Canadian National Railway Station

Heritage Railway Station of Canada

Kingston, Ontario
Exterior photo (© (Canadian National Railways, E-2926-9))
Exterior photo taken prior to the 1996 fire
(© (Canadian National Railways, E-2926-9))
Address : 810 Montreal Street, Kingston, Ontario

Recognition Statute: Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. 52 (4th Supp.))
Designation Date: 1994-06-05
  • 1855 to 1855 (Construction)
  • 1895 to 1898 (Significant)
  • 1870 to 1870 (Significant)
  • 1989 to 1989 (Significant)

Event, Person, Organization:
  • Francis Thompson  (Architect)
Other Name(s):
  • Kingston Outer Station  (Other Name)
  • Old Railway Station, Grand Trunk Station  (Other Name)
Research Report Number: RS-211

Description of Historic Place

The Canadian National Railways Station at Kingston is comprised of three, linked buildings: an Italianate-style, stone railway station built in 1855 and modified by an 1870s, Second-Empire-style roof, a brick railway station built in 1895-8; and an enclosed structure linking the two that was built in 1989 over an earlier structure. The station is located in former rail yards at the north end of the city of Kingston. The formal recognition is confined to the three buildings, and does not include the surrounding site.

Heritage Value

The Canadian National Railways (CNR) Station at Kingston reflects the key phases of Grand Trunk Railway (GTR) railway history, including the initial construction phase of the 1850s and the betterments phase of the late 1890s. It is the only surviving GTR headquarters station from the initial construction phase of the first mainline built in Canada. The station continued to serve as a GTR and CNR administrative centre until the late 20th century. The GTR brought economic benefits to Kingston, facilitating its development as a transportation and commercial centre.

The Kingston station reflects the changing design and construction traditions of the GTR during the latter half of the 19th century. The stone station building of 1855 was the first GTR station built in Ontario. One of nine surviving GTR stations from the initial phase of construction in Ontario, it is the only one to have been built to GTR architect Francis Thompson’s one-and-a-half-storey design for small stations. The building’s Italianate-style design was modified in the 1870s by a Second-Empire-style roof.

The station retains the physical relationships among its three component structures: the 1855 stone station, the 1895-8 brick station, and the wooden structure linking the two (originally a platform shelter built in 1939 but converted to an enclosed building in 1989). The station continues to dominate its rail yard. The linear massing of the three buildings follows the curved line of the tracks.

A fire in 1996 damaged the oldest of the 3 buildings.

Sources: Heritage Character Statement, Canadian National Railways Station, Kingston, Ontario, August 1994; Heritage Research Associates, Inc., Railway Station Report 211, Canadian National Railways Station, Kingston, Ontario.

Character-Defining Elements

Character-defining elements of the Canadian National Railways Station include: its rectangular plan; its size, consisting of seven bays on each of the track and street facades; the balanced, regular arrangement of round-arched window and door openings along the ground floor on three elevations; the arched and keyed second-storey windows on the end facades; its wide, overhanging eaves along the track and street elevations, returned at the ends and supported on curved wooden brackets with a decorative wood frieze; its construction of Kingston limestone; its fine stonework in contrasting textures, evident in the ashlar walls and the smooth, cut-stone quoins and voussoirs defining the large arched openings and building corners; its heavy, inset, returned eaves, integrated into the quoining on the ends of the building; the four capped, stone chimneys; its mansard roof, with five segmentally arched dormers; double-hung, two-over-two windows with Gothic-inspired transom lights, which were early replacements for the original window units.

Key elements of the 1895-98 brick station include: its basic form, consisting of a single-storey block with a high, recessed, hipped roof and wide, overhanging eaves; surviving original brick cladding and wainscot; surviving original exterior woodwork, consisting of boarded soffits.