Description of Historic Place
The Big House is centrally located within the perimeter walls of Lower Fort Garry National Historic Site of Canada. The L-shaped, two-storey residence is composed of a main house and attached annex, both of which have prominent hipped roofs and masonry chimneys. The main house is distinguished by its rubblestone walls that are simply detailed with cut stone at the openings, and by its three-sided verandah extension. The annex is notable for its stucco-clad masonry walls, large multi-pane sash windows and panelled doors, all symmetrically arranged on the building’s façades. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The Big House is a Classified Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values.
Lower Fort Garry was an administrative headquarters for fur trading and the focal point of the lower Red River settlement, as well as an important link to Britain. The construction of the Big House reflects the consolidation of the fur trade under the Hudson’s Bay Company and the development of the fort as a transhipment depot and agricultural supply centre. The Big House is associated with George Simpson, Governor of the Hudson’s Bay Northern Department's fur trade, who initiated the construction of the fort as a centre from which to manage the fur trade. The house is also associated with the North West Mounted Police, whose headquarters were initially located at the fort.
The Big House is a very good example of a residence and administrative building designed in the British Classical tradition. The L-shaped structure was built in two visually distinct stages, each with a dominant hipped roof and domestically scaled symmetrical façades. The annex was constructed using colombage pierroté as the structural system.
The Big House is a part of the historic enclave defined by the perimeter walls of the fort, and its central location has ensured its prominence over the years.
Sources: Kate MacFarlane, Lower Fort Garry National Historic Site, Big House, Selkirk, Manitoba, Federal Heritage Building Review Office Building Report 89-004; Furloft/Saleshop, Lower Fort Garry National Historic Site, Selkirk, Manitoba, Heritage Character Statement, 89-004.
The character-defining elements of the Big House should be respected.
Its good aesthetic and functional design and very good craftsmanship and materials, for example:
- its two linked structures, both of which have prominent hipped roofs and masonry chimneys;
- the three-sided verandah extension at the main house;
- the incorporation of stone construction and colombage pierroté;
- the rubblestone walls of the main house, which are simply detailed with cut stone work at the openings;
- the colombage pierroté of the annex, which consists of a heavy oak timber frame infilled with rubblestone and mortar and finished in stucco;
- the symmetrical balance and good proportional relationships of the windows and doors, which is typical of the British Classical style used for fur trade buildings.
The manner in which the Big House reinforces the historic military character of its setting in the Lower Fort Garry National Historic Site of Canada and is a well-known building, as evidenced by:
- the central location and scale of the Big House, which ensures its prominence within the fort environs.