Recognized Federal Heritage Building
© Ministère de la Défense nationale / Department of National Defence, 1992
Bridge Street, Belleville, Ontario
Treasury Board Policy on Management of Real Property
1907 to 1908
Event, Person, Organization:
Department of Public Works, under the direction of T.W. Fuller
FHBRO Report Reference:
Description of Historic Place
The Armoury faces a major commercial street in the historic core of Belleville’s town centre. It is a large, gambrel-roofed, stone and brick building. A pair of tall towers flanking a large troop door, distinguish the main entrance. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The Armoury is a Recognized Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental value.
The Armoury is closely associated with the reform and expansion of the Canadian militia. As Minister of Militia and Defence from 1906 to 1911, Frederick Borden initiated a program of construction of new armouries and drill halls across Canada. The armoury is also associated with the Hastings and Prince Edward County Regiment, known for its numerous battle honours.
The Armoury is a very good example of the aesthetic expression typical of T.W. Fuller’s standard armoury design. The structure is evocative of a medieval fortress as evidenced in the solid brick construction, stone detailing and the use of three-storey towers flanking the entrance of the administrative block. The very good functional design is clearly articulated in the unobstructed interior of the large gambrel-roofed drill hall, achieved through the use of Fink trusses. The rich detailing and rough-cut stone window dressings, demonstrate the building’s very good craftsmanship.
The Armoury reinforces the present character of its commercial street setting in the historic core of Belleville, and is a well-known landmark.
Jacqueline Adell, Armoury, Belleville, Ontario, Federal Heritage Building Review Office Building Report 91-185; Armoury, Belleville, Ontario Heritage Character Statement, 91-185.
The character-defining elements of the Armoury should be respected.
Its aesthetic, functional design and quality materials and craftsmanship, for example: its standard plan consisting of a gambrel-roofed drill hall and entry block as well as a gun shed; its medieval fortress motif expressed in the symmetrically organized façade, the towers flanking the central entrance, the narrow vertical window openings, and its medieval detailing such as the stringcourses, copings and battlements; the rough cut stone and the red brick walls; the large, interior drill hall space with its Fink trusses, full-length viewing gallery, large round-headed windows and large end doors.
The manner in which the Armoury reinforces the present character of its commercial street setting in the historic core of Belleville and is a well-known landmark, as evidenced by: its aesthetic, scale and materials which complement other large structures such as City Hall and Market Square in the town centre; its visibility vis-à-vis its imposing scale as well as its recognition and use for activities by a community with a commitment to its militia.
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 Belleville Armoury was built in 1907-08 to designs by the Department of Public Works under T.W. Fuller. A gun-shed was added in 1936. The building continues to serve as a drill hall. The Department of National Defence is the custodial department. See FHBRO Building Report 91-185.
Reason for Designation
The Belleville Armoury was designated Recognized as a result of its association with the expansion of the Active Volunteer Militia under Frederick Borden, its architectural merit, and its contribution to the historic streetscape.
As Minister of Militia and Defence from 1986 to 1911, Frederick Borden undertook the reform and expansion of the Canadian militia. To facilitate training and improve munitions, he initiated a program of construction of new armouries and drill halls across the country. Among them was the Armoury in Belleville, built at a time of growth in the city. The structure retains its original function and its continuous association with the Hastings and Prince Edward County Regiment, known for its numerous battle honours.
The Belleville Armoury is a good example of the synthesis of functional design with aesthetic expression typical of Fuller's standard armoury design. The function of the separate elements is clearly articulated in the profile - a large gambrel-roofed drill hall is fronted by a two-storey, flat-roofed pavilion housing ancillary services such as offices, classrooms, and mess hall. A later single-storey gun shed is tucked behind the administrative block on the east side of the drill hall. Typical of Fuller's aesthetic approach to armouries, the structure is evocative of a medieval fortress. This is achieved through solid brick construction, stone detailing, and the use of three-story towers flanking the entrance of the administrative block.
The Armoury faces a major commercial street across its now-landscaped parade ground. The imposing structure contributes significantly to the historic core of Belleville, and is a well-known local landmark.
Character Defining Elements
The heritage character of this structure is defined by its external massing and characteristic profile, functional design, detailing, quality materials and craftsmanship, and by the drill hall interior.
The Belleville Armoury reflects Fuller's standard design with its original drill hall and entry block. The later gun shed, constructed with similar materials and detailing, continues Fuller's principle of expressing the structure's military function in the external form. This articulation of the functional elements should be retained. However, a small concrete-block POL shed appended to the gun shed adversely effects its appearance and should be removed. In future, care should be taken to preserve the integrity of the exterior facades.
The medieval-fortress motif, which has come to symbolize Canadian armories, is most clearly expressed in the symmetrically-organized pavilion. The towers flanking the central entrance create the effect of a medieval gate house, while the narrow vertical window openings maximize the wall area, adding to the fortresslike appearance of the structure. Medieval detailing, such as string courses, copings, battlements and window dressings in rough-cut stone, contrast in colour and texture with the red brick walls. These elements determine the aesthetic qualities of the structure's exterior and must be preserved. Repairs to the masonry should only be undertaken with the assistance of a masonry expert.
The unobstructed interior of the drill hall is achieved through the use of Fink trusses, while natural light is provided by large round-headed windows on three sides. A full-length gallery along one wall overlooks the hall, while ease of access to the exterior is provided by large doors at either end. These characteristic spatial arrangements must be preserved, and the windows, trusses, and galleries maintained and repaired in kind.
The interaction between drill-hall and administrative functions and the setting has been successfully resolved in Belleville by locating the Armoury at one end of a street block. This provides vehicular and pedestrian access to the drill hall from two side streets, while the primary facade of the administrative pavilion faces a major street. Modifications to the site, such as the creation of parking areas at each end of the drill hall, and landscaping the parade ground, do not significantly affect the monumental appearance of the Armoury. However, care should be taken to restrict development of the site, particularly as it relates to the appearance from Bridge Street.