This Is Kingston
The story of Kingston, Ontario, is one of old forts and early government adventures, of smart soldier-men crowding her streets then and now — of Industry In peace, vigor in war
IT IS likely that you will see more servicemen and a greater variety of uniforms on the streets of Kingston. Ontario, than may be found in any other Canadian city of comparable size. Here are airmen, artillerymen infantrymen; signallers, engineers, soldiers of the ordnance and army service corps; sailors, kilties and cadets. At leave periods it sometimes happens that there are actually more uniformed men than civilians strolling through Kingston's main thoroughfares, crowding the city's shops and cinemas, restaurants, soda fountains and hotels.
To native Kingstonians this is an eminently natural and proper state of affairs. It was so in the last war. when C.E.F. soldiers sauntered up and down the same streets in droves. Even in peacetime Kingston is to some extent an army town. Most Canadians remember that the Royal Military College is at Kingston, and always has been at Kingston. Less generally known is the fact that Vimy Barracks, at Barriefield. on the city’s eastern edge, is the Dominion's permanent number one training station for signallers, and that a permanent artillery school functions within Kingston's boundaries.
Now that we are at war, Barriefield houses thousands of signallers the year round, and the artillery establishment has increased its enrolment over and over again. Considerable Air F orce activity centres around Kingston’s municipal flying field. Trenton, one of Canada's most important air training stations, is only sixty-two miles away. A Kingston shipyard is building vessels for the Royal Canadian Navy, and sailors come to Kingston to man them as they are launched. Add to these concentrations the soldiers enlisted in locally recruited C.A.S.F. regiments, plus members of the home guard, and you see why the services bulk so largely in the foreground of the Kingston picture of today. But, although the Army and the Air Force and the Navy are prominently in the front of the Kingston scene, they do not dominate it completely. In, or near Kingston, are a renowned university, founded by the Presbyterian Church, a Roman Catholic College established and maintained by the Jesuits, a Roman Catholic archdiocese and two important hospitals. Kingston is a county seat, and close by are two of Canada’s largest penitentiaries. The city possesses half a dozen nationally essential industries. The surrounding areas are excellent mixed farming and dairy country, so that Kingston’s Tuesday-ThursdaySaturday municipal market is a produce exchange of consequence.
It is a most motley community and a very old one, dating back beyond the British conquest of Canada. For a brief time it was Canada’s capital city, before Ottawa was thought of. Visitors, keen on historical reminiscence, may spend happy days in Kingston. There is good fishing and hunting at its front door, and more good fishing and hunting in its backyard. Where Kingston stands. Lake Ontario joins with the St. Lawrence, and the Thousand Islands are just around the bend. Behind the city, Frontenac County is a checkerboard of small well-stocked lakes.
Both Canadian National and Canadian Pacific main lines between Toronto and Montreal serve Kingston. The city has direct bus communication with those cities, as well as with Ottawa and other eastern Ontario points. Lake freighters and passenger steamers call at Kingston during the season; motor launches make scenic trips. Ferries connect Kingston with Ogdensburg and other New York State points. In Kingston, tourism is Big Business.
Physically, Kingston sprawls. King’s Highway No. 2. chief driveway from Toronto to Montreal, enters the city from the northwest, becomes Princess Street as far as the
waterfront, then, following the St. Lawrence shoreline, makes a right-angle turn eastward along Ontario Street. Today Princess Street is Kingston’s main street, where the shops are, but the old town naturally assembled itself around the harbor, so that it has come about that most of the city’s business, except retail buying and selling, is transacted in b small area some distance away from the residential districts. Also, and unfortunately, it has come about that Kingston’s really distinguished town hall—they call it the City Buildings—constructed in 1843, years before the railroad came, and designed to overlook the sweeping expanse of the river, now faces the C.P.R.’s unbeautiful station and yards. Drab freight cars are shunted and hauled immediately in front of the hall’s dignified pillared and porticoed façade, a glum reminder that in some of its aspects progress can be uncouth.
Kingston’s geographical position has made it inevitable that there would be fighting here. The bulge of land where the city is built, with its companionate islands named in true Kingston tradition for the British generals, Wolfe, Howe and Amherst, guard the Canadian entrance to the Great Lakes from the east. Rival Indian tribes fought over this territory when there were no white men in the land; later the French fought with the Indians, and later still the French and British fought for possession of the same strategically vital location.
The War of the American Revolution and the War of 1812 both had repercussions important to Kingston. The Mackenzie rebellion of 1837 was responsible for much public excitement and several sudden deaths there. With the coming of permanent peace between British and Americans, the business of battle has touched Kingston less intimately; but the course of the city’s history has so ordered things that when Canada is at war Kingston is bound by her destiny to play a considerable contributory part. This was so during the Boer War. It was so to a greater extent between 1914 and 1918. It is so to a still greater extent today.
Civic Setup—Queen's University
CO IT has come about that the quality of Kingston, the ^ feel of Kingston, and the panorama of Kingston, is affected profoundly by the contingency of war and the circumstance of peace. Kingston has two faces. The city that one would have seen in, say. August, 1939, was a city completely different from the city one sees today; and the city we see today is entirely different from the city we will see when this war is ended.
Primarily the effect is upon the population; not only in appearance—as in the essential difference between the look of streets thronged with men in uniform and streets moderately brisk with civilian men and women occupied with their everyday routines—but in the actual total of its numbers. Normally the population of Kingston is around 30,000 people. Today it is certainly half as many again, probably more, by reason of the increase in the personnel of the many military establishments in and about the city and of wartime activities in certain industries. Practically no unemployment exists. There is a housing shortage, and a shortage of skilled labor in some lines. The current rate of wages for ordinary machinists runs between fifty and sixty cents an hour; unskilled labor is paid between thirty-five and forty cents an hour. The more expert craftsmen who are specialists in the rarer mechanical processes, are at a premium. Naturally the city is busy and its tradesmen are prosperous.
As to its municipal structure, Kingston is divided into
seven wards, each electing three aldermen to the city council. The present mayor is Dr. H. A. Stewart, a brisk, amiable and popular dentist, re-elected last December for his fourth term. The offices of city clerk and city treasurer* are combined. The regular city clerk-treasurer is C. C. Wyatt, but Mr. Wyatt has been given leave of absence to take a course with the R.C.A.F., and his deputy, F. J. Parker, is carrying on for him. T. J. Rigney, K.C., a former mayor, is city solicitor. The city engineer is Howard S. Dick and the city auditor is L. G. Macpherson, C. A. Police Chief R. J. Robinson and Inspector Andrew Ready administer a department of two sergeants and twenty ]X)lice officers. James Armstrong is chief of the fire department, with Thomas Lawlor as assistant chief, and a captain, two lieutenants and twenty firemen.
Kingston’s financial position is good, and is improving. The most recent statement shows the assessed value of property within the municipality’s 2,965 acres to be $19.417,539. The tax levy on this was $822,023. The tax rate is 38.65 mills, and this is being lowered each year under a progressive debenture retirement plan. The total debenture debt is $2.667,665; there is a sinking fund of $1,225.515. Kingston's three public utilities, the waterworks, electric light plant and gas plant each made a profit last year. A privately owned company operates a local bus system, having discarded trolley cars some years ago.
The Chamber of Commerce at Kingston functions in close co-operation with the municipal administration, and has its offices in the City Buildings. The president is Arthur L. Davies, managing director of the Whig-Standard. The secretary-manager, who is also the city’s Industrial Commissioner, is J. M. Hughes, another former mayor, and the Chamber has a directorate of twelve. Secretary Hughes
serves in a voluntary capacity as secretary-treasurer of the Kingston Community Hospitalization Plan, a local sickness insurance scheme. A busy man, Mr. Hughes.
In normal times of peace a visitor to Kingston, seeking to discover its chief characteristics, would perceive it as an institutional city first of all; then as an industrial city, and in its third aspect as a historic and pleasant community attractive to tourists. It is, of course, an important educational centre. Besides the internationally renowned Queen’s University, there is the Royal Military College, Canadian equivalent of Sandhurst in England and West Point in the United States, and Regiopolis College, a Roman Catholic seminary maintained by the Jesuit Order.
Queen’s is one hundred years old this year. Queen Victoria granted the charter in 1841, authorizing the establishment at Kingston of a “Queen’s College” enjoying the “style and privileges of a university,” although there was little style and few privileges to the beginnings of the college. Financed almost entirely by the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, the first classes were held in a small frame house on Colborne Street, with an instructional equipment of two professors and a Synod library of fiftytwo books. That year the total enrolment wfas ten students.
Today the university has a student body of more than 4,(XX) students registered annually, with close to two hundred and fifty professors, associates, instructors and assistants. A dozen handsome buildings faced with the native white limestone are scattered around a campus located about a mile south and west of the Colborne Street site, near by—but not on—the waterfront, and close to the heart of the city. Kingston Hall, Grant Hall and Ontario Hall would do credit to any university anywhere, and that fifty-tw'o-book library has grown to the modern Douglas Library of nearly 200,000 volumes.
Queen’s is very much a part of peacetime Kingston. Because the university is practically in the business district, students are all over the town, especially on Saturday afternoons during the football season. Richardson Stadium, the splendid modern playing field, has seen many historic gridiron battles, and Kingston has seen many equally memorable after-the-game celebrations. On the more serious side, Queen’s students have carried the fame of their alma mater to every corner of the earth, as engineers, physicians, scientists and lawyers—more especially as engineers.
KINGSTON has always contained a considerable proportion of citizens of the Roman Catholic faith, some French, many of them Irish. The first mayor, following incorporation as a town in 1838, was Thomas Kirkpatrick, a native of County Dublin, and his council consisted of six Irish and two English members. St. Mary’s Cathedral, dating back to 1843, is the seat of the Kingston archdiocese, with St. Mary’s School attached to the Cathedral and the Hotel Dieu de St. Joseph, a Roman Catholic hospital near by. Regiopolis College was founded in 1850 as a centre of Jesuit training. Today Regiopolis has an enrolment of roughly three hundred students and a teaching staff of sixty.
The Royal Military College, although in some ways the most interesting of Kingston’s educational establishments, is many years junior of both Queen’s and Regiopolis. R.M.C., chartered in 1876 when Lord Dufferin was Governor-General of Canada, was at first no more than the military successor to something begun as a naval base, an unusual development brought about in this wise:
About 1812 a building of yellow sandstone was erected on Point Frederick to serve as a barracks and offices for the staff of the Naval Dockyard. Money had been voted by the Admiralty in London for a new frigate, but by the time the orders came through the ship was not needed, while accommodation for the 1.200 men employed in the dockyard was an urgent necessity. Out of that situation came one of the oddest anomalies contrived by the often quaint colonial administration of early Canadian affairs. Instead of building a ship they didn’t want, the Kingston officials put up a structure they did need with the money voted; but because the vote authorized a frigate, not a building, the structure was designed to follow as closely as possible the pattern of a frigate, complete with a quarter deck, and with hammocks slung in the sleeping quarters.
This strange hybrid was officially named “H.M.S. Stone Frigate.” After the War of 1812 had ended, the need for a naval base at Kingston disappeared. Years later the new Royal Military College was established on the old dockyard site, and after interior reconstruction the Stone
Frigate was made over into dormitories for the cadets; but to this day the building is called the Stone Frigate.
Queen Victoria granted the title “Royal” to the Military College of Canada in 1878 when the administration building was opened, with a class of eighteen. During the Great War approximately one thousand R.M.C. graduates served overseas. One hundred and seventy were killed, more than two hundred wounded, two thousand eight hundred and forty-six decorations and mentions were awarded them, and one won the Victoria Cross. Three former cadets rose to the rank of lieutenant-general between 1914 and 1918. fifteen were made major-generals, and about forty became brigadiers. In normal times R.M.C. accommodates approximately three hundred cadets. War conditions, speeding up courses, have increased the number of students.
A further scholastic distinction claimed for Kingston is possession of the oldest high school in Ontario. This institution, the Kingston Collegiate and Vocational Institute, was born in 1792 as a “private classical school” for boys, organized by the Rev. John Stuart. Following the old English tradition, the school emphasized instruction in Latin and Greek. By 1811 it had become a grammar school, and since 1871, when legislation was passed designating all grammar schools as “high schools” and providing that they should henceforth be coeducational, Kingston Collegiate has progressed steadily to its present stature. Supporting the collegiate, Kingston has eight publicschools with about 3,000 pupils in attendance.
Oldest of the Kingston churches is St. George’s Anglican Cathedral, founded in 1791. Chalmers Church, dating to 1846, is the oldest of the Presbyterian edifices.
Culture, then, is one important phase of the Kingston picture. Here is a college town adorned with the dignity of ancient tradition. Great scholars, distinguished soldiers, devoted priests and teachers have gone from this old city to spread their influence all over the globe.
In sharp contrast is the fact that through some devious circumstantial route Kingston has become the most important penitentiary centre of Eastern Canada. The two Federal penal institutions located in the Kingston district are not in the city proper, although for years the older establishment at Portsmouth has been identified with the name of Kingston in the public mind, has been called almost always “Kingston Penitentiary.” Actually it is about half a mile beyond the city limits on the west. Portsmouth, where the present warden is R. M. Allen, is now used entirely for the detention of old offenders. Firsttermers, or “preferred class” prisoners, are sent to Collins Bay, a more recently constructed institution about six miles west of Portsmouth, where Lieut.-Col. W. H. Craig is warden.
These oddly assorted institutions, plus the commodious Kingston General Hospital and the numerous establish-
On the industrial side Kingston has about thirty manufacturing establishments of importance, and these too have been materially assisted by war conditions. At least half a dozen of them are working under pressure, at top speed, entirely on war production. Chief among them are the Kingston plant of the Canadian Locomotive Company, the Canadian Dredge and Dock Company, the Kingston Shipbuilding Company, the Frontenac Floor and Wall Tile Company, the Monarch Battery Company and Heild Brothers, Limited, manufacturers of woollens. Last spring the Aluminum Company of Canada opened a new and extensive plant in Kingston. Already further additions are planned. Kingston products include dyes and chemicals, boats, leather goods, mattresses, woodwork, machinery, printers’ supplies, picture frames, soft drinks, biscuits and confectionery. Canada Bread, Borden’s and Coca-Cola maintain branches in the city.
merits maintained by the Department of National Defense, provide a sound and permanent basis for Kingston’s prosperity. In peace times their combined annual payroll, according to figures supplied by the Chamber of Commerce, amounts to upwards of $2,500,000. Expenditures made on their behalf for purchases of supplies either directly from Kingston merchants, or through Kingston agencies, are estimated at around $1,500,000 a year. Since the war began, spending for military purposes has naturally been enormously increased. No civic official will venture a guess as to the actual amount involved, even for the first year of war.
Many great Canadians have come out of Kingston. Perhaps the greatest of them all was Sir John A. Macdonald, who was brought to Canada as a child by his Scottish parents, educated at Kingston Grammar School, called to the bar when he was but twenty-one years old, and in 1836 began his career in law offices on Clarence Street that are still in use as law offices. Two other young fellows joined him, Oliver Mowat and Alexander Campbell. Sir John, destined, because of his work on behalf of Confederation, to become one of Canada's outstanding prime ministers for all time, represented the Kingston constituency in the House of Commons for forty years. Sir Oliver Mowat and Sir Alexander Campbell, both among the Fathers of Confederation, also went from that Clarence Street law office to become brilliant political leaders. Later. Kingston-born Sir Richard Cartwright achieved fame as a statesman, and the late Hon. Norman Rogers, Minister of National Defense, was Member for Kingston when he was killed in an airplane crash last year. Among Kingston’s early mayors was John Counter, who served for eight terms as chief magistrate and to whose genius and determination the City Buildings stand as a permanent memorial. John Counter went to England for the express purpose of raising the money to build the structure, and alone and unaided he raised it.
From the days of the earliest British settlement Kingston has been known as a lively, sometimes a contumacious, newspaper town. The first journal was the Kingston Gazette, a weekly founded by Stephen Mills and Charles Kendall in 1810. For a few years the Gazette was the only newspaper in Upper Canada. Other weeklies followed in fairly rapid succession, and at various times Kingston has had a Patriot and Spectator, a Herald, an Argus, an Advertiser, a Frontenac Gazette, a British American and Statesman, and a Daily News.
On New Year’s Day, 1834, the first issue of the British Whig was printed on Kingston presses. Started as a weekly, this influential newspaper became in time the first daily published in Upper Canada. The Kingston Daily News was succeeded by the Standard, and in 1926 the Whig and the Standard were amalgamated under the ownership of Rupert Davies and Harry B. Muir. Mr. Muir died in 1939, so that now Mr. Davies remains to carry on the old traditions as publisher of the Kingston Whig-Standard.
Vigorous Early History
THE beginnings of this ancient city are rooted in the beginnings of Canada herself. When this country was yet New France, the colonial governor De Courcelles made his way up the St. Lawrence through the Thousand Islands and came at last to a native village at the point where a minor tributary, called by the Indians Katarakoui —“a clay bank rising out of the water”—flowed into the larger stream. De Courcelles found the Indians friendly, and he marked the place on his map as one of strategic importance, and possibly of commercial consequence too. That happened in 1671. De Courcelles returned to France shortly afterward, but he commended the Indian village at the mouth of the Katarakoui— it is marked as Cataraqui on today’s maps—to the attention of his successor, the famed Count Frontenac, and Frontenac went to Cataraqui in 1673, built a log fort—replaced two years later with a stouter structure of stone—and established the French settlement of Fort Frontenac.
Robert La Salle, already renowned as an explorer, was appointed commandant of Fort Frontenac. The Governor gave him a seigniory, conceded special trading privileges, and for a time Fort Frontenac prospered in peace.
But only for a while. Frontenac, returning to France, was succeeded by less able and more timorous governors. La Salle was often far away opening new territories farther west. Hostile Indians raided the fort, burned it to the ground, dumped the cannon into the river and sank the French ships in the harbor. Frontenac, raging back to Canada from France, arrived too late to prevent the destruction of the fort, but he rebuilt it stronger and more elaborately equipped than ever in 1698. and for almost sixty years the settlement flourished without serious interruption.
But the British and French were at each other’s throats by then. Montcalm used Fort Frontenac as a base for an attack against the British stronghold of Oswego on the south shore of Lake Ontario. Retaliating, the British general, Abercrombie. sent Colonel John Bradstreet with a force of 3,000 men and eleven guns against Fort Frontenac. Bradstreet captured the fort, forcing De Noyan. the French commandant, to withdraw to Montreal, seized ships and munitions as well as a valuable stock of fur pelts, then blasted the fort’s walls to rubble and dumped its guns into the lake.
That happened in August and September of 1758. A year later Wolfe defeated Montcalm on the Plains of Abraham and so decided the destiny of Canada for all time. When Montreal surrendered to the British in 1760, the long conflict was ended.
The British had no interest in the ruins of Fort Frontenac. Holding both sides of the river and the lake, they used the wider, deeper natural channel along the south bank for their traffic. The old French settlement became a deserted village.
It took the American Revolution to restore vitality to the desolate settlement. Led by one Captain Michael Grass, a group of United Empire Loyalists left New York in 1782 with the mouth of the Cataraqui as their destination. Grass knew the country; he had been held prisoner at Fort Frontenac during the French wars. The party, after wintering at Sorel, completed the journey the following summer, and on October 27. 1783—the day was Monday—John Collins. DeputySurveyor General, located the first official survey post in Upper Canada at a point near the waterfront, but some distance west of the site of Fort Frontenac.
Grass and his associates decided to call the new township Kingstown, by way of demonstrating their loyalty to the crown. The name was abbreviated to Kingston. jx)ssibly by weight of common usage, and Kingston it has been ever since. Besides Captain Grass, the pioneer landholders included Sir John Johnston; the Rev. John Stuart, the Anglican missionary who set up the first school; Captain Joseph Brant, and suggesting that even in those days
women had rights and exercised them— Anne Earl. Those original farmsites have long since been absorbed in the city's growth. Captain Grass’ farm is now a part of City Park, adjoining Queen’s University.
From this time forward war was to touch the new settlement only indirectly, although, because of its location, soldiers were always to be a large part of its pattern. Upper Canada was virgin territory, Kingston the most important trading post between Montreal and the Great Lakes. It was a centrally located port, a transfer point, a market and storehouse. It was a boom town.
Fort Frontenac was restored, this time under the British flag, and troops were quartered there. A naval dockyard was built. Kingston began to take on political importance. John Graves Simcoe. first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada, called for a quorum of the newly appointed Executive Council of the province to meet him at Kingston, and on Sunday, July 8. 1792, Simcoe took the oath of office in the “place then used for divine service,” actually the first St. George’s Church, then in the course of construction. The present building of the Kingston WhigStandard occupies the site, and a bronze tablet commemorates the event. For the time being, Kingston was the seat of government. The councillors were sworn into office there, and on the sixteenth of July a proclamation was issued dividing the province into districts for the purpose of electing the first Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada.
Those were rough-and-tumble times. The first court of justice sat in Kingston in 1789, when judges sentenced an unhappy citizen to hang for the crime of stealing a watch. Later the man was proved innocent, but it was too late to do him any good.
Stocks and the public whipping post w?ere employed as lawful punishment in Kingston as late as 1822. Many of the wealthier settlers, even the clergy, owned slaves. Duelling was an honored custom. In the first duel ever fought in Upper Canada, one Peter Clark, Chief Clerk of the Legislative Council, was mortally wounded by a Captain Sutherland of the Twentyfifth Regiment, stationed at Kingston.
But there was progress, too. A road of sorts now connected Kingston with Montreal by stage coach, and in 1801. Asa Danforth, a famous engineer of the time, completed his highway between York and Kingston. The route still honors its builder’s name at the Toronto end. where it is Danforth Avenue.
War of 1812
Y\ 7TIEN the threat of renewed war W between England and the United States finally exploded into the hostilities of 1812, fresh emphasis w;as placed on Kingston’s strategic importance as a key position linking Montreal—the main source of supplies and munitions—with the naval and military forces operating on the Great Lakes and around Niagara. A flotilla of naval vessels was assembled at Kingston. The system of forts was greatly extended, blockhouses were built for the defense of the town, and rubble towers were hurriedly constructed. In after years these defensive works became Fort Henry.
But the War of 1812 did not harm Kingston, although American warships did menace the settlement for a brief period, and drew close enough to come under the fire of the new fort’s guns. Kingston was used as the base for the abortive attack by a British force on Sackett’s Harbor on the New York side, and a British schooner, the Simcoe, com-
manded by a Kingston skipper, Captain James Richardson, was so badly damaged in a brush with American ships on Lake Ontario that she sank after her crew had brought her into port. No engagement of consequence was fought either on land or water in the Kingston area.
As it turned out, the War of 1812 was a blessing in disguise for the fledgling town. It greatly increased the strength of the naval and military establishments and brought new settlers and new commercial enterprises into the district. Further, the British Government, still uncertain about its future relations with the United States, decided to build an inland waterway, away from the border, connecting Kingston with Montreal by way of the Ottawa River and the Rideau Lakes. That was the famous Rideau Canal, constructed, except for subsequent reinforcements and local improvements, pretty much as it is today. Kingston began to be known as a shipbuilding centre, with two large yards turning out numbers of vessels for the Great Lakes trade.
By 1817 there were 2,250 people in the community, with 450 houses. There were schools and churches, a market—established in 1801—and a courthouse. On March 27, 1838, Kingston was incorporated as a town. Coincidentally, this was the year of the coronation of Queen Victoria.
But the year before these important events took place, Kingston went through some turbulent days during the flurry of the Mackenzie rebellion. Mackenzie himself concentrated his activities farther west, but a group of his American sympathizers under the leadership of an adventurous colonel, Von Schultz, an able but badly deluded soldier, crossed the St. Lawrence at Ogdensburg and launched a furious attack on a windmill in the vicinity of Prescott. The “invasion” failed. Von Schultz and a hundred and sixty of his followers were captured and carried to Kingston, the nearest military base, as prisoners of war. Together with half a dozen other ringleaders in this wild escapade, Von Schultz was tried and sentenced to death. The colonel, in recognition of his military rank, was shot at Fort Henry; the others wrere executed at Kingston courthouse. Since then, although Kingston has continued a close association with the components of warfare and has given many brave soldiers to British armies in all parts of the world, actual hostilities have not touched the community.
Early Seat of Government
THE underlying cause that fomented Mackenzie’s ill-fated adventure at least served to compel the attention of the British Government to certain grave defects in their methods of administering Canadian affairs. As a result the union of the divided provinces of Upper and Dnver Canada was planned, and eventually accomplished. This reform once more brought Kingston into the forefront of events. Because of its central location the town was selected by Lord Sydenham, the then Governor, as the seat of the government of the United Provinces, and the first session of the new legislature convened in Kingston on June 14, 1841, remaining in session until September 15.
Kingstonians were at first jubilant; but the periixl when Kingston was the capital of the United Provinces was comparatively brief, bruised by resentment and scarred by tragedy. The town was utterly unprepared to accommodate a legislature or entertain a governor. Sittings of the provincial parliament were held in a building constructed as a hospital. Lord Sydenham took over a residence built by the Baron de Longueuil; some of the members occupied a house built for Archdeacon Stuart—a son of the pioneer missionary—others found crowded lodgings in frame houses. A row of stone cottages was built to take care of members of the Governor’s staff.
Lord Sydenham was in |X)or health when he established himself at Kingston, and his condition became worse after he had been thrown from his horse during the summer. Four days following the adjournment of the first session of the legislature, on September 19, 1841, the Governor died. He was buried in St. George’s Church, Kingston.
Sir Charles Bagot, who succeeded Lord Sydenham, was no more fortunate. He arrived in the town in January, 1843. in time to open the second session of parliament, a turbulent sitting complicated bycabinet changes and by-elections, that accomplished little toward advancing the administrative affairs of the United Provinces. In November of the same year ¡ Bagot became seriously ill. He wished to j return to England for treatment, but it ! was imposable for him to make the journey in winter, and he too died at Kingston, on March 30. 1843, after only a ; little more than a year in office.
The deaths of two governors in less than 1 two years, added to other dissatisfactions, wrecked Kingston’s chances to remain the capital city. Other communities, forwarding their own aims, spread the word that ‘ the locality was fever-stricken. Legislators complained, and with reason, that accomj modations available for them were inade| quate. The second legislative session had j passed a resolution expressing the wish i that the capital should be established at some other place, and about the first action taken by the third session, assembled in the autumn of 1843, was to move the seat of government to Montreal. The third Governor. Sir Charles Metcalfe, had arrived in time to take over office from Bagot. Now he went to Montreal with the parliament.
Kingston, after enjoying distinction as the capital city for barely two years, now suffered a severe relapse from its brief glory. Population dwindled, property values that had rocketed, fell back to earth. Stores closed; merchants went bankrupt. The town learned for the first time in its eventful history just what a business depression meant.
Present Solid Prosperity
THEREAFTER Kingston set about !
building a more permanent prosperity on the foundations of its central location and the energy and enterprise of its j>eople.
It has not since suffered a really serious setback. Even in the recent depression years its institutions and the business they brought into the city, served to balance the drop in industrial employment. The opening of the Thousand Islands Bridge, a few miles east of the city, has greatly increased Kingston’s tourist traffic.
As a community Kingston has taken
considerable pains and spent considerable money to make itself attractive to visitors. The city is especially proud of its Memorial Hall, of unusual form, designed as an enduring monument to the heroes of the Great War. The upper floor of the west wing of the City Buildings has been reconstructed to make a public assembly hall, seating about one thousand people. The side walls contain twelve windows, six on each side. Twelve Kingston citizens contributed the funds to install stained glass panels in the windows, each panel commemorating some historic phase of action between 1914 and 1918.
Each window carries its own title: Ypres, St. Eloi, Amiens, Somme, Jutland, Sanctuary Wood, Vimy, Lens, Passchendaele, Cambrai, Mons and Scapa Flow. Three of the designs were taken from Punch drawings by Bernard Partridge. Details of others are from photographs made by the Royal Air P'orce and the Royal Military College. The wing is free from obstruction on both sides, and the windows receive full benefit of the daylight, so that even in cloudy weather the rich colors glow warmly, the impressive figures appear vividly translucent and alive. Oil portraits of Kingston's mayors, as well as of other famous figures in the city’s eventful story, are hung around and above the stage at the west end of the hall. Here the visitor absorbs an impression of dignity, beauty and the endurance of ancient days. ‘‘This Hall,” says a Kingston guide book, ‘‘is cherished by the Kingston people.”
Everywhere in old Kingston one is reminded that Canadian history was made in these parts. Fort Henry, last of the long line of fortifications that began in 1673 with the coming of Count Frontenac, was restored in time for Kingston’s centennial celebration three years ago. and in peace times may he seen by visitors exactly as it was when the British forces were based upon it after the War of 1812. In its prime the fort must have been quite a place, for altogether it contains a hundred and twenty-six rooms, and its Martello towers are considered among the finest examples of military construction of their type on the continent.
Part of the present Hotel Dieu contains the building where the first classes of Regiopolis College assembled. Alwington House, where Lord Sydenham and Sir Charles Bagot lived and died, still stands as a private residence on King Street. The Museum of the Kingston Historical Society has been established in the Murney Tiedoubt, the last of the Martello towers built as a part of Kingston’s defenses. Many of the street names carry the reminiscent echo of early Canadian times and personalities: Sydenham, Bagot,
Simcoe, Gore and Brock. There is a Barracks Street and—lingering memory of the French proprietorship—a Place D’Armes.
Kingston is old; and it is new. Its most recently constructed hotel offers smart, modern accommodation equal to that available in cities of much larger population. Princess Street shops have gone in extensively for brightly shining fronts of scarlet, green, blue and black, colorfully concealing the aged limestone walls beneath them. Glittering stores, branches of the big chains, polished glassand-plastic-fitted restaurants, deny the city’s antiquity. Spangled movie theatre fronts, chromium-plated and neon-lighted, blazon Hollywood’s latest phantasmagorias to crowds swarming the sidewalks.
But if the shades of Frontenac and Montcalm, of Colonel John Bradstreet and Captain Michael Grass, are haunting their ancient and familiar ways, they will perceive that throughout almost two hundred and seventy years of stirring events, the essence of their former habitation has not really changed.
Only the uniforms and the weapons are different. Kingston remains a place where warriors congregate whenever war clouds appear.