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Kingston City Hall (Ontario)

Kingston City Hall
Kingston City Hall, 2008
Location Kingston, Ontario, Canada
Built 1844
Original use City hall, market, custom house, post office, police station, jail, and other uses
Current use City hall
Architect George Browne
Architectural style(s) Neoclassical
Governing body City of Kingston
Designated 1961

Kingston City Hall is the seat of local government in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Occupying a full city block facing Lake Ontario in Kingston's downtown, the city hall is a prominent building constructed in the Neoclassical style with a landmark tholobate and dome.

Market Square and Kingston City Hall, 2014

The city hall was completed in 1844, with its scale and design reflective of Kingston's status as capital of the National Historic Site of Canada in 1961.[1]


  • History 1
  • Police headquarters 2
  • Market Square 3
  • Confederation Park 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Kingston City Hall after the fire in 1908

On 18 April 1840 a fire destroyed much of the downtown section of Kingston, including the market area, the market building, and the original municipal offices located in the Baker Building on King Street facing Market Square. Mayor John Counter proposed a new market building and municipal building. Since Kingston was, at the time, the capital of the new Province of Canada, the appearance of the new town hall was planned to reflect the city’s status as the capital.

Architect George Browne, who had moved to Kingston from Quebec with the new government, won the design contest and drew the plans. He also took charge of construction. The final phase of construction, however, was overseen by William Coverdale after Browne was dismissed.[2] The cornerstone was laid on 5 June 1843 by Governor General Charles Metcalfe at the location of the market overlooking the waterfront. The building was completed by November 1844.[3]

The new city hall was constructed of limestone in the form of a T and incorporated a new market building that extended west toward King Street. Known as the market “shambles”, this wing of the city hall was designed as a public market and was used by hucksters, butchers and green grocers who occupied stalls. The market wing also included a clock tower. In 1865 the wing was destroyed by a fire. It was rebuilt with a smaller configuration but without the clock tower, and the clock was placed into the main dome. A fire in 1908 destroyed the main dome, which was reconstructed with a new clock.[4]

Since Kingston entered into a recession when the seat of government moved to Montreal in May 1844, town council was concerned about paying for the large building and so began renting out space. Tenants included the post office, customs offices, the Masons, the Orange Order, a saloon, a dry goods store, an amateur theatre, the Mechanics Institute, the Bank of British North America, and the Scottish Free Church. The west wing was rented out for lectures, meetings, bazaars and balls. Welfare recipients were housed in the basement but this proved to be unsuccessful and the tenants were evicted.[5][6]

The portico at the front entrance was removed in 1956 because of deterioration but was restored in 1966. To commemorate Kingston's tercentenary in 1973, the interior of the building was renovated and restored.[7]

Memorial Hall, located in the north wing, includes twelve stained glass windows that pay tribute to those who fought in several First World War battles.[8]

Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada's first prime minister, lay in state here following his death on 6 June 1891.

Police headquarters

Kingston’s police force set up its headquarters in the basement of City Hall as soon as the building opened in 1844. The space consisted of a large room, four cells and the Police Court. In the early 1900s, the police offices and Police Court moved to the maIn floor. In 1952 the police offices moved into two floors of the attached Market Building, which had been renovated. Police holding cells were located on the main floor, while the second floor housed the main offices and Magistrate’s Court. As the force expanded, it outgrew its allotted space and so the police headquarters moved into a separate building, which was completed in 1972. It has since moved into even larger quarters.[9][10]

Market Square

Springer Market Square, located directly behind city hall, holds a seasonal farmers' market, the Kingston Public Market, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from April until November, although in the early years the market was held summer and winter. It is the oldest public market in the province.[11][12]An antiques market operates in the square on Sundays.[13] The square was revitalized during 2005–07, creating an outdoor skating rink and small amphitheatres in the north and south courtyards of city hall.[14]

Market Square and Kingston City Hall, ca. 1900

Market Square was created as part of the original town plan of 1784[15] and was the site of an informal market established in 1788. The square originally extended to the waterfront.[16] The Kingston Public Market was officially established by the City of Kingston in 1801, and the rules and regulations were proclaimed in May 1811. It was the centre of commerce and trade in the city and through the 19th century public buildings, hotels, and shops developed around the square including Kingston City Hall which was built in 1844.[15][17] As the city grew, the market came to consist of ramshackle wooden stalls known as the market shambles, which were destroyed, along with many of the surrounding buildings, in the Great Fire of 1840.[18][11][15] After the fire, the market area was rebuilt with a new market building, which was attached to the new city hall. The market was deeded to the city in 1848.[16]

The square was the location where the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, John Graves Simcoe, proclaimed the Constitutional Act 1791 which established Upper Canada as a separate jurisdiction and was, almost 75 years later, the location where Canadian Confederation was proclaimed.

Confederation Park

Kingston City Hall and the Market Battery, 1857
Confederation Park, Kingston City Hall and a reconstructed wall of the Market Battery

Confederation Park, which is associated with Kingston City Hall, separates the city hall from the waterfront. Established in 1967 on formerly-industrial waterfront land, it includes a large fountain and the Confederation Basin marina. A former Kingston and Pembroke Railway (K&P) station which once served as the southern terminus of the now-defunct line is now a visitor information centre operated by the Chamber of Commerce. A restored historic locomotive, the "Spirit of Sir John A.", recalls downtown Kingston's past role in locomotive manufacturing.

A fortification known as the Market Battery, was located on the waterfront directly in front of City Hall where Confederation Park is located. It was completed in 1848 because of tension between the United States and Great Britain during Oregon Crisis. The Market Battery was one of several Kingston fortifications constructed during this period. A thick outer wall, or sea wall, in the harbour extended 20 feet above the water and included embrasures for cannons, while an inner wall, which included an entrance, completed the battery's enclosure to the west. In the 1870s, after Imperial troops withdrew from Kingston, the inner wall was removed and the location became a park. The large outer wall was removed in 1885 and the land was leased to the K&P railroad. A wall of the battery has been restored to illustrate the site's history.[19]

See also


  1. ^ Kingston City Hall National Historic Site of Canada. Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved 22 May 2012.
  2. ^ Mika 1987, p. 108
  3. ^ Osborne 2011, p. 102
  4. ^ Queen’s Cabinet of Canadian Curiousities - Queen’s University Archives Retrieved October 10, 2015
  5. ^ Mika 1987, p. 109
  6. ^ Osborne 2011, p. 103
  7. ^ Mika 1987, pp. 108, 109
  8. ^ Historic City Hall Retrieved October 15, 2015
  9. ^ Kingston Police History - A Police Force is Born Retrieved October 20, 2015
  10. ^ Kingston Police History - Growth and Change Retrieved October 20, 2015
  11. ^ a b
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ a b c
  16. ^ a b Mika 1987, p. 137
  17. ^ Osborne 2011, p. 45
  18. ^
  19. ^ Mika 1987, pp. 116-117
  • Armstrong, Alvin. Buckskin to Broadloom - Kingston Grows Up. Kingston Whig-Standard, 1973. No ISBN.
  • Mika, Nick and Helma et al. Kingston, Historic City. Belleville: Mika Publishing Co., 1987. ISBN 0-921341-06-7.
  • Osborne, Brian S. and Donald Swainson. Kingston, Building on the Past for the Future. Quarry Heritage Books, 2011. ISBN 1-55082-351-5

External links

  • Kingston City Hall
  • Kingston Public Market
  • Springer Market Square
  • Market Square webcam

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