Description of Historic Place
The Museum Building at Lower Fort Garry National Historic Site of Canada is a reconstruction of the fort’s old Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) retail store. This interpretation of the Georgian Style is a two-and-a-half-storey rectangular building with hipped roof, brick chimneys, regularly placed multi-pane windows, white-painted wood siding, dark green trim and central main entrance. A single-storey, gable-roofed extension is attached to the rear of the building. The Museum Building is located along the fort’s south wall facing the Big House at the fort’s centre. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The Museum Building is a “Recognized” Federal Heritage Building because of its historical, architectural and environmental values.
Established by the HBC in 1830, the fort comprises a series of fur trade structures. The Museum Building of Lower Fort Garry National Historical Site (1962-64) was built to house the HBC collection of ethnographic and fur trade artefacts relating to 300 years of company history. In 1994 the collection was transferred to Winnipeg’s Manitoba Museum. The exterior replicates the HBC Retail Store built 1873, dismantled 1924. The building reflects the Canadian conservation movement’s interpretative and commemorative approach to heritage property development in the 1960s, and is associated with the re-launching of Fort Garry as a National Historic Site of Canada. It is associated with its curator Ms. Barbara Johnstone, first superintendent of the national historic site of Fort Garry and first woman in Canada appointed to such a position. Recognized provincially for the significance of her involvement with the collection, she also contributed to the Manitoba Historical Society, Manitoba Archaeological Society and the Canadian Legion.
The Museum Building is a reconstruction of the fort’s old HBC Retail Store, an 1873 wood-frame structure. It shows the HBC’s simple interpretation of the Georgian Style popular in Britain and colonial America during the 18th century. Alterations to the building’s symmetry follow modifications to the original retail store. Designed as a modern historical museum by Green Blankstein Russell of Winnipeg, this building’s modern interior features adjustable lighting, exhibition spaces and staff work areas. While changes have been made to the organization of the interior the space designed for the HBC collection remains legible and continues in a museum role. This well-designed building is constructed of concrete while the exterior uses traditional materials with wooden siding and shingles.
The Museum Building’s scale, height, exterior materials and placement is typical of HBC posts of the mid-19th century. The building restores the original symmetry of buildings in the fort, and its relationship to the site is unchanged apart from small changes to sidewalks for accessibility. The building compliments the overall character of Lower Fort Garry and is important to understanding the site. While not as prominent as the Big House, the Museum is nevertheless well-known to members of nearby communities, including Winnipeg, and to the many tourists who visit Lower Fort Garry each season.
The following character-defining elements of the Museum Building which must be respected include:
The exterior that is, in terms of scale, height, and exterior materials, reconstructed in a style that reflects the Hudson’s Bay Company’s simple interpretation of the Georgian Style; the two-and-a-half-storey rectangular massing, and the hipped roof, and the prominent chimneys;
The modern, open, functional plan, adjustable lighting, designed to meet museum requirements;
The quality of the workmanship of the materials of the building’s interior and exterior, the concrete and wood frame construction, wood roof shingles, and horizontal wood siding, including the gable-roofed extension with similar cladding and trim;
The asymmetrical ground-storey elevation, reflecting modifications to the original building and considered a vernacular variant of the style, with symmetrical five-bay, multi-pane fenestration pattern on the second storey;
The building’s contribution to the symmetry of the fort’s layout, including its visual and physical relationship to other buildings within the open surroundings of the fort and its orientation to the Big House located in the centre of the fort;
Its location within the walls of the fort as a component of Lower Fort Garry National Historic Site of Canada.