Kingston is located at the eastern end of Lake Ontario, at the mouth of the Saint Lawrence River. This is an immensely strategic location. Indigenous peoples have lived in and passed through this area for many thousands of years. French fur traders established a trading post here in 1673, calling it Cataraqui, and later Fort Frontenac. Following the British conquest of New France in the mid-1700s, they took control of the fort and quickly laid out a townsite named Kingston that was settled by Loyalists in the 1780s.
As the gateway to the Great Lakes, Kingston immediately assumed military importance to the British, who established Fort Henry overlooking the townsite, and later on built a series of martello towers to defend the city from any potential American naval assault. It also grew in political and economic importance, becoming one of the main population centres of Upper Canada (that is, modern Ontario) prior to Canadian Confederation. In 1841 it was named the capital of the colony of the United Province of Canada, though this was brief.
In the early to mid-1800s, a population boom combined with access to high quality local limestone resulted in the construction of many fine heritage buildings that still stand to this day. As a result, Kingston is nicknamed the Limestone City.
During the First World War Fort Henry was used as a camp for the internment of so-called 'enemy aliens'. This fascinating yet dark chapter in Canadian history will be covered in a tour that we are launching in the spring of 2023, and will include some of the best photography we've done to date! Stay tuned!
This project has been made possible by a grant from the Endowment Council of the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund.
We acknowledge that the land on which Kingston is located is the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe peoples, many of whom continue to live and work here today. This territory is covered by the Upper Canada Treaties and is within the land protected by the Dish With One Spoon Wampum agreement. Today this gathering place is home to many First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples.
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The Hotel Dieu Hospital was founded in the 1840s to care for the poor Irish Catholics settling in Kingston. It came to its present location at Sydenham Street in 1892, where it continues to operate, conducting important medical research in affiliation with Queen's University.
A postcard showing Kingston's impressive neoclassical style City Hall. It was originally built in 1844 and originally served as a jail, market, seat of local government, post office, police station, customs house, and more.