You are here: News & Events News
Administrator’s Report (winter 2013)
by David O’Hara, Site AdministratorSupervisor,
As we move into April, the final stages of planning are underway for the Bicentennial Commemoration of the Battle of York on Saturday, April 27th. Details regarding the program for April 27 and other events can be found at www.toronto.ca/1812. While significant efforts have gone into preparing for key Bicentennial activities, staff at Fort York have already mounted several successful events to mark the new year. The annual Queen Charlotte’s Birthday Ball and Mad for Marmalade, Crazy for Citrus! provided opportunities for our culinary experts to shine, and on February 24th as part of Black History Month, Gareth Newfield gave a talk on “Free Men of Colour: African Canadians and the Defence of Upper Canada, 1812-1815.”
Since planning for all of our programs and events is undertaken by a small team, I’m pleased to announce that we have two recent additions to the group. In the fall of 2012 Kristine Williamson was the successful candidate for the position of Museum Outreach Officer at Fort York. With an undergraduate degree in Canadian history and a graduate degree from Western University’s Public History program, Kristine has worked at a number of heritage sites and organizations, including the Design Exchange and Lord Cultural Resources. Kristine had been at Fort York on a temporary basis since October of 2011 and was a key player in the programs and events held throughout 2012.
In February Robert Kerr was hired as Supervisor, Special Events. Robert is an arts professional with a long history in developing cultural organizations and delivering arts festivals and events. Career highlights include positions as Program Director for the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad, founding Executive Director of Coastal Jazz & Blues Society / Vancouver International Jazz Festival, founding President of the national arts service organization Jazz Festivals Canada, and Producing Artistic Director of Major Civic Events for Vancouver 125. Robert moved to Toronto in February 2012 and has spent the past year providing consulting services to Ontario arts and cultural organizations including the Aga Khan Museum, Canadian League of Composers, Guelph Jazz Festival, and Small World Music.
It is also a pleasure to report that Ned Gallagher has been hired as our new part-time Program Instructor. As a volunteer, a member of the Fort York Guard, and as Guard Supervisor, Ned already has several years of experience at Fort York and is a welcome addition to the staff team.
From the trenches, where the excavation for the new Visitor Centre is underway, Project Manager David Spittal reports that construction continues despite the loss of several days due to bad weather. Work was recently completed on storm sewer infrastructure, connecting the new facility to the main sewer system. At this point the anticipated time of building completion is early May 2014, with exhibit installation and final landscape improvements to follow. Restoration work underway in both the Officer’s Brick Barracks and Mess and the Brick Magazine, led by Project Manager Gordon Lok, is scheduled to be completed by the end of March.
The Fort York Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge is still moving ahead. On January 31 a public meeting was held to discuss plans for the development of the Ordnance Triangle to the north of Fort York. In addition to a presentation on the development proposed for the lands, city staff provided an update on the Fort York Bridge. As part of an Environmental Assessment Addendum required for the bridge, staff presented three bridge options for further review and costing. The main difference between these new options and the original bridge proposal is that the bridge is now being conceived as two separate structures with shorter spans instead of one longer single-span structure. The two smaller bridges will touch down in the middle of the Ordnance Triangle with improved access for new and existing residents and a direct connection to the future park within the triangle. Staff will be reporting back at a future meeting on the recommended option for the Fort York Bridge. Please visit www.toronto.ca/involved/projects/ftyork_bridge/index.htm for detailed information.
Work on the Garrison Common with DTAH continues with improvements planned for 2013 and 2014, and progress on the east end of the national historic site with the Toronto-based design studio Public Work is currently at the stage of public consultation. A public meeting for this project was held at Fort York on March 7th and a second will be scheduled at some point in April. Our colleagues in the city’s Parks, Forestry and Recreation Division are in the process of awarding the construction contract for June Callwood Park. This new park will be located to the immediate south of the fort, making a strong connection to the system of waterfront parks. While construction will begin this year, it is expected that some of the final planting and other finishing touches will extend into 2014.
City of Toronto and Canadian Forces to commemorate the Battle of York bicentennial with events on April 27
Details of the many events commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Battle of York were released in a presentation to the City of Toronto's Economic Development Committee today. The City of Toronto and the Canadian Forces will commemorate this defining day in the history of Canada and Toronto on Saturday, April 27.
"I'd like to invite residents and visitors to come out on April 27 as Toronto honours the bravery and sacrifices of those who fought - and in some cases died - on that historic day 200 years ago," said Mayor Rob Ford.
His Royal Highness Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, will present a new Regimental Colour to the 3rd Battalion of The Royal Canadian Regiment at a 10 a.m. ceremony in front of the Queen's Park Legislative Assembly of Ontario. His Royal Highness has been the Colonel-in-Chief of The Royal Canadian Regiment since December 1953.
After the presentation and consecration of the new Regimental Colour, a parade of more than 1,000 sailors and soldiers from the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Army will march from Queen’s Park to Fort York. This parade of marching bands, ceremonial uniforms and Regimental Colours will be one of the largest military parades ever organized in Toronto.
At 1:30 p.m., a commemorative ceremony will be held inside the walls of Fort York National Historic Site. Among the participants will be re-enactment units in War of 1812 uniforms, First Nations whose ancestors fought in the battle, and an honour guard of sailors and soldiers of the Canadian Forces who serve in Toronto today.
"The Battle of York was the only time Toronto has experienced war and so it is very important to remember such a significant day in our city's history," said Brigadier-General Omer Lavoie, Commander Joint Task Force Central/Land Force Central Area. "We are pleased to collaborate with the City of Toronto to commemorate the Battle of York on April 27 to remember the sacrifices that were made by so many."
"The Battle of York's day of remembrance is among more than a hundred Toronto War of 1812 Bicentennial events,” said Councillor Michael Thompson (Ward 37 Scarborough Centre), Chair of Toronto's Economic Development Committee. "The events held so far have attracted more than a half million participants and have had a significant economic impact on the city."
The City of Toronto will also offer free themed tours at Fort York in the morning and afternoon, along with family-oriented activities and military demonstrations in the afternoon.
The important role the First Nations had at the Battle of York and throughout the War of 1812 will be remembered with a sunrise ceremony on the western waterfront and with a plaque dedication at Fort York National Historic Site at 3 p.m.
There will also be rededication ceremonies for two plaques: one commemorating the death of General Pike, which was originally donated to Fort York in 1934 by the National Society United States Daughters of 1812, and a second marking the battle location, donated by the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire.
Throughout Saturday and Sunday, St. James Cathedral, the St. Lawrence Market BIA and the Toronto Public Library will be staging ceremonies and events.
During the Battle of York, which took place April 27, 1813, Toronto - at that time called the town of York - was occupied by U.S. combatants. The town’s public buildings were burned to the ground. More than 180 Canadian, British, First Nations and American combatants died in the battle - the largest military conflict ever to have taken place in Toronto.
The War of 1812 was a defining chapter in the story of Canada and Toronto. More information about the City's bicentennial program and events is available at http://www.toronto.ca/1812.
Administrator’s Report (late fall 2012)
by David O'Hara, Site Administrator
2012 has certainly proved to be the busy year we all expected. In addition to our regular roster of programs and events we were able to add new offerings throughout the year. Most recently, we scheduled more than sixteen special event days in October, including the tremendously successful food symposium “Best Before 1812.” In November we hosted one of two annual Citizenship Ceremonies and at least 900 attended our Remembrance Day memorial. The year comes to a close with the Fort York Frost Fair on December 8–9 and programming throughout the weeks of December 15–31.
An expansion of activities, combined with the efforts of our staff and volunteers, has resulted in a significant increase in attendance in 2012. Staff worked hard to keep up with a calendar booked for school groups; the Canteen’s success continues; and our site rentals have increased significantly throughout the year. Largely as a result of the efforts of Kristine Williamson, Museum Outreach Officer, Fort York hosted several unique events in 2012. These included the 2012 Bliss Ball, where the Dilawri Foundation raised more than $1 million for the Sick Kids Foundation; it featured Grammy and Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, Steven Page, and Martin Sheen. Other occasions were Diner en Blanc, many smaller private bookings, and five successful concerts on Garrison Common.
Those attending recent events at Fort York might have noticed our new team of front line volunteers–our ‘Garrison Greeters’ and ‘Heritage Hosts.’ This new program was developed then launched as a result of our ongoing partnership with the Evergreen Foundation and thanks to the financial support of RBC. Our Volunteer Coordinator, Cathy Martin, has done a wonderful job recruiting and training over 100 volunteers to assist during special events. As we move into 2013, and with the Visitor Centre opening in 2014, the roles filled by our volunteers are becoming increasingly important (visit www.fortyork.ca for more information).
In 2012 restoration work on the Stone Magazine was finally finished and an exhibit on Black Powder installed. Restoration work is also underway on both the Officers’ Brick Barracks and the Brick Magazine. Early in 2013 our new interpretive and way-finding signs will be installed. The recent start of construction on the Visitor Centre has required the closure of our Fort York Boulevard entrance. This access will be closed for the duration of construction, requiring those arriving by vehicle to use the entrance at Fleet Street and Garrison Road. When the Visitor Centre opens in 2014 Fort York will be easier to find and easier to access. It will have a more visible street presence with the main entrance at 250 Fort York Boulevard. Working with the Toronto Parking Authority, we have recently implemented a ‘Pay and Display’ parking system at Fort York. Given our location in downtown Toronto, with many other major tourist destinations in the vicinity and 6000 new units of housing to the immediate south, the need to implement such a system was pressing. The objective is to keep the small amount of parking that we have priced reasonably, but available at all hours. The majority of net revenues from the parking operation will be directed back towards programming at Fort York.
Work on the Landscape Master Plan also continues. This Plan is the clearest way of demonstrating how all of the component pieces that are Fort York come together. They are the new Visitor Centre, the Fort York Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge, a rehabilitated and expanded Garrison Common, the Strachan Avenue Cemetery, the interface with the Fort York Armoury, and the lands that extend under Bathurst Street to CityPlace and to a new Toronto Public Library on the eastern boundary of the national historic site. Eventually, this assembly of pieces will make more sense as one coherent whole, providing a much stronger visual and physical presence for the fort and providing many more opportunities for interpretation of the site and its significance.
Hon. Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, Visits Fort York To Award Battle Honours
On August 15, the 200th anniversary of the great victory Brockand his Native allies won over US forces at Detroit, the Hon. Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, came to Fort York to announce that the Government of Canada has awarded the battle honour DETROIT to six Reserve Regiments in southern Ontario. They will now be able to emblazon this honour on their regimental colours. Receiving the award were the 56th Field Artillery Regiment of Brantford; Queen’s York Rangers (1st American Regiment) of Toronto; Royal Canadian Regiment of Petawawa; Royal Hamilton Light Infantry of Hamilton; Lincoln and Welland Regiment of St. Catharines; and Essex and Kent Scottish of Windsor. As well, the honour was accorded to the Royal Newfoundland Regiment of St. John’s at a separate ceremony there. All units are successors to those who fought under General Brock and alongside Tecumseh.
On September 14 Mr. MacKay returned to Fort York to announce additional battle honours were being awarded to a wide number of regiments for QUEENSTON, MAUMEE, CHATEAUGUAY, CRYSLER’S FARM, NIAGARA, and the DEFENCE OF CANADA.
Administrator’s Report (fall 2012)
by David O’Hara, Site Administrator
After more than three decades of planning and a tremendous amount of hard work, the construction of a new Visitor Centre at Fort York National Historic Site is finally about to begin this fall.
The building, designed by Patkau Architects Inc. of Vancouver with Kearns Mancini Architects Inc. of Toronto, and costing $18 M will be constructed under a contract between the City of Toronto and Harbridge + Cross, a Canadian company with many years of experience and a wealth of industry expertise.
When complete, the Visitor Centre will house reception and visitor amenities, multimedia programming, exhibits, and facilities for education, research, and staff. Its completion will allow the fort’s administrative functions to be relocated from their present quarters within the historic structures inside the ramparts. The building, which won Canadian Architect magazine’s Award of Excellence in 2011, has been designed to reinterpret the original shoreline bluff along Lake Ontario and create a strong visual presence for the fort along the Fort York Boulevard frontage.
The whole project–construction and fixturing of the Visitor Centre, installation of exhibits, and landscaping of the surrounding Garrison Common–has been budgeted at $25 million. Of this some $19 million has been pledged by all three levels of government. The balance of $6 million will be raised from among private donors by the Fort York Foundation. For more information about the Foundation’s campaign, please visit www.fortyorkfoundation.ca.
The landscape master planning, working with landscape architects/urban designers DTAH, continues. This exercise will include the development of a detailed revitalization plan for the Garrison Common as well as a careful look at how some of the projects in areas adjacent the fort, such as the future construction of the Fort York pedestrian bridge and the reconstruction of the Bathurst Bridge, should be planned and designed to complement plans for the national historic site itself. The very basic landscaping undertaken early in the year on the Garrison Common has already allowed for extensive use of the grounds throughout the 2012 season. The next major phases of landscape improvements to the Common and the rest of the area outside the fort’s west gates will be coordinated with the Visitor Centre construction and undertaken in 2013 and 2014. Advancing this critical landscape restoration project has only been made possible by a lead gift of $1 million from the W. Garfield Weston Foundation to the Fort York Foundation.
The landscape design work at the east end of the national historic site, just to the east of Bathurst Street, was recently awarded to Public Work, a Toronto-based design studio. Public Work describes their approach to the design of the site where Garrison Creek once emptied into Lake Ontario as “A project that weaves together multiple narratives. Of geologic time, the ecology of the creek, the heritage of the fort, and the archaeological traces of the site that together uncovers the foundation of our city.”
Work also continues on various exhibit-related projects. A Parks Canada exhibit, which includes three interactive screens and one touch-table, was installed in the Centre Blockhouse earlier this summer, and the Black Powder exhibit in the Stone Magazine is now in place. After various capital improvements are completed in the Brick Magazine, the exhibitFinding the Fallen: The Battle of York Remembered, which was recently on display at the Market Gallery, will be installed in the building (Fife and Drum March 2012). Our first set of twelve exterior interpretive panels was installed in early September and a second set is currently being fabricated for locations outside the fort’s walls. These signs, which were designed by Leonard Wyma of Donderdag (who also designed our new Fort York wordmark), and fabricated by WSI Sign Systems Ltd./King Architectural, will add a new layer of interpretation to the entire site.
Fort York National Historic Site benefits from $1 million gift by the W. Garfield Weston Foundation
On 14 June, the City of Toronto and the Fort York Foundation announced that the W. Garfield Weston Foundation is making a $1 million gift to the Fort York Foundation to initiate the rehabilitation of Garrison Common. The Common, the open ground and park west of Fort York and part of the 43 acres comprising Fort York National Historic Site, contains an archaeological site, a military cemetery and forms part of the ground where the Battle of York was fought on 27 April, 1813. The Fort York Foundation is currently engaged in a $7-million capital campaign to obtain funds from the private sector to support the City’s ongoing invigoration of Fort York National Historic Site, which currently has commitments from City, Provincial and Federal governments totalling $19 million.
In his remarks at Fort York on 14 June, Geordie Dalglish, a director of the W. Garfield Weston Foundation, said: “We are very pleased to support this important heritage, environmental and city-building project. Fort York National Historic Site has played a central part in the history and evolution of our city and our province, and the W. Garfield Weston Foundation is proud to play a lead role in elevating the profile of this important asset in the Toronto cultural landscape to a widely diverse population of visitors, Canadian-born and newcomers alike”.
An interpretive panel showing the preliminary landscape plan will be displayed in Garrison Common, and at Fort York, while this rehabilitation work is underway, expected to occur in stages over the next few years.
Administrator’s Report (summer 2012)
by David O’Hara, Site Administrator
The official launch of the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 has made for an extremely busy few weeks. On June 7 we hosted Toronto the Good, a gathering which brought to Fort York a broad cross-section of Torontonians with an interest in the City and in city building. On June 8 The Encampment opened on the first night of Luminato.
Commissioned in partnership with Luminato, it proved to be the great success we hoped when we first discussed the installation more than three years ago with artists Thom Sokoloski and Jenny-Anne McCowan (www.thomasandguinevere.com). Each evening between June 7 and 24, crowds of people visited The Encampment to experience the magic of 200 individually illuminated tents located within the fort’s walls. In the end there were more than 10,000 visitors. Anyone interested in ensuring that the stories associated with the War of 1812 and the potential of Fort York are understood and appreciated owes a huge thank-you to the 125 creative collaborators, scores of Fort York volunteers, and many others involved with the installation.
On June 14 the City of Toronto officially launched its War of 1812 Bicentennial Commemoration at Fort York. As part of the event it was announced that a lead legacy gift of $1 million from the W. Garfield Weston Foundation had been made to the Fort York Invigorated Capital Campaign (www.fortyorkfoundation.ca). The Foundation’s gift will be directed toward the rehabilitation of Garrison Common, which is part of the ongoing revitalization of the larger 43-acre national historic site. The event was attended by Andy Pringle, Chair of the Fort York Foundation fundraising cabinet; Geordie Dalglish, Director of The W. Garfield Weston Foundation; the Honourable Michael Chan, Ontario Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport; the Honourable James Bartleman; elder Garry Sault of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation; and the co-chairs of the City’s Bicentennial Steering Committee: Councillor Michael Thompson and Blake Goldring.
Free Bicentennial launch events continued over the June 15-16 weekend at Fort York with a variety of family-oriented programs, including music from Gin Lane, Morningstar River, Muddy York, the Barra MacNeils, the Metis Fiddler Quartet, and performances by the Fort York Regency Dancers, Lisa Odjig, Manifesto, and others. A special thank-you goes out to Alok Sharma, Supervisor of Special Events, for planning and producing the weekend, and to the staff and the 70 member Fort York Volunteer Team who pulled it off so successfully. While things were busy at the fort, various events were taking place as planned elsewhere across the City, including a special service at St. James’ Cathedral, a free open-air concert by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at David Pecaut Square, and The Loyalists, a participatory theatre performance in Victoria Memorial Square produced by Single Thread Theatre Company. Worth noting is that after the Fort York Guard opened the TSO concert to loud applause, it was invited to participate in three TSO performances the following week.
On the actual anniversary of the Declaration of War, the Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, formally launched the Federal Government’s War of 1812 Commemoration at Fort York. The event went well with Fort York as the backdrop, Councillor Paul Ainslie providing remarks on behalf of City Council, and the Fort York Guard figuring prominently.
After the launch, staff then moved into programming for National Aboriginal Day, in partnership with the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, and Canada Day. After the July 4 Parler Fort, our next Bicentennial event will be held on July 14. ‘On Common Ground’ is a free festival that we hope will grow into an annual celebration. The event, which will be our formal launch of the Garrison Common as a new public space, opens at 3 pm and features Sarah Harmer (9 pm), Shad (7pm), The Rural Alberta Advantage (5:30 pm), and Alex Cuba (4 pm). We encourage everyone to come down with family, blanket, hat, and umbrella (i.e. rain or shine).
Although work on various capital projects continues, updates on these items will be left for the next issue. The one to note now is that the tender for the Visitor Centre construction is out and bids from the pre-qualified general contractors are expected to be submitted in July.
Fort York Visitor Centre Wins Canadian Architect Magazine Award of Excellence
On December 16 Canadian Architect magazine announced that the Fort York Visitor Centre has been recognized with one of its Awards of Excellence for 2011.
Designed in joint venture by Patkau Architects of Vancouver and Kearns Mancini of Toronto, the building–part of a $23 million upgrading of Toronto's birthplace–will start construction during the Bicentennial of the War of 1812. It will sit just outside the gates to the ramparts of the fort, within the National Historic Site and tucked into a slope in the ground that was once a bank on the shore of Lake Ontario.
Administrator’s Report (spring 2012)
by David O'Hara, Site Administrator
The year 2012, as expected, is already proving to be very busy. On the heels of another successful Queen Charlotte’s Ball in January, it was an honour to partner with Senior College of the University of Toronto on a daylong event to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. From the Ashes of War, A Nation is Born was sold out, thanks to our wonderful partners at Senior College and to all of those who participated in the event.
The Visitor Centre Project and rehabilitation of the Garrison Common are proceeding as planned. Construction of the new building is expected to be tendered in April for a mid-year start. Rehabilitation of the Garrison Common will begin by the end of March with the seeding of the former tree nursery site, which is almost 2 ½ acres in size. The area will be ready to support activities by the time of the launch of the War of 1812 Bicentennial in June.
Over the next two months, the Fort York staff and our partners will be working on various components of the 2012 program. Our largest undertaking, led by artists Thom Sokoloski and Jenny-Anne McCowan and commissioned in partnership with Luminato, is The Encampment, a large-scale art installation comprising 200 A-frame tents erected within the fort’s walls. Each tent will contain a visual representation of an aspect of the war’s civilian history. Like archaeologists, selected ‘Creative Collaborators’ will commit to “getting their hands dirty” by unearthing and transposing civilian stories from the War of 1812 into art installations that will be set up in each tent. If you are interested in becoming a Creative Collaborator, please visit www.thomasandguinevere.com for more information. See all the other Toronto Bicentennial programs and events at www.toronto.ca/1812.
Within the walls of the fort, our current archaeology exhibit has been recently removed from the Brick Magazine to allow for various capital improvements to the building itself. Some components of the exhibit have been relocated to the Blue Barracks. Work on the Stone Magazine has just been completed and the installation of an exhibit on Black Powder is anticipated in the next few weeks.
Recently too a request for proposals (RFP) has been issued for the detailed design of the national historic site lands to the east of Bathurst Street adjoining the Library District Condominiums. By May of this year a team will be on board to assist with the long-term planning and development of these parklands. Meanwhile, a cleanup of the east entrance from Bathurst Street was also completed a short time ago. In future, this entrance will function more as a secondary entry point, open for special events only, so we can direct museum visitors to our main entrance and Visitor Centre at 250 Fort York Boulevard where they can be properly oriented to the site as they begin their visit.
Fort York Guard Reports In
by Ned Gallagher
The 2011 season has been a tremendous success for the Fort York Guard. The Guard expanded to twenty-eight members, and the Volunteer Program, under new Drum Major Baknel Macz, added six young drummers and fifers. Despite this size, the Guard competed in the Fort George Soldiers' Field Day Drill Competition as a single unit–and won! In addition, Patrick Jenish, a new Fort York Guard, stood first in the individual speed loading competition with a time of 12 seconds. A week later, the Guard marched in the Warriors' Day Parade at the CNE, an event with a competitive component that the Guard and Drums had won two years running. This year the Guard took the Re-enactor' Shield yet again.
It was also a year of great managerial success. Under the care and supervision of Joseph Gill, and with the counsel and hard work of Kevin Hebib, the Guard was able to equip the large staff with all the gear it needs. The Guard also successfully managed a major leadership transformation. Baknel Macz assumed the role of Drum Major with both energy and ability, and Mark Riches reinforced his reputation as a strong manager and commander. With such excellent leadership, a solid group of returning staff, and new equipment, the Fort York Guard will be something to watch during the 2012 Bicentennial.
Ned Gallagher has served with the Fort York York Guard for eleven years, most recently as its Sergeant-Major. Along the way he attended and graduated from Trent University.