Mission Statement

The Cobourg Museum Foundation works to increase the knowledge of the unique local history of this area on the part of residents and visitors alike, and works to collaborate with other organizations having complementary objectives.

The Cobourg Museum Foundation (CMF) is a volunteer run, registered, not-for-profit charity, founded in 1999 by a group of citizens concerned about the state of near collapse of the limestone building locally known as the “barracks” believed to be the only limestone building ever constructed in the area.

The “barracks” reference is anecdotal, and likely first came about as a result of an article published in the Cobourg Daily Star in the mid-1930s. The article stated that the building was built by the British in support of the War of 1812. However, this has yet to be substantiated by any direct evidence.

In 2000 the CMF negotiated the purchase of the building and its site, and began to work to preserve it and develop it as a local museum with a focus on military history. In this same year the CMF was successful in obtaining the first of a number of government and institutional grants in support of the preservation and enhancement of the building as well as supporting other projects such as the staging of a successful and ongoing annual summer series of Ghost Walks in partnership with the Cobourg Downtown Business Improvement Association.

In 2001 the CMF produced its first newsletter and the first of an annual series of September Open House events was held.

Also in 2001 the CMF began a series of fund raising projects to help defray the costs of restoration.

In 2002 the CMF began its Outreach Program by putting on the first of its annual February Ontario Heritage Day displays at a local mall.

In 2003 the CMF continued its Outreach Program by putting on an exhibit about the War of 1812 at the local library and staging a re-enactment event. Since then exhibits have been created on the subject of “The Role of the Blacksmith in the Early Economy of Upper Canada” and “The History of the Mississauga First Nation at Alderville”.

The Barracks[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_separator css=".vc_custom_1464964410148{padding-top: 10px !important;padding-bottom: 10px !important;}"][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The “Barracks” has been an enigma to many who have studied it, both in terms of it’s distinct design and the use of limestone for construction of the walls. The building has the distinct look and dimensions of a military building of the early nineteenth century, a fact confirmed by Carl Benn, Curator of Military History at Heritage Toronto, in a letter dated October 30, 1997. A reading of the arrangement of doors and windows on the only wall with openings suggests a multi-purpose building which could have contained a small barracks room, an officer’s quarters, a secure room and an equipment repair and storage room. The limestone walls were extended vertically, well above the level of the loft floor, which resulted in enough head room to permit additional human use. A set of low double doors can be found at the west gable-end wall serving the loft. The question of where the stairs to the loft might have been located has yet to be determined.

The one most tantalizing question is why limestone was used when there were mature trees within easy reach. Log structures were sturdy and fire resistant, and often used for military purposes. Since the British Military often sold off their buildings after a threat or conflict was over, a wood structure would have been easier to modify for a subsequent purpose.

There is also the fact that the limestone used is of very poor quality (highly fractured) and cannot be shaped. The use of random pieces in building the 20 inch thick walls meant using a high percentage of mortar, a substance whose lime component was produced by the burning the limestone itself. The use of this type of mortar is appropriate to limestone masonry but it is slow to cure and the walls could only have been built in lifts of approximately 18 inches before work would have to stop for about a week while the mortar stiffened. There is evidence of eight such lifts indicating that the building would have taken as long as three months to build. This could imply that the need for the building was not an urgent one and that its construction was part of a larger plan.

A source for the stone is known to have been from the lakebed nearby but the transportation of this very dense and heavy material to the site over poor roads would have been extremely difficult.

One possible explanation is that the building was constructed by Europeans who were more familiar with and skilled at building in stone than wood. It has been suggested that it was built by regular British army soldiers or mercenaries, or by the same soldiers on half-pay waiting to return to Europe after 1814 and the end of the War of 1812. The design is distinctly that of British military structures of the time.

Until the Rush-Baggot Treaty of 1819 there was always the risk of the conflict resuming and during this time the British strengthened defenses along the North shore of Lake Ontario, including extending the Kingston Road (now Route 2) and improving the fort at Kingston. It is possible that the “barracks” was built as a multi-use building at this time.

Another suggestion is that the “barracks” was built as an industrial building in the early 1800s. Plans for the building design may have originated from the British military.

Archeological evidence has been discovered that indicates there were two successive wood floors early in the life of the structure. This implies it was first put to human use, whether soldiers or civilians.

Since its construction the building has been owned by at least 20 different parties and modified and used for a number of purposes, not all of which are yet known. They include that of a barn for livestock, a livery (for which it was not well suited), a possible blacksmith’s shop, a possible malt processing house for a nearby brewery, a storage shed for a local demolition company, and a laundry serving the surrounding area.

Over time distinct modifications were made to the building including: the conversion of an unusually wide single door with no associated windows into a window; the addition of a round, brick lined opening just below the peak of each of the gable end walls; the addition of a bricked chimney within the structure of the east gable end wall; and the raising of the header above one of the two entrance doors.

Most Canadian sources of the early history of the “barracks” have been explored, but not all. Another source may be the Archives of the British Royal Engineers in London, England.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

" data-medium-file="" data-large-file="" class="alignleft size-full wp-image-294" title="trillium-presentation-2" src="https://web.archive.org/web/20120723190602im_/http://northumberlandheritage.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/trillium-presentation-2.jpg" alt="" width="250" height="188" />

On two occasions the “barracks” has been included in the Ontario Doors Open event in Cobourg.

The CMF has participated in Cobourg’s popular July 1st Waterfront Festival a number of times with the purpose of informing visitors about the unique history of the area.

In 2006, and with expertise provided by the United Way, the CMF undertook a year long process that resulted in a Strategic Plan and a refined definition of its goal entitled “Vision 2012“. This plan has identified the primary role of the CMF as that of working with existing heritage interests to promote the history of the area to visitors and residents.

After consulting with the Ontario Ministry of Culture it was decided that the “barracks” and its site will become the Sifton-Cook Heritage Centre, named in honour of two of the founders of the Foundation now deceased. The Sifton-Cook Heritage Centre is planned to be completed by June 2012.

The Barracks[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_separator css=".vc_custom_1464964410148{padding-top: 10px !important;padding-bottom: 10px !important;}"][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The “Barracks” has been an enigma to many who have studied it, both in terms of it’s distinct design and the use of limestone for construction of the walls. The building has the distinct look and dimensions of a military building of the early nineteenth century, a fact confirmed by Carl Benn, Curator of Military History at Heritage Toronto, in a letter dated October 30, 1997. A reading of the arrangement of doors and windows on the only wall with openings suggests a multi-purpose building which could have contained a small barracks room, an officer’s quarters, a secure room and an equipment repair and storage room. The limestone walls were extended vertically, well above the level of the loft floor, which resulted in enough head room to permit additional human use. A set of low double doors can be found at the west gable-end wall serving the loft. The question of where the stairs to the loft might have been located has yet to be determined.

The one most tantalizing question is why limestone was used when there were mature trees within easy reach. Log structures were sturdy and fire resistant, and often used for military purposes. Since the British Military often sold off their buildings after a threat or conflict was over, a wood structure would have been easier to modify for a subsequent purpose.

There is also the fact that the limestone used is of very poor quality (highly fractured) and cannot be shaped. The use of random pieces in building the 20 inch thick walls meant using a high percentage of mortar, a substance whose lime component was produced by the burning the limestone itself. The use of this type of mortar is appropriate to limestone masonry but it is slow to cure and the walls could only have been built in lifts of approximately 18 inches before work would have to stop for about a week while the mortar stiffened. There is evidence of eight such lifts indicating that the building would have taken as long as three months to build. This could imply that the need for the building was not an urgent one and that its construction was part of a larger plan.

A source for the stone is known to have been from the lakebed nearby but the transportation of this very dense and heavy material to the site over poor roads would have been extremely difficult.

One possible explanation is that the building was constructed by Europeans who were more familiar with and skilled at building in stone than wood. It has been suggested that it was built by regular British army soldiers or mercenaries, or by the same soldiers on half-pay waiting to return to Europe after 1814 and the end of the War of 1812. The design is distinctly that of British military structures of the time.

Until the Rush-Baggot Treaty of 1819 there was always the risk of the conflict resuming and during this time the British strengthened defenses along the North shore of Lake Ontario, including extending the Kingston Road (now Route 2) and improving the fort at Kingston. It is possible that the “barracks” was built as a multi-use building at this time.

Another suggestion is that the “barracks” was built as an industrial building in the early 1800s. Plans for the building design may have originated from the British military.

Archeological evidence has been discovered that indicates there were two successive wood floors early in the life of the structure. This implies it was first put to human use, whether soldiers or civilians.

Since its construction the building has been owned by at least 20 different parties and modified and used for a number of purposes, not all of which are yet known. They include that of a barn for livestock, a livery (for which it was not well suited), a possible blacksmith’s shop, a possible malt processing house for a nearby brewery, a storage shed for a local demolition company, and a laundry serving the surrounding area.

Over time distinct modifications were made to the building including: the conversion of an unusually wide single door with no associated windows into a window; the addition of a round, brick lined opening just below the peak of each of the gable end walls; the addition of a bricked chimney within the structure of the east gable end wall; and the raising of the header above one of the two entrance doors.

Most Canadian sources of the early history of the “barracks” have been explored, but not all. Another source may be the Archives of the British Royal Engineers in London, England.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

" data-medium-file="" data-large-file="" class="size-full wp-image-295 alignright" title="sifton-cook-cottage-2" src="https://web.archive.org/web/20120723190602im_/http://northumberlandheritage.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/sifton-cook-cottage-2.jpg" alt="" width="200" height="150" />

In late 2007 the CMF was given an 1860s storey and a half wooden heritage cottage to be used on the site to provide meeting rooms, offices and a gift shop. Through a partnership with West Colony Bay, Bell Canada, Cogeco Cable, Lakefront Utilities and Cobourg Fiberoptic Networks Inc., the building was moved to the site at no cost to the CMF.

The barracks and cottage officially opened as the Sifton-Heritage Centre on June 9, 2012 in conjunction with the Town of Cobourg’s 175th Celebration and a public parade from Victoria Hall led by the Cobourg Concert Band to the site.