Kingston Historical Society
P.O. Box 54
Kingston, Ontario

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Kingston Historical Society

Kingston History and Images

Kingston, located at the junction of the St Lawrence River, Lake Ontario and the Rideau Canal, is known as "the Limestone City" because of its rich heritage of stone buildings. Its strategic location attracted Count Frontenac to establish a fort here in 1673 on behalf of French interests. Frot Frontenac fell to the English in 1758. It was not until the 1780s, with forced migration from New England of those persons loyal to the British Crown that the town, as we know it today, was formed; the first formal street plan is still discernible in the heart of the city.

Following the War of 1812, direct immigration from the British Isles greatly increased the population and Kingston became an important military centre in the defence of British North America with the construction of the Fort Henry complex. Fiercely loyal during the troubled days of the Rebellions of 1837 and 1838, Kingston was rewarded with the honour of being chosen as the capital of the United Province of Canada (consisting of the former Lower Canada/ Quebec and Upper Canada/ Ontario) from 1841 to 1844.


With the influx of civil servants and the expansion of businesses, there was a building frenzy including the magnificent City Hall and commercial and domestic structures, many of which have survived. Important as a transhipment and forwarding point, Kingston's harbour-front bristled with the masts of sailing and steam ships, many of which made or repaired in the city. While there were times of economic stress following the loss of the capital of 1844, the arrival of the railway, and the departure of the military, the mid-nineteenth century is witness to the several defining developments: the Penitentiary, Queen's University, Royal Military College, and Psychiatric Hospital. The manufacturing of locomotives, the shipyards, and a small textile industry constituted the industrial sector. With the death of Sir John A. Macdonald in 1891 and his burial in Kingston, an era seemed to be closing, particularly with new transportation systems threatening Kingston's once dominant position.

Apart from a surge of industrial activity during World War II (Alcan, Dupont, shipyards), in the 20th century, Kingston settled into its role as a regional centre with an economy dominated by institutional activities. As it enters the 21st century, the city is turning to a role as a "smart city" attracting new-technologies and marketing its historical, cultural and environmental amenities.


Kingston Historical Society, est. 1893