen is loosely based on an historic antecedent; the appearance and construction of the building is consistent with other buildings on the site, and represents the designers’ concept of a ‘frontier’ aesthetic. Good functional design is evidenced in the internal division of the structure into a separate pantry and kitchen. The use of traditional materials and good craftsmanship is evident in the squared log construction.
The Officers’ Kitchen is compatible with the historic character of Fort George National Historic Site of Canada and is a familiar landmark to residents and to visitors.
Sources:Shannon Ricketts, Twenty Buildings, Niagara Historic Sites, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office Building Report 89-015; Officers’ Kitchen, Fort George, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Heritage Character Statement 89-015.
The following character-defining elements of the Officers’ Kitchen should be respected.
Its good aesthetic and functional design and good quality materials and craftsmanship, for example: the low, single-storey massing; the gable roof clad with hand split cedar shakes, and the brick chimney; the exterior walls constructed of squared logs with dovetailed corners, left exposed in the ‘frontier’ aesthetic; the placement of doors and windows; the internal configuration of the structure.
The manner in which the Officers’ Kitchen is compatible with the historic character of the National Historic Site and is a well-known regional landmark, as evidenced by: its simple design and materials that harmonize with the other buildings within the military setting of the fort; its role as a component of the group of structures from the Fort George National Historic Site of Canada complex, including the adjacent Officers’ Quarters and nearby saw-pit and blacksmith’s shop, that makes it familiar to locals and visitors.
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 Officers' Kitchen was built in 1939, to designs by Toronto architects W.L. Somerville and Edward Carswell, as part of the reconstruction of Fort George. Repairs to the roof and bake-oven, repointing of the chimney, and some log replacement have occurred. The Environment Canada Parks Service is the custodial department. See FHBRO Building Report 89-15.
Reasons For Designation
The Officers' Kitchen was designated Recognized because of its association with the 1930s philosophy of preservation and presentation of historic sites, its architectural qualities and use of traditional materials and techniques, and its compatibility with the environment.
During the 1930s, historic sites in Canada were developed and expanded as a result of the provision of government funding for Depression relief works programs. The philosophy of historic reconstruction employed in this period followed a North American pattern influenced by the reconstruction of Colonial Williamsburg. A recognition that an increase in private ownership of automobiles would encourage tourism, promoted the reconstruction of Fort George as a tourist destination. Both the reconstruction process and the subsequent attraction of the public to the area contributed to the economic development of Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Reconstructions were intended to commemorate and interpret important events in history, and generally were based on extensive research. The Officer's Kitchen is only loosely based on an historic antecedent; the appearance and construction of the building is consistent with others on the site, and represents the designers' concept of a "frontier" aesthetic.
The Officers' Kitchen contributes to the work-related cluster of buildings at Fort George and, given its interpretive use, is a well-known local landmark.
Character Defining Elements
The heritage character of this structure is defined by its "frontier" aesthetic, its functional design, its use of traditional materials and craftsmanship, and its contribution to the work-related aspects of the setting.
The Kitchen is a rectangular single-storey building, constructed of squared logs, with dovetail joints at the corners. The gabled roof is covered by hand-split cedar shakes. The internal division of the structure into a separate kitchen and pantry is reflected in the asymmetrical facade. The use of traditional materials, methods, and tools in the construction was part of the reconstruction philosophy of the 1930s. The exposed log construction and the functional placement of doors and windows found in the Officers' Kitchen represents Somerville and Carswell's concept of the frontier aesthetic. Logs were milled in a saw-pit on site, and broad-axes and adzes were used for finishing. As the heritage character of the Officers' Kitchen resides in the use of traditional materials and construction, these elements should be preserved.
The Officers' Kitchen, located in a cluster of work-related structures including the saw-pit and blacksmith's shop, contributes to the functional atmosphere of the fort, and is a local landmark.