"The Barracks" by the History students at CDCI West
Unfortunately, very little has been written about the building. Any written accounts that mention the Barracks (encountered to date) were written in the last 30 years. Many people have taken this omission to mean the building had no importance. However, there is very little written about Cobourg's involvement in the war of 1812 by any writer.
The 1878 historical atlas of the county (more) has the wrong list of names for militia men for the area. This mistake has been faithfully copied by local historians and writers who, upon looking at the local census, surmised only 1 local man served in the war. However, looking at the original documents we find that 1/5th of the regiment came from Cobourg and Hamilton township. The regiment guarded the area and the key transfer area at Carrying Place, escorted American prisoners of war to Kingston, and many other activities documented in letters from the time (CDCI site).
A letter about the Barracks? - CDCI site; See also Ontario Mills Woolen Factory]. Given the obvious age of the building and its reputation, it likely is the depot mentioned in the letter. It was on government property until 1819 which coincides nicely with the treaty that demilitarized the Great Lakes. [Note that other historians disagree with this and say that there is no evidence the surviving building was used for Military purposes - see this article for an example of this.].If this chapter of local history has been skipped, it is no wonder that nothing has been written about the building. We do know that there was a military depot in Cobourg that supplied troops during the war of 1812. We also know it was relatively close to the mill on Factory Creek at the King Street bridge [see
From 1819 to 1831 the property and the building passed through a series of owners. Its use is open to conjecture. In 1831, it passed into James Calcutt's hands - see "The James Calcutt Story" for several fascinating facts about both him and the building. At this point it was probably used as a malt house or for grain storage. The "owl windows" were probably added at this point. The legendary tunnels would also likely date from this time as Calcutt had enemies who wished his death. A concealed exit would have been prudent.
Calcutt ran a large brewery and distillery that he eventually lost to bankruptcy. The business ended in the 1890s when most of the buildings burned. The barracks' roof shows fire damage from this time.
After the 1890's, the building ran through a large number of different owners. We know some of them used the building for storage, including a fellow who used to 'recycle' parts of buildings he demolished. Physical evidence in the building also suggests the presence of a blacksmith at one point. However, the overwhelming evidence is of storage. Of course, today, the building will serve its final use as a museum in recognition of both its own unique history and that of this area.
The above taken (with permission) from the CDCI West History Department site - see also their "Early History of Cobourg" on this site.
The Barracks as a Museum
The Barracks is now the Sifton-Cooke Heritage centre - what others would call a seasonal museum. For more on it's new life, go to their web site.
Directions to "The Barracks"
For directions to Cobourg, you can use the Google map or:
From the 401.
Take the Division Street exit south. Turn right on to King Street (Highway #2). Follow King St. and turn left on to Durham St. (2nd street past the Cobourg Police Station). The Barracks is on the corner of Durham and Orr Streets.
From Highway 2.
From the west, follow Highway 2 South (along William Street) then, at the lights where William meets King, turn left to stay on Highway 2. Turn right on to Durham Street (before the next stop light and downtown Cobourg).
From the east, you will go through downtown Cobourg. There will be a Shopper's Drug store to your right. Turn left on the first street (Durham) past Shoppers (Durham to the south, Ball street to the north). Follow Durham street to the corner of Orr and Durham. The Barracks is on the southeast corner