Willowbank National Historic Site of Canada
© The School of Restoration Arts At Willowbank, Emily Game.
14487 Niagara Parkway, Queenston, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario
Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
1834 to 1836
1985 to 2002
1912 to 1912
Event, Person, Organization:
Willowbank Heritage Estate
Research Report Number:
Description of Historic Place
The Willowbank National Historic Site of Canada is a gracious treed estate with a large three-and-a-half-storey temple-fronted mansion built in the early 19th century. Sited on a height of land overlooking the Niagara River and the Canada-United States border, the mansion is the centrepiece of a wooded, five-hectare property at the north end of the village of Queenston, within the municipality of Niagara-on-the-Lake. The formal recognition consists of the house and its associated property.
Willowbank was designated a national historic site of Canada in 2004 because: the estate possesses in exterior architecture and landscape, the qualities of the Romantic fusion of Classical Revival architecture and the Picturesque ideas of landscape that characterized stately country estates of Upper Canada in the early 19th century; the house, which is largely unchanged in its exterior form, was built at the height of interest in the ideals of neoclassicism in British North America and possesses a sophisticated exterior design for its era, featuring a modified Ionic order for its front portico.
Willowbank estate reflects the Romantic ideals associated with colonial settlement in Upper Canada during the early 19th century. Elite members of Upper Canadian society built large country estates in what was regarded as wilderness, inspired in part by the Romantic sensibilities of Classical Revivalism. Willowbank typifies the Romantic approach, in which temple-like mansions were built on prominent sites within a naturalistic, picturesque landscape. Willowbank is one of only a few surviving examples of such mansions, once much more common in the Upper Canadian landscape.
The house interior was renovated in 1912, again in the 1930s, and then since the 1980s when it was acquired for the purpose of housing a school of architectural restoration.
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, April 2004.
Key elements contributing to the heritage value of Willowbank include: the Picturesque qualities of its five-hectare grounds, including the rolling, hilly grounds, the open lawn around the mansion, the surrounding wooded areas of willows, locusts and conifers, a steep crevasse marking the boundary of the site, and a stone gate marking the former entrance to the estate; the prominent siting of the mansion on an open grassed hillside; viewscapes from the mansion to the Niagara River; the house with its Classical Revival styling, evident in its cubic massing of three-and-a-half storeys, hipped roof with four tall chimneys, symmetrical arrangement of openings with central entries on opposite facades, its principal (east) entry under a double-height temple-fronted verandah running the full length of the elevation with giant-order, paired, wooden Ionic columns, denticulated cornice and central pediment sheltering the three-bay façade with wide tripartite windows and central side- and top-lit doorway, its five-bay west façade with multi-pane sash windows flanking central side- and top-lit entry on second (principal) floor and tripartite window above; the masonry construction with tuck-pointed, even-coursed stone walls; surviving vestiges of the original interior layout and details, including some plaster work, wood detailing such as window frames, and original hardware.