Discover the oldest building in each province

by Vasanthi Vasudevan

Perhaps there are no existing structures in Canada as old as Jerusalem’s Temple of the Rock or England’s Stonehenge. However, Canada’s oldest buildings go back far enough to allow modern day explorers to experience history outside a textbook. [Image credit: iStock.com/DarleneMunro]

Discover the oldest building in each province

Canada’s history isn’t just a dry record of discrete dates and events. To fully understand who we are as a nation, we need to experience history and understand how people adapted to their surroundings and circumstances. You can more easily imagine and relive Canada’s history when you explore the oldest buildings in your province.

Newfoundland and Labrador: Anderson House

Originally built in 1804 by Sergeant James Anderson, Anderson House is the oldest surviving building in St. John’s. Located on a route between the military installations at Fort William and Signal Hill, Anderson House has been used both as a private home and as a barracks to house soldiers. The original building has undergone many changes but it remains an example of the hip-roofed, cottage style homes that became much more rare after the great fire of 1816. It is part of a neighbourhood of older buildings including St. Thomas’ Church.

Nova Scotia: Fort Anne

Now overlooking the peaceful harbor of Annapolis Royal on the west coast of Nova Scotia, Fort Anne was built to defend the harbour during the third of the French and Indian Wars between 1744 and 1748. You can now visit the fort, tour the museum (originally the officers’ quarters) which houses exhibits showing the area’s history and see the cannons mounted along the earthen wall that marks the fort’s perimeter.

Prince Edward Island: Province House

Canada’s second-oldest government building, Province House in Charlottetown was built between 1843 and 1847. A visit to Province House will inevitably centre on a critical week in Canadian history in 1864, when delegates to the Charlottetown Conference hammered out the foundation for confederation. Still in use as the provincial legislature, Province House offers tours through the Confederation Chamber and other rooms from that period. A multimedia presentation on the Charlottetown Conference is also available to help you envision this pivotal moment in our history.

New Brunswick: Arts Building at the University of New Brunswick

Built in 1826, this building on the Fredericton campus of the University of New Brunswick has the distinction of being the oldest Canadian university building still in use. Used for classes and to house students and professors during the 19th century, it gradually evolved into the residence of the university president and is now used by the University’s administrative staff. Variously known as Sir Howard Douglas Hall (after the University’s founder), King’s College Building, the Old Arts Building, the New College Building and simply, “the old pile,” it is the centerpiece of one of Canada’s oldest universities.

Québec: Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec

The Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec is not simply the oldest church in Québec, it is one of the oldest churches in North America. Built originally in 1647, the church suffered significant damage during the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, a critical battle in the Seven Years’ War. Rebuilt on the same site in a neoclassical style, the church was filled with art and ornate furnishings, much of which was lost in a second disastrous fire in 1922. Rebuilt once more, the cathedral still offers visitors a breathtaking glimpse through the centuries with its intricate stonework, gilding and stained glass. Entrance is free.

Ontario: The Old Stone Mill, Delta, Ontario

Visitors to the Kingston area often visit Fort Henry, built in 1812. North of Kingston in the Rideau Lakes area is The Old Stone Mill, built in 1810. Located in the village of Delta, this old water mill is one of the oldest surviving mills in the region. The mill brought agricultural settlers to Leeds County and modernized over the years, replacing its waterwheel with iron turbines in 1880 and adding rollers in 1893. Surrounding the mill you can also see some of the village’s other original buildings such as the Red Brick School (a one-storey schoolhouse) and residences dating back to the 1840s.

Manitoba: Fort Prince of Wales

Like Fort Anne in New Brunswick, the Prince of Wales Fort across the Churchill River from the town of Churchill, is a star-shaped bastion fort, built by the Hudson’s Bay Company to protect its fur trade from other governments. Originally made of logs, it was later fortified by massive stone walls. The fur trade moved and the fort fell into disuse over the years but the fort itself and many structures within the fort, including the blacksmith’s shop and other workshops, residences and military quarters, can still be seen. Parks Canada has been conducting restoration efforts and offers a fort interpretation program for visitors.

Saskatchewan: Holy Trinity Anglican Church

Once a lonely outpost in Rupert’s Land, overlooking the Churchill River, the community of Stanley Mission struggled and improvised to build a church. While they had local wood, carpenters didn’t have enough nails to hold the timber together. The builder of the church, Rev. Robert Hunt, melted down his iron bedstead to make nails, and when they ran out of those, the carpenters notched the logs so they could be fastened together without nails. The church was a landmark to settlers over a vast and remote area, serving as a distribution point for supplies from the Hudson’s Bay Company as well as a place to gather for worship. Restored and still standing proud, the church is now a national historic site and provincial heritage property.

Alberta: Father Lacombe Chapel

In St. Albert, around the same time as the Holy Trinity Anglican Church was being built in Stanley Mission, Father Albert Lacombe’s crew of Métis builders completed a log chapel, beautiful in its simplicity. Today, the history of the Father Lacombe Chapel, its influence on the region and the rise of the St. Albert settlement can be viewed through onsite displays and presentations. Historical interpreters offer tours in French and in English during which you can see demonstrations of mid-19th century life, activities and skills.

British Columbia: Hatzic Rock Archaeological Site (Xá:ytem)

One of the oldest inhabited areas in North America, this First Nations site near Mission, BC, was a place of profound spiritual significance to the Sto:lo people. Archaeologists date the dwellings discovered here as over 5,000 years old. Hatzic Rock itself is a huge stone, called a transformer stone, that has been revered for centuries by the Sto:lo. A longhouse interpretive centre and museum offers visitors an opportunity to experience a time far beyond the 300 year-span of European history in Canada.

Get to know the historic places in your community! Use Yellow Pages’ local city guides for more information on where to experience the history and culture of your province.

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