Friday, November 6, 2009

The Fort Anne Blockhouse

Perhaps it is because of the impending winter weather. Maybe it is because of the imminent demise of All Saints Anglican Church in Granville Centre. Whatever it is, I feel like I am in a bit of a funk. Now, this is not the good George Clinton type of funk. It is the bad living in a trash can beside 123 Sesame Street type of funk. (I wonder how many people I lost with that little bit of stream of consciousness?) No matter, I may as well try to do something positive with this funk. With the loss of All Saints Church firmly in mind, I figured that this would be a good opportunity to start a feature on some of the buildings and landscapes that the Annapolis Royal region has lost through the years.

There is probably no better place to begin a feature on Annapolis Royal's lost heritage than the Fort Anne Blockhouse. This structure was built by the British in the mid 18th century. Stylistically it is similar to blockhouses which were built throughout the British Empire. In fact, this blockhouse not even unique to Annapolis Royal. Similar structures were located near the current corner of St George Street and Drury Lane and on Babineau Heights. The Fort Anne blockhouse, shown in this photograph taken circa 1880, was located on the north bastion of the fort. For those who know our local geography, it was located on the rampart across from the Parks Canada administrative building.

Like many heritage buildings which have been torn down, the blockhouse had been neglected. By looking at the building as it appears in this photograph, you can see that it is missing some of its cladding. Some of this neglect is no doubt due to the fact that by the 1880s the fort was no longer an active military base. In an attempt to make use of the land, the fort grounds were rented out for uses ranging from agriculture to dwellings. In 1881, a tenant of the fort decided that he should tear down the blockhouse. The public outcry from the loss of this building led to the foundation of the heritage preservation movement in Annapolis Royal. In the wake of the loss of the blockhouse, the preservationists quickly rallied their forces to defeat a plan to divide the fort grounds into building lots. In 1899 the Annapolis Royal Garrison Commission was formed with a mandate of creating "a public park and place of resort while preserving the fort". In 1917, Fort Anne became Canada's first National Historic Site.

The preservationist spirit is still alive and well in Annapolis Royal. Despite some recent losses of built heritage, we still have a community who, for the most part, appreciate our heritage. Perhaps we should use the story of the Fort Anne Blockhouse as a lesson. Maybe the recent loss of the Troop Barn and All Saints Anglican Church will be the rallying point for this generation's preservationists. I'm in!

All for now,
RGS

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