Friday, August 2, 2013

Saint Helen Island Fort, Montreal, Canada


Visited 30-31 Jul 2013 - Saint Helen Island Fort (1820-1870, 1870-1945) was a British colonial fort built on Saint Helen Island in Montreal Harbor. The fort was a combination arsenal and fort built after the War of 1812 while the threat of American invasion was still fresh.

Fort Front View Note the Cannon on the Right and the Entrance on the Left
Fort Front View Note the Cannon on the Right and the Entrance on the Left

Original Arsenal Floor and Rails Exposed
Original Arsenal Floor and Rails Exposed
It's not often that we get to visit a fort that just had a seven million dollar upgrade, especially when it's not particularly promoted as a fortification but more as a museum. The Stewart Museum operates the former fort to house it's impressive collection of military and historical artifacts and documents. The arsenal portion of the fort contains the museum collection and the interior of that portion was the focus of the renovation so the inside of the arsenal buildings look more like a museum than an arsenal. Not to worry, the architects exposed some of the old architectural details so that you can actually see how it was built.
Museum Entrance Tower
Museum Entrance Tower



The access problem for challenged folks could not be solved inside the building so the architect built an external glass elevator/stair tower so anyone can access all three floors with ease. The museum collection is great, don't miss it.


Enclosed Powder Magazine
Enclosed Powder Magazine







Outside the museum there are a number of great attractions that include a powder magazine, a period blockhouse, a cannon collection and the remains of a 250 man barracks that burned down in 1875. Signage around the grounds and in the museum was good, nearly everything was in English and French.


Brass Cannon
Brass Cannon





In the cannon collection there are the usual suspects of mortars and cannons but there is also a large beautiful brass cannon. Other guns are scattered around the compound and there is a fine looking 24-pounder cannon on a regulation iron garrison carriage at the front of the fort.


1807 Fort Blockhouse
1807 Fort Blockhouse






Only the stone first floor of the 250 man barracks survived the 1875 fire and that is all that remains today. The first floor is covered with a flat roof and appears to be in use. The enclosed powder magazine appears to be in great shape. The period blockhouse at the edge of the compound predates the Fort. It was built in 1807 to monitor traffic on the Saint Lawrence River.
French Unit Musket Firing
French Unit Musket Firing







The museum also operates several demonstration and kids events throughout the day during the summer season. One demonstration group provides the personnel for a French military unit that does drill and musket fire demonstrations. A second unit provides Scottish bagpipe and drum demonstrations.

Scottish Bagpipe and Drum Demonstration
Scottish Bagpipe and Drum Demonstration






Now about the name, it's difficult to determine the real name of this fort. Even the folks at the fort were unwilling to commit to a name and you find all different kinds of names depending on where you look. I've adopted an English placename for the fort since none of the other names seemed appropriate.





This is a great place to visit if you are in Montreal but check for the museum operating days (currently Wednesday thru Sunday in the summer) before you come. We were able to access the Fort grounds even on the days the Museum was closed but you don't want to miss the Museum. Plenty of parking but it is expensive ($6-$20). Structured Museum admission fees.

For more details and pictures see the FortWiki Saint Helen Island Fort page.

1 comment:

  1. We didn't see the fort when our family visited Montreal in 2010, but did happen upon both sets of re-enactors in the historic district, who put on a really wonderful show!

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