PRESCOTT, Ontario — A $3.1 million expansion of Fort Wellington's visitors center will highlight this Canadian community's place in history during the War of 1812.
Construction on the Fort Wellington National Historic Site Visitors Centre is set to begin next year, according to Michele Monette, media relations officer for Parks Canada.
The British fort is across the river from Ogdensburg's Greenbelt. It served to defend the St. Lawrence River shipping route between Montreal and Kingston from attacks by U.S. military forces.
The visitors center will include a multipurpose room that will be available for meetings, art shows, special exhibits, programs, classes and demonstrations. The building will be about 7,000 square feet.
Parks Canada officials said Fort Wellington's new historical exhibits will describe the British fort's role as the "guardian of the St. Lawrence River."
A gunboat exhibit will explain how the modest shallow-draft boats that carried a cannon and had a well-armed crew could be maneuvered in shallow waters where sailing was difficult for larger ships, making them ideal for the St. Lawrence River.
A gunboat that will be used in the exhibit first was used as a naval vessel intended for border defense, then as a commercial craft, attesting to the changing nature of life along the frontier.
Prescott's location was an advantage for the safety of boats and crew upon the exposed maritime route, Parks Canada officials said. The town was well-situated to offer rapid assistance to those in difficulty along the St. Lawrence between the Long Sault Rapids to the east and the Thousand Islands to the west. Additionally, the advantage of promptly responding to enemy incursions on the river meant the British could be in a better position to protect their essential communication route and therefore their interests in Upper Canada.
Prescott was a significant naval port for gunboats used in coastal defense. During of the War of 1812, Prescott kept a fleet of gunboats to patrol and guard the river between Prescott and Kingston.