Recognized Federal Heritage Building
Thunder Bay, Ontario
© Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, 1994.
317 Park Avenue, Thunder Bay, Ontario
Treasury Board Policy on Management of Real Property
1913 to 1913
1980 to 1980
Event, Person, Organization:
Department of Public Works
Park Avenue Armoury
FHBRO Report Reference:
Description of Historic Place
The Armoury sits prominently on generous grounds on its streetscape in Thunder Bay. It is a two-storey, gable-roofed drill hall whose form and detailing conjure up the image of a fortress through the incorporation of crenellated turrets, varied parapet profiles and a low, wide arched entrance that leads to the large, rectangular drill hall. The building’s smooth, red brick, load bearing exterior walls, set on a stone foundation wall, feature horizontal stone banding, deeply recessed windows and arch-headed arcading. 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 associated with the provision of drill halls for the active volunteer Militia in Canada, specifically under Sam Hughes, Minister of Militia and Defence from 1911 to 1916. He expedited the program of armoury construction initiated by Frederick Borden and instigated the development of standard plans to aid in the efficient implementation of an intensive armoury building program. The Armoury reflects a government policy to supply arms to all militias and to construct good local training facilities.
The Armoury is valued for its good aesthetic and functional design. It reflects the influence of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and exhibits a monumental style using medieval military motifs. Built to standard plans, following departmental guidelines, the armoury is functionally organized with ancillary spaces around the drill hall. The structural design, employing steel trusses, allows the use of large glazed areas between piers, a characteristic feature of pre-First World War armoury design and representative of the development of the Canadian drill hall.
The Armoury is compatible with the present character of its streetscape setting in Thunder Bay and is a well-known building in the region.
Sources: Armoury, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office, Building Report, (SCR) 94-022; Armoury, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Heritage Character Statement, 94-022.
The character-defining elements of the Armoury should be respected.
Its good aesthetic and functional design, and good craftsmanship and materials, for example: the simple massing that consists of a two-storey gable-roofed drill hall, a two-storey front block and a three-storey flat-roofed rear addition; the two-storey front block and frontispiece with a slightly projecting entrance bay, a wide arched entrance, corner turrets, varied parapet profiles and prominent chimneys; the smooth, load bearing exterior walls with deeply recessed windows and arch-headed arcading; the horizontal bands of sleek stone work, the split-faced stone foundation wall and specific features such as the stylised coping crenellations, doorway labels and shields, and the bartizan above the entrance which indicate the military function of the building; the large open volume of the drill hall with exposed steel trusses and expansive glazing.
The manner in which the Armoury is compatible with the present character of its streetscape setting in Thunder Bay and is a well-known landmark in the region, as evidenced by: its scale, high standards of construction and materials, which are compatible with its streetscape surroundings; its large scale and prominent location, which makes it a landmark in the community.
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 armoury was constructed in Thunder Bay in 1913 to a standard plan by the Department of Public Works. It was built by the Department of Public Works. Subsequent alterations include a large addition to the rear in the 1980s, as well as replacement of the windows. The building continues to be used as an armoury. The Department of National Defence is the custodian. See FHBRO Building Report 94-22.
Reasons For Designation
The armoury has been designated Recognized for its environmental significance and its architectural importance as well as its historical associations.
The armoury contributes significantly to its surrounding streetscape because of its dominant scale and its distinctive design which reflects the building's military function. The armoury has a prominent location and has a generous front lawn and surrounding grounds which reinforce its importance. The characteristic, large, flat site required for drill exercises is associated with this armoury.
The influence of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts is reflected in this armoury, which exhibits a monumental style using medieval military motifs. The Ecole advocated clear volumes, axial planning, horizontal massing, and less decorative detailing, characteristics which are found in this building. This is reflected in the design features of the two storey brick facades and the projecting crenellated frontispiece. Built to standard plans, following departmental guidelines, the armoury is functionally organized with ancillary spaces around the drill hall. The structural design, employing steel trusses, allows the use of large glazed areas between piers, a characteristic feature of pre-World War I armoury design.
The construction of the armoury is associated with the reform and expansion of the volunteer militia under Sir Sam Hughes. Hughes instigated the development of standard plans to aid in the efficient implementation of the intensive armoury building program. The armoury reflects a government policy to supply arms to all militias and to construct good local training facilities. The drill hall has a steel truss to span the large open area, a typical feature, pre-world War I, in the development of the Canadian drill hall.
Character Defining Elements
The heritage character of the armoury resides in its overall form, proportions, construction materials, architectural details reflecting military precedents, interior planning and volumes, and site relationships.
The simple massing of the armoury is dominated by the two-storey, gable roof of the drill hall. The structure has a two-storey flat-roofed block as a frontispiece with a slightly projecting entrance bay with corner turrets. The two-storey, front block has varied parapet profiles and prominent chimneys in contrast to the simple, gable roof profile. These profiles should be maintained. The pleasing balance of the original building masses reflected modern preferences for simply composed forms, while the later, three-storey flat-roofed addition has altered the balance. Subsequent additions should reflect the original, symmetrical massing.
The simple brickwork, featuring deeply recessed windows and arch-headed arcading, is effectively contrasted by the horizontal banding of the sleek stone work. The massiveness of the walls is emphasized by these masonry details. The split-faced, stone foundation wall and specific features such as the stylized coping crenellations, doorway labels and shields and the bartizan above the entrance indicate the military function of the building and should be maintained. The masonry requires an ongoing maintenance program and conservation expertise in the choice of materials and techniques for repair and replacement. The simpler, flatter detailing, uniformly applied to all facades, employs smooth surfaces and geometric forms characteristic of the preferred taste for simplification of ornamentation.
The extensive surface area of the drill hall roof is a component of the design. The roofing material is asphalt shingles and these appear to be recent. The choice of replacement roof material must be based on research to confirm historic precedent for materials and colours.
The windows are modern replacement units. The modern, vertical sliding sashes, generally follow precedent, but the visual richness of the traditional frame and sash profiles are greatly simplified and glazed areas are increased. At the end of their life, historic research should be used to determine appropriate replacements.
The armoury has windows blocked off with solid panels, thereby introducing a new material which alters the symmetrical expression of the overall window placement. Where windows have been blocked off, consideration should be given to reinstating them, particularly those windows which introduce interior day lighting to the drill halls as
they make a important contribution to the spacious, naturally lighted character of the hall.
The interior follow a standard plan, with the principal entrance located in the centre of the drill hall's short facade. The drill hall is characterized by its large open volumes, with exposed steel trusses and extensive glazing. The spatial openness and bright, naturally lit character of the hall should be maintained. The drill hall interior exhibits a deliberately utilitarian, functional design, with exposed brick walls, steel trusses, and concrete floors. This contribute to the character and should be maintained.
A simple ground plane is characteristic of the historic setting of armouries. The use of turf grass, and asphalt or concrete paving supports the austere character of this site, and should be continued. Mature specimen trees should be protected. The asymmetrical relationship of the armoury on its site should be maintained. The black metal fencing should be protected. Research is recommended to determine a more historically appropriate material to replace chain link fencing.