Murney Tower National Historic Site of Canada
© Parks Canada Agency/ Agence Parcs Canada, J. Butterill, 1994.
18 King Street West, Kingston, Ontario
Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
1846 to 1846
Event, Person, Organization:
Murney Martello Tower
Research Report Number:
This tower was constructed in 1846 as a part of the new naval defences authorized for Kingston Harbour by the Imperial government during the Oregon Crisis of 1845-46. It was one of the last British works of defence commenced in the Canadian interior and one of the most sophisticated of all the Martello Towers built in British North America. Although in regular use as a barracks after 1849 it was not fully armed until 1862, when it had already become obsolete because of rapid advance in offensive military technology.
Description of Historic Place
Murney Tower National Historic Site of Canada is a squat stone defensive tower located on a point of raised ground known as Murray Point on the west shore of Kingston Harbour. Murney Tower is also a component of Kingston Fortifications National Historic Site of Canada. This designation refers to the tower with its ditch and glacis.
Murney Tower was designated a national historic site in 1930 because: it is part of the defence system built for Kingston Harbour in 1846, together with Cathcart and Fort Frederick Towers, its ditches and caponieres reflect an innovative solution that addresses the defensive weaknesses associated with towers; it is one of the most sophisticated of all Martello towers built in British North America.
The heritage value of Murney Tower National Historic Site resides in its excellent portrayal of the martello tower, a type of military structure. Value lies in its strategic design, its built and landscaped forms, its materials, craftsmanship, construction technology, and function but also in its strategic setting and defensive inter-relationship with other parts of the Kingston Fortifications. Murney Tower (originally known as Murray Tower) was constructed in 1846 as part of the new naval defences authorized for Kingston Harbour by the Imperial government during the Oregon Crisis of 1845-46. It was one of the last British works of defence commenced in the Canadian interior. Although in regular use as a barracks after 1849 it was not fully armed until 1862, when it had already become obsolete because of rapid advances in offensive military technology. Its guns were intended to cover the western approaches to Kingston.
Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, 1972; Commemorative Integrity Statement, 1998.
Key elements that contribute to the heritage value of this site include:
the location of the tower on the west shore of Kingston harbour; the footprints and profiles of the tower, encircling ditch, and glacis; the squat round massing of the tower with hive-like caponiers at the base and a conical roof; its symmetry, with the circumference and height of the tower in equal proportion; the building’s articulation as a defensive structure with a second storey entrance (reached by a steep exterior staircase), and sparse “window” openings; its fire- and bomb-proof construction with thick its limestone walls with a rubblestone corend smooth ashlar finish; the fine craftsmanship particularly evident in such details as features incorporating parbolic forms and arches; its “snowroof” with its wood surround, metal covering and light wood construction; the building’s historic interior layout with its central staircase, second storey barrack quarters, lower storey powder magazine and food provision areas reflecting the self sufficient military intent of its design; the integrity of its found original fittings and furnishings such as building hardware, shutters, masonry platforms, cistern, caldrons, pintles and racers; the integrity of archaeological resources associated with this as a defensive site; its setting on the natural triangular projection of Murray Point; viewscapes to the other three Martello towers arranged around the harbour and to Lake Ontario to the west.