Beneath the tulips, trees, lawns and statues on Parliament Hill lie the remnants of a military complex that predates both Confederation and the founding of Ottawa.
Three years after Ottawa was named the capital of the United Province of Canada by Queen Victoria, the structures that housed the soldiers on ‘Barrack Hill’ were demolished so that the first parliament buildings could go up.
As part of the ongoing renovations to Centre Block, an archaeology team has been working since April, unearthing the ruins of the complex. What they’ve uncovered so far are the old foundations of the barracks, an old guardhouse, and what was the former city of Bytown’s first jail, the remnants of what existed on Parliament Hill before Centre Block was built, during the time Rideau Canal construction.
Some of the smaller items unearthed so far include a range of personal military items: chin straps, tags, gorgets – which officers often wore to hold their neckties in place – and other domestic items, like coins.
The excavation of the guardhouse and barracks is set to be completed by the fall. The artifacts will be cleaned and analyzed by the department before being put on display for the public.