Shoal Tower National Historic Site
The Shoal Tower was designated a national historic site in 1924.
Commemorative plaque: Confederation Park, Kingston, Ontario Footnote 1
British military engineers designed Shoal Tower and three other Martello towers built between 1846 and 1848 to strengthen the Kingston fortifications, as tensions with the United States threatened to escalate into war. Shoal Tower helped protect the Royal Naval Dockyard, which provided ships for the defence of Lake Ontario and the upper St. Lawrence. It featured massive round walls surrounded entirely by water, making it unique in British North America. Less than two decades after its construction, Shoal Tower became obsolete because of advancements in artillery. Today, it is one of the few remaining Martello towers in Canada.
The Shoal Tower
- Shoal Tower was constructed as part of the additions made to the Kingston fortifications following the completion of the Rideau Canal in 1832 and the Oregon Crisis of 1845, in order to defend the city in the event of an attack from the United States;
- Surrounded entirely by water, Shoal Tower is a unique example of its style in the country and one of the few remaining examples of a Martello tower in Canada;
- Between 1846 and 1848, four Martello towers were constructed in Kingston, based on the plans of British military engineers: Shoal, Murney, Cathcart, and Fort Frederick Towers;
- Shoal Tower was constructed to help protect the Royal Navy Dockyard, which supplied ships that ensured the defence of Lake Ontario and the upper St. Lawrence;
- In less than 20 years, Shoal Tower became obsolete because of advancements in artillery;
- In 1924, the tower was acquired by Parks Canada and conserved for future generations as a historical monument.
Description of historic place
Shoal Tower National Historic Site of Canada is a circular stone defensive tower located on a shoal in the harbour, directly offshore from the site of the historic City Hall and the site of the former Market Battery in Kingston Ontario. From this location, the Shoal Tower had a commanding field of fire over Kingston’s commercial harbour and the entrance to the Rideau Canal. Official recognition refers to the tower itself plus the submerged rubble and cribbing associated with the tower’s construction.
Shoal Tower was designated a national historic site of Canada as one of five non-contiguous components of Kingston Fortifications National Historic of Canada for its association with: Kingston’s 19th-century defensive system and the town’s military and naval significance; British defence of colonial Canada in the 19th century, and; the Great Lakes-Rideau Canal inland water transportation system.
The heritage value of this site lies in its relationship with the other four components of the Kingston Fortifications National Historic Site of Canada as illustrative of a system of defence. Shoal Tower was built by the British government from 1846 to 1847 as one of four Martello towers and the Market Battery, in order to reinforce Kingston’s existing defence system in response to the anticipated American threat during the Oregon Crisis.
Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, June, November 1989.
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