Let’s Talk History
Last week was Heritage Week in Kingston! Many heritage homeowners in Kingston joke that they must invite the entire Heritage Kingston Committee over for dinner if they want to repaint their dining room. However, Kingston wouldn’t be the same without its historical buildings. In honour of Heritage Week—and the Heritage Resource Centre’s first anniversary (which they celebrated on February 17th)— we thought we’d show some appreciation for Kingston’s heritage properties.
Did you know that there are over 1,200 heritage properties in Kingston? Properties can gain a cultural heritage designation by having a distinctive architectural style, historical value—like the Bellevue House—or because they contribute to a neighbourhood’s overall character. And, contrary to popular belief, heritage homeowners do not require a heritage application to undergo interior work. Most of the restrictions apply to the home’s exterior (and often only the exterior parts of the home seen by the public). If you’re a heritage property owner interested in learning more about what you can do with your home, or if you have a general interest in Kingston’s history and cultural heritage, pay a visit to the Heritage Resource Centre. The centre is located on the main level of City Hall, and their hours are 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday.
If you’re from Kingston or recently moved here, the City of Kingston has numerous self-guided walking tours for you to get acquainted with the city’s history.
Some notable houses along the tours are 132-134 Earl Street (home to Sir John A. Macdonald’s brother-in-law and unmarried sister), 57-59 Gore Street (one of the oldest buildings in Kingston, with a section built in 1808), and 14 Sydenham Street. This home is known as McIntosh Castle, and was constructed in 1852. Apparently, this home’s widow’s walk has quite a dark history. McIntosh Castle has a view of the Frontenac County Courthouse, behind which there used to be gallows where sentenced criminals were hanged. Rumour has it that a woman living in the house at the time requested the widow’s walk to be built specifically so she could watch executions from the comfort of her own home. Is this historically accurate? It’s impossible to know. Is it a great tale to tell your easily frightened friends? Definitely!
Below are guides to four walking tours. Whichever one you choose, you’re bound to learn something interesting about Kingston’s history.
After admiring the old, explore the new by checking out the much-anticipated Northside Espresso + Kitchen. They’re located at 281 Princess Street, and just celebrated their first day of business on Saturday. The shop aims to bring a piece of Melbourne’s café culture to Kingston. If you aren’t aware, Melbourne, Australia has a huge coffee culture, and is considered to be one of the best coffee cities in the world. Northside’s interior is bright and sunny, and the abundance of decorative plants offers some much-needed green during Kingston’s greenless winter.
Kingston’s ability to maintain a strong sense of history alongside modern, unique businesses is what makes this city so special. What does Kingston’s heritage mean to you?