Northern icons

McIntyre Mine Headframe, Timmins

"The $5-million Heritage Challenge Fund Community Program was established in 1999 by the Government of Ontario. It was administered by the Ontario Heritage Trust for community capital restoration projects and endowment funds. Heritage organizations across the province who applied for this funding raised matching dollars. All funds were allocated by April 2001."


Romas Bubelis

Buildings and architecture, Community

Published Date:12 Jun 2008

Photo: McIntyre Mine Headframe, Timmins

The towering McIntyre Mine Headframe in Timmins. The Clergue Block House and Powder Magazine in Sault Ste Marie. St. Francis of Assisi Anglican Church in Mindemoya on Manitoulin Island. The former Kenora Land Titles Office. Thanks to the leadership of municipalities and local heritage groups – and with financial assistance from the Trust’s Heritage Challenge Fund – these and other heritage buildings of the north have been preserved for future generations of Ontarians.

The McIntyre Headframe in Timmins was built in 1911 and belongs to one of the oldest mines of the Porcupine gold camp. It was built strictly for utility, but over the years accrued symbolic value as an example of industrial heritage and one of the few remaining such structures in Timmins. Its chiselled silhouette on the horizon remains one of the community’s most visible landmarks, marking the entry to the McIntyre gold mine that was once the source of the community’s economic lifeblood.

Sault Ste. Marie’s Clergue Block House is a composite log-and-stone structure incorporating the 1819 stone powder magazine of the North West Fur Company, built when Sault Ste. Marie was a small, remote fur trading post. This very early stone structure is now part of the Ermatinger/Clergue National Historic Site.

St. Francis of Assisi Anglican Church in Mindemoya on Manitoulin Island was constructed by parishioners in 1932 at the height of the Great Depression. Timbers were cut from local forests, with stone extracted from a nearby quarry. This small stone church in the Norman style is renowned for its collection of religious artifacts and fragments from religious structures in England, including a large stone from Canterbury Cathedral. Assistance from the Heritage Challenge Fund helped with the general repair and restoration of stonework and the provision of barrier-free access for this unique place of worship.

Kenora’s elegant 1911 Edwardian Classical-style Land Titles Office, located beside the District Courthouse of the same period, has been preserved and now serves as a community centre.

These are among the often under-appreciated architectural icons that are a record of the founding impulse of many of Ontario’s northern communities. They speak variously of the pivotal role of the fur trade in settling the north, of outposts and garrisons, of the enduring importance of mining and resources extraction and the critical supporting role of the railways in binding isolated communities together. They are remnants of the earliest infrastructure that supported the development of communities carved out of the wilderness. They impart a sense of the founding period’s urgency, vigour and ambition.

Ottawa has the Parliament Buildings. Toronto can look toward Fort York. Kenora, Sault Ste. Marie, Mindemoya and Timmins – and other northern Ontario communities that practise architectural preservation – also hear the echo of their beginnings.