When Kingston com­manded

A 200-year-old map shows the city’s mil­i­tary her­itage

Canadian Geographic - - HISTORY - *with files from Is­abelle Char­ron, early car­to­graphic ar­chiv­ist, Li­brary and Archives Canada By Harry Wil­son*

IT CON­TAINS some good houses, and stores … and all the ap­pendages of an ex­ten­sive mil­i­tary, and naval es­tab­lish­ment, with as much so­ci­ety as can rea­son­ably be ex­pected, in a town so lately cre­ated from the “howl­ing desert.” One won­ders what Lt. Fran­cis Hall would make of Kingston, Ont., to­day, 200 years af­ter he penned this blunt as­sess­ment of the set­tle­ment for his travelogue Trav­els in Canada, and the United States, in 1816 and 1817. Kingston still has mil­i­tary ties, of course, home to a Cana­dian Forces base and the Royal Mil­i­tary Col­lege of Canada. But its Lake On­tario shore­side charm now also draws stu­dents to sto­ried in­sti­tu­tions such as Queen’s Univer­sity and tourists to his­toric sites on leafy streets lined with a panoply of ar­chi­tec­tural styles. As a Bri­tish army of­fi­cer, Hall would have been keenly aware of Kingston’s strate­gic im­por­tance dur­ing and af­ter the War of 1812, a fact ac­knowl­edged in the ti­tle of his other­wise bu­colic paint­ing Kingston Dock­yards and Ci­tadel from the Town ( above). In­deed, Hall might have had much to dis­cuss with fel­low sol­dier Lt. E.A. Smith, who cre­ated the map shown here in the same month Hall vis­ited Kingston, which in less than a decade would be twice as large as York, as Toronto was then known. The map’s fo­cus is mil­i­tary — forts Henry and Fred­er­ick, the naval hos­pi­tal, dock­yard and two bat­ter­ies are la­belled — but Smith did see fit to note two places fa­mil­iar to all of Kingston’s ap­prox­i­mately 2,000 res­i­dents. The first is a ceme­tery, marked “Bury­ing Ground,” in roughly the same lo­ca­tion as to­day’s Mcbur­ney Park (a.k.a. Skele­ton Park), where head­stones are still oc­ca­sion­ally found. A lit­tle far­ther on, out where a snooty, early 19th-cen­tury ur­ban­ite might have felt Hall’s de­scrip­tion of a “howl­ing desert” was still jus­ti­fied, is the sec­ond: “Sub­urbs.”

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