A coastal artillery fort was built in the late 1890s at Fort Rodd Hill to defend Victoria and the Esquimalt Naval Base. Canada and Britain shared the cost to build these permanent artillery batteries in response to a perceived threat of Russian invasion of Britain or her Colonies.
The Fort includes three-gun batteries, underground magazines, command posts, guardhouses, barracks and searchlight emplacements. Three more batteries were designed to mount smaller, quick-firing guns as a defence against torpedo boats.
By May in 1906, after the threat had passed, the Royal Engineers and the Royal Garrison Artillery stationed here were the last British troops to leave Canada. All, that is, but 60 soldiers who had fallen in love with the area, or perhaps a local lady, and who remained behind.
Many locals can trace their family back to the soldiers that lived and worked at Fort Rod Hill. Perhaps that is one of the reasons there’s a great deal of public interest to restore and maintain this historical site
It’s important to know who all the stakeholders are; their level of involvement, and the lines of communications. In this instance, interested parties communicated with the management of Fort Rod Hill who oversaw the restoration work.
We were brought in to work on this DND property as a subcontractor to Oscar Construction based in Banff, who were awarded the contract to complete structural work. They asked us to complete some of the finer, more specialized work.
The four chimneys attached to the Warden’s office were badly eroded and crumbling.
We rebuilt and stuccoed to closely match pictures in historical records.
Brick structures next to the ocean can often suffer more damage from wind and moisture, including efflorescence and leaching from salt spray. Fortunately, there was no sign of leaching, so we were able to reuse many of the original bricks, as long as they were structurally sound. We sourced bricks of similar colour and style to replace the rest.
We had to use on-site sand in the stucco just as the original masons did to retain the historical look and feel. For quality control, we prefer to mix our mortar on-site rather than use our suppliers mixes because it allows us to conduct our own tests for compression or lime content. The result was a pleasing meld of old and new material that looks and feels like the original.
Here, we had to deal with spalled bricks, meaning that the brick faces were crumbling and there were fractures throughout the units.
The mortar was failing, so we took out the old mortar joints with a specialised oscillating tool called an Arbortech.
While most masons use an angle grinder, we prefer to use an Arbortech tool where possible, this is because a regular angle grinder blade can easily damage brickwork when a mason holds their angle blade in an incorrect position. As a result the grinder will cut into the bricks on either end of a head joint. An Arbortech tool, while more expensive, is also more precise and worth the investment.
The goal with heritage restoration is often to do as little as required; to leave as much of the original craftsmanship as possible. A repair can sometimes cost more than a replacement, so historical value needs to be ascertained.
While this wasn’t a full restoration project meaning we didn’t make any major changes, we cleaned, repaired and gave the building a new lease on life.