Mr Rob Mikel
100 Spadina Road, No.2103
Toronto, Ontario M5R 2T7
Thank you for the photographs. I remembered our earlier discussions about this building and was glad to see pictures as I always have been curious about it, especially as there are only about a dozen other original British army War of 1812 buildings still standing in Canada.
For the most part, the construction, from gross to fine features, is perfectly consistent with an 1814-era soldiers’ barracks. The only exception is the brickwork on the gables which I do not understand, but that might be a problem of my knowledge rather than historical reality or be representative of some later renovation. As well, I would have assumed that there must have been a chimney in the centre of the building serving the building’s two rooms.
I guess the problem for you is in confirming that the building indeed was military as there also is a simplicity and Georgian generality in its construction which would allow it to have been some other kind of building. One approach would be to undertake some archaeology to find datable diagnostic military objects for the 1812 era. If you were to go that route, call David Spittal, the Fort York archaeologist at 392-6907 as he is willing to advise you on potential archaeologists, etc.
If you go the documentary route, try the Record Group 8 collection of the National Archives of Canada relating to British military records. (There is a microfilmed set at the Archives of Ontario.) I have enclosed a catalogue of likely volumes. Failing that, then you would have to use the War Office papers of the Public Record Office in the UK (microfilmed copies at the NAC). One source may be a set of drawings by Elias Durnford made in 1823 of the different military buildings in the different military posts of Upper Canada. I’m not sure which volume of RG8 the [sic] has the written report, but the drawings are in the National Map Collection of the NAC (I have enclosed a sample of what they look like.) The map collection has items filed by community, so it might be fairly easy to get Cobourg plans via the archivist in charge of the collection. I hope this helps. Let me know what you find or if I could provide more help.
Carl Benn, Ph.D. Curator, Military History