Structures at Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Site in Colwood are getting a face lift.
Massive renovations are currently underway on the Belmont Battery including restoration of the concrete, the metal work of the tower and woodwork.
Fort Rodd Hill curator Kate Humble said there were parts of Belmont Battery, particularly the observation tower, that have been closed for the past few years due to unsafe conditions, but renovations will help open that back up to the public.
“The whole thing is basically being redone … There will be improved public access,” she said, noting while renovations will continue until next fall, the rest of the site remains open.
“You’re actually going to go to these parts of the battery that you weren’t able to get to for the last few years – stand where these historic people stood and look out over the view that they looked over and really situate yourself in the historic context a bit better.”
The restoration is part of a $3-billion federal project which began in 2015 to renovate heritage structures to mark Canada 150 celebrations. Of that $3 billion, Fort Rodd Hill received $2.4 million.
Local renovations began in 2015 with the lower and upper batteries. Work included repairing concrete and upgrading woodwork and drainage, and was completed in 2016 and in May of this year, respectively.
Renovations of Belmont Battery are currently taking place around two large pieces of artillery that are steeped in history. Originally built between 1898 and 1900 to protect CFB Esquimalt as part of Canada’s coastal defense system on the west coast, Belmont Battery soon became home to some of the most modern artillery in WWII.
The first is the 12-pounder quick firing gun, which was installed at the beginning of the 20th century and was designed to stop fast torpedo boats from entering the harbour.
The second piece was incredibly rare and installed in 1944. The Duplex six-pounder could shoot 72 rounds per minute out of its two barrels, rotate 360 degrees and had a range of 4.5 kilometres.
It took four people to operate, and the six- pound shells were hand loaded.
Neither guns were fired in protection of Esquimalt Harbour during WWII. After the war, the gun was sent to Norway to protect the Norwegian fjords as part of a NATO agreement. The gun was returned to Fort Rodd Hill in the 1980s.
Both guns will undergo restoration work, including rust mitigation and protection from the weather in 2020, said Humble.
“People who came in the past may have seen the batteries in slightly run down condition, and if you come back now you’re going to get the chance to really see what this little infusion of money has done to restore and make all of these places a lot more accessible and a lot more enjoyable,” Humble said.