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Argentia 282 Coastal Defence Battery Registered Heritage Structure

282 Coastal Defence Battery, Argentia, NL
282 Coastal Defence Battery, Argentia, NL
282 Coastal Defence Battery, Argentia, NL

Statement of Significance

Formal Recognition Type

Registered Heritage Structure

Description of Historic Place

Constructed of concrete and covered with earth, 282 Coastal Defence Battery is located on a hill overlooking Placentia Bay and the former American base of Fort McAndrew in Argentia, NL. Along with the main underground structure, two associated guns are mounted outside the bunker. The designation encompasses a portion of the underground and above ground fortification, including the two original artillery guns.

Heritage Value

282 Coastal Defence Battery was designated a Registered Heritage Structure by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador in 2005 because it has historic, aesthetic and cultural values.

282 Coastal Defence Battery has historical value as it is a tangible reminder of the World War Two era in Newfoundland and Labrador in general, and more specifically in Argentia and surrounding area. In 1941, Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt entered into a lend-lease program that would see the United States given leases to land within the British Empire to construct bases, while in return Britain would receive American warships. In the fall of 1940, before the agreement was official, American survey teams arrived in Argentia to assess the area. Construction of the naval air base began shortly after.

Argentia was an attractive site due to its deep anchorage, ice-free harbour, available land for an airfield, access to an existing railway line and strategic location close to valued North Atlantic shipping routes. Fort McAndrew became the most expensive overseas American base built during the period. At its peak, twenty thousand American servicemen were stationed in Argentia. The base would play a key role in the Battle of the Atlantic as anti-submarine patrols originated there and transatlantic convoys rendezvoused in the waters off Argentia. During the Cold War, Argentia remained desirable as a communications centre, one of many in the early warning system instigated by the United States to monitor Soviet activity.

282 Coastal Defence Battery has aesthetic value as its design and construction technique are rare in the province. Known as the “200 Series” bunker, this underground fortification may also be the only one of its kind remaining with its original artillery guns in place. While many such bunkers were constructed along the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador during World War Two, most of these have been dismantled or have fallen into major disrepair. Built of concrete, the bunker is covered with soil and vegetation, blending into the landscape as its original design intended.

282 Coastal Defence Battery has cultural and social value as it is a physical reminder of the cultural, societal and economic changes, both positive and negative, that were a result of the establishment of American military bases in Newfoundland and Labrador. For the residents of Argentia and Marquise, the American presence resulted in the forced relocation of these two communities. Almost eight hundred people were resettled to neighbouring communities, while their homes were demolished and their ancestors' graves exhumed and relocated. The American presence did, however, result in a job boom in the region. At its height, approximately five thousand civilians found employment on the base. In a society largely dependant on the credit system, the Argentia base provided local workers with a degree of financial independence not previously attainable in the traditional inshore fishery. The Americans who came to Argentia also introduced contemporaneous forms of American popular culture to the region, including leisure activities, music and fashions, that broadened the cultural sphere of wartime and postwar Newfoundland and Labrador.

Source: Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador property file “Argentia - 282 Coastal Defence Battery - FPT 2489”

Character Defining Elements

All elements associated with the original design intention of the bunker and gun emplacements as part of a fortified military base, including:
-location of bunker overlooking Placentia Bay and the former American base Fort McAndrew in Argentia;
-unrestricted view of Placentia Bay and the former American base Fort McAndrew in Argentia;
- all remnants of the gun emplacements and underground bunker;
-original form, scale and massing of bunker and gun emplacements;
-dimension, location and orientation of bunker and gun emplacements;
-original floor plan of bunker; and
-soil and vegetation exterior camouflage.

Location and History

Community Argentia
Municipality Town of Placentia
Civic Address Site of former American Base Fort McAndrew, Argentia
Construction 1941 - 1941
Builder
United States of America Military
Style Other
Building Plan T - Shape