Built in the mid-1850s, the Gate originally anchored the timber walls of the north half of the expanded Fort. These oak walls were over ten feet high and three feet thick. The gate mixes several architectural styles. The notches in the top might remind you of castle towers and reflect aspects of Norman architecture. The rounded archway entrance resembles forms used in Italy during the Renaissance. These decorative details show that the fort was built not only to be practical, but also to be impressive and dignified.
The second storey within the gate was used as gallery where a guard could stand watch and a flag could be mounted. This space was partially hidden from view from the South by a wooden wall. The gallery’s loopholes enabled guards to fire upon enemies while remaining nearly invisible. Still, the gate was mostly ceremonial, and was generally used as a private entrance to the residential compound. The Gate’s “double-leaf” – or two part – doorway opened at the centre to lead visitors into the fort.
Local legend suggests the gate was designed by a man named Alexander Hunter Murray, a Scottish man who emigrated to the United States and worked for the American Fur Company until he joined the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1845. Many labourers worked on the gate’s construction, including some of the Chelsea pensioners, members of a small military regiment in charge of protecting the Red River settlement.
The Fort’s walls, bastions and buildings were completely pulled to pieces by the late 1880s. Some of these pieces were recycled. Rubble stone from the demolitions was used in the foundations of buildings in downtown Winnipeg and timber from some of the buildings was sold as firewood! Only the Gate survived the fort’s dismantling. This important icon still stands today thanks to the work of many individuals dedicated to preserving the memory of the province’s history.