Friday, May 27, 2011

Brockville's Victoria Hall

Victoria Hall

By : Dennis Stein

  One of the pinnacle buildings of the Brockville city skyline is Victoria, or City Hall. It was built between 1862 and 1864, on land presented to local government by Honourable Charles Jones, who owned a great deal of property in Brockville. Previous to its construction, there was the East Ward Market Hall, a square shaped frame building constructed in the 1830's to house indoor butcher's stalls. It was in 1859 that debate began with Council on the planing of a new building. The B&O Railway tunnel to what is now Blockhouse Island was nearing completion, and had changed the property quite a bit. After lengthy political bantering, the architect Henry H.Horsey of Kingston was contracted to design the new building, begun in 1862, and finishing in 1864. William Fitzsimmons was a master builder, and Mayor of Brockville at the time, and was appointed as Superintendant of construction. It was estimated at $26,000 to build, but costs most likely went higher by completion. A beautiful example of 19th century design, the front block of the main building is complemented by a large clock and bell tower. The clock itself has four faces, and is cared for by Victor Smetona, and his grandson Jordan, who winds the clock manually every Tuesday. The second floor originally housed a concert hall, and a ballroom. The first official use of the concert hall after the building was finished in the fall of 1864 was by Madam A. Bishop. The rear building housed the market area, and in 1904, two more storeys were added to house more town offices. The rear wing of the building originally housed 16 well appointed butcher stalls, eight on each side, with a passage leading through from the front of the main building.

  The Post Office rented out the offices on the front block main floor until the 1880's, operating out of Victoria Hall for fifteen years, when town offices took over, and the Post Office moved to their own building on Court House Ave. The market in the rear wing is gone, taken over by office space, but the Farmer's Market is still a pleasant attraction during the warmer months on Market St. West these days. A beautiful building, Victoria Hall is an unmistakable landmark to Brockville, and another proud example of 19th century architecture in our city...

The Brocks!

Semper Paratus

By : Dennis Stein

The Brockville Armouries building, constructed in 1900, is one of the few examples in Ontario of a community militia building constructed of stone, instead of brick. The building itself is a beautiful testament to the city's proud heritage, rooted in 19th century architecture.
 The beginning of the Brockville Rifles found it's start even before confederation, founded in 1796 as the 1st Battalion Leeds Militia at Elizabethtown. Later, during the war of 1812, people living here changed the name to Brockville, after Sir Isaac Brock, the British General. It was during the war of 1812, that the regiment, made up of citizen soldiers, fought in the Battle of Chrysler's Farm, and the capture of Ogdensburg. The group was reorganized several times, contributing to forces in many battles such as the Boer War in 1899, and fighting valiantly with other units in World War I. One hundred and five members of the Brockville Rifles were killed or died from wounds in the first World War, 10 officers and 95 men. Following this, the unit was again reorganized into The Brockville Rifles. The unit also joined forces with the Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry Highlanders, landing on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day in World War II. They were the first allied force to enter Caen. After the war, The 'Brocks' were converted several more times to serve different roles, until 1959, when the group returned to it's current designation.
 The Brocks generally train at either CFB Petawawa or CFB Kingston, but can be seen on occasion performing urban training here in Brockville. The rifles train a minimum of one night per week, and one weekend per month, and some of the Brocks are on, or training for, deployment to Afghanistan...
 The Brockville Rifles represent a very proud group of men and women, who serve this country, and share in the pride of a unit which has contributed to many battles, received many awards, and helped in peacekeeping efforts around the globe. This pride is reflected in their motto, "Semper Paratus" or "Always Ready".