Administrator’s Report (summer 2013)

by David O’Hara, Site Administrator

Following our roster of early summer events, which included Arts and Crafts ‘Field Trip’ and our own War of 1812 Festival Weekend. Fort York’s event schedule was busy through the remainder of the summer. Major events hosted on-site throughout July and August included The Toronto Urban Roots Festival, Mad Decent, The Grove Festival, and Riot Fest. Our own core events included Canada Day and our annual Simcoe Day and Emancipation Day event on August 5. A special thank you goes to Sandra Shaul, Museum Administrator, and Rosemary Sadlier, President of the Ontario Black History Society, for assisting in pulling together such a wonderful event with The Honourable David C. Onley, 28th lieutenant-governor of Ontario, and over 2000 people in attendance.

The summer season concluded with our On Common Ground: Festival of Culture and Community. On Common Ground was a family-friendly festival that marked the transition from summer to fall, and the global quest for peace, with a creative exchange of arts and culture. The weekend included performances by Jane Bunnett & Carnivalissimo, The Lemon Bucket Orkestra, Escola de Samba, Gordon Monahan’s sound installation Erratum Addendum, four of Dusk Dances’ most popular works, Clay & Paper Theatre, and a farmers’ market. This event was planned and implemented by Robert Kerr, Kristine Williamson, and all of the staff and volunteers at Fort York.

Our 2013 season further emphasized the increasingly important role all of our volunteers play in making our programs and events successful. With assistance from our partners at Evergreen, original seed-funding for the program from RBC, and our on-site Volunteer Coordinator Cathy Martin, our volunteer program continues to grow. A special thanks to everyone involved with the success of this program.
 
All components of our overall site master planning exercise continue to move forward. This includes ongoing work on the future removal of the Garrison Road bridge, planning for the future Fort York Pedestrian/Bicycle bridge, work on the yet to be named park at the east end of the fort by the new Fort York Library (http://www.urbantoronto.ca/news/2013/09/proposed-design-released-mouth-creek-park) and a 2014 phase of landscape improvements to the Garrison Common. All of these components have been integrated into our overall site master plan (DTAH consulting), which was presented to, and enthusiastically received by, the City of Toronto’s Economic Development Committee on September 17.

At the September 17 meeting, the Economic Development Committee also acknowledged two generous donations made by TD Bank Group. TD is donating $100,000 to the Fort York Foundation to assist with the revitalization of the Garrison Common. This donation focuses on the west end of the Common and enhances the $1-million gift from the W. Garfield Weston Foundation to the Fort York Foundation for the Garrison Common.

TD Bank Group also donated $50,000 towards supporting War of 1812 Bicentennial educational programs at the City’s historic sites. Participating museums include Fort York, Mackenzie House, Colborne Lodge, Montgomery’s Inn, and Gibson House. The donation makes it possible for students of the Toronto District School Board and the Toronto Catholic District School Board to attend the educational programs at no cost. Almost 2000 students have already participated in the program, which will continue through June 2014.

David Spittal, senior project coordinator for the Visitor Centre, reports that over 80% of the Visitor Centre’s concrete shell, including the building façade and roof, is complete. Mechanical equipment has been delivered, and electrical and other site-servicing work continues. For those visiting the site, our General Contractor, Harbridge + Cross, has installed the first weathered steel panel at the far west end of the building. This first panel was installed early as a test panel. The building itself is expected to be substantially complete by the end of May 2014, with exhibit installation and landscaping scheduled over the summer months. An official opening date has yet to be finalized.
An aerial view of the fort looking east shows the substantial progress on the Visitor Centre that’s been made over the summer. Photo by Danny WilliamsAn aerial view of the fort looking east shows the substantial progress on the Visitor Centre that’s been made over the summer. Photo by Danny Williams

About 80% of the concrete shell of the Visitor Centre has been poured, and the interior spaces are now taking shape. Photo by David Spittal, Toronto CultureAbout 80% of the concrete shell of the Visitor Centre has been poured, and the interior spaces are now taking shape. Photo by David Spittal, Toronto Culture

Administrator’s Report (spring 2013)

by David O’Hara, Site Administrator

Battle of York Commemoration ceremony. Photo: Andrew StewartBattle of York Commemoration ceremony. Photo: Andrew StewartOn April 27th some 7000 people descended upon Fort York National Historic Site to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of York. With the weather cooperating fully, the day began at 6:15 am with a Sunrise Ceremony led by the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation. Approximately 800 people then joined ‘Walking in Their Footsteps,’ a walking tour from the point of the American landing near the Palais Royal to Fort York. Meanwhile, His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, was at Queen’s Park presenting a new Regimental Colour to the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment. This ceremony was followed by a military parade of more than 1500 sailors and soldiers of the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Army from Queen’s Park to Fort York. Following an afternoon Service of Remembrance at Fort York, a new plaque honouring the First Nations warriors who died in the Battle of York was unveiled. Visit http://www.toronto.ca/1812/events.htm for more information.

Broken Social Scene performing at Field Trip Music & Arts Festival. Photo: Lucia GracaBroken Social Scene performing at Field Trip Music & Arts Festival. Photo: Lucia GracaOur annual Doors Open Toronto program brought approximately 2500 to the fort on May 25-26 and well over 10,000 attended  ‘Field Trip’ on June 8. Field Trip, a music and arts festival, was tremendously successful–a family-oriented, free for children event in celebration of the 10th anniversary of Toronto-based music label Arts & Crafts.

On the heels of Field Trip, we moved into the War of 1812 Festival weekend on June 15-16. Fort York staff worked closely with narrator and director Peter Twist and our core supporters from the Re- Enactment Regiments of the Crown Forces and U.S. Forces of North America to dramatize the events of 27 April 1813. This was the first time a re-enactment of that scale has taken place at Fort York in over a decade. Other components of this festival included a Sutlers’ Row marketplace, music from the Drums of the Crown Forces and Gin Lane, and performances by the York Regency Dancers and Anishinaube performers Morningstar River. Special thanks go to Peter Twist and to Kevin Hebib, Richard Haynes, and all staff and volunteers for pulling together such a unique event as we wind down our bicentennial events at Fort York.

The lineup of Aboriginal programming for the June 20-22 Indigenous Arts Festival included the Métis Fiddler Quartet, the launch of Donald B. Smith’s book Mississauga Portraits (University of Toronto Press), Ogitchada (Warrior) songs from Morningstar River, and the premiere of two stunning works: ‘The Road’ by Toronto’s Centre for Indigenous Theatre and ‘The Honouring’ by Kaha:wi Dance Theatre. On June 21 Fort York marked National Aboriginal Day with traditional stories, songs, dances, and a Sunset Ceremony and on June 22, out in New Credit near Hagersville, a new Community Centre was opened with an exhibit titled ‘Outcome of the War of 1812: First Nations Betrayed.’ This exhibit, along with much of our National Aboriginal Day programming is the result of the ongoing partnership between the City of Toronto’s Museum Services and the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation.
 
Foundation of the Fort York Visitor Centre takes shape. Photo: Andrew Stewart.Foundation of the Fort York Visitor Centre takes shape. Photo: Andrew Stewart.Although a few weeks delayed due to weather, construction of the Visitor Centre is moving along with the foundation work largely complete. Actual building completion is still scheduled for May/June of 2014 with exhibit installation to follow. Parallel projects, including the rehabilitation of the Garrison Common and planning for the Fort York Pedestrian bridge, continue to move ahead. One of the next major components of the overall landscape master plan now being investigated is the future removal of the obsolete Garrison Road bridge. The plan is to demolish the bridge structure and to create a level route at the lower Garrison Common elevation. This will have a huge and positive impact on the overall site, providing a much stronger connection between the Armoury and Fleet Street portion of the national historic site and the actual Common, and allowing for improved access through the site in the area of the Visitor Centre.
 
With restoration work completed on the Brick Magazine, the exhibit ‘Finding the Fallen: The Battle of York Remembered’ has now been installed in the building. Those visiting the site recently might have noticed the new windows in the North Soldiers’ Barracks. These windows have been meticulously hand-crafted by Chris Laverton, Cultural Assets staff, from wood salvaged from the Queen’s Wharf after archaeological investigation at Bathurst and Fleet streets. The landscape design at the east end of the national historic site is also moving along. The last public meeting was held on May 15 and the response to the final conceptual design and approach was very positive. I encourage everyone to view the presentation material from the first public meeting http://ward20.ca/files/2013-03-05_CreekParkPresentation.pdf.

Indigenous Arts Festival at Fort York

Indigenous Arts Festival, Kaha:wi Dance Theatre. Photo by David Hou.Indigenous Arts Festival, Kaha:wi Dance Theatre. Photo by David Hou.The First Nations and Métis experience during the War of 1812 was artistically honoured and explored with dance, music, theatre and literary works at the free Indigenous Arts Festival at Fort York National Historic site June 20-22.

"This festival successfully showcased the diverse history and talent that exists within Toronto's and Canada's Aboriginal communities," said Councillor Mike Layton (Ward 19 Trinity-Spadina), Co-chair of the City of Toronto's Aboriginal Affairs Committee.

The performances evoked the personal and collective indigenous experience in a space and place where some of that history occurred.

The festival presented three world premieres:
- The Honouring, an evocative multi-disciplinary work from award-winning choreographer Santee Smith's Kaha:wi Dance Theatre
- The Road, an original play from the Centre for Indigenous Theatre
- Corps de Voyageur - Soldiers in Capote, a play from an original script from Métis historian and filmmaker Virginia Barter with original music composed and performed by the Métis Fiddler Quartet.

Additional events included the Toronto launch of a new book "Mississauga Portraits, Ojibwe Voices' from Nineteenth-century Canada" by Donald B. Smith and multiple performances by renowned Toronto Anishinabe group, Morningstar River.

Fort York marked National Aboriginal Day on June 21 with expanded aboriginal programming that encompassed traditional stories, songs, dances and a stirring sunset ceremony by the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation.

All of the Indigenous Arts Festival @ Fort York events were part of the City's War of 1812 Bicentennial Commemoration program. Fort York is located at 250 Fort York Blvd. and is one of 10 historic museums operated by the City of Toronto.

More information is available at http://www.toronto.ca/fortyork, 416-392-6907, https://twitter.com/fortyork and https://www.facebook.com/fortyork.

This festival was presented by the City of Toronto with support from the Government of Canada, the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Province of Ontario and Tim Hortons.

Toronto is Canada's largest city and sixth largest government, and home to a diverse population of about 2.8 million people. Toronto's government is dedicated to delivering customer service excellence, creating a transparent and accountable government, reducing the size and cost of government and building a transportation city. For information on non emergency City services and programs, Toronto residents, businesses and visitors can dial 311, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Shane Gerard, Communications Coordinator
City of Toronto

Battle of York spectacularly staged at Fort York's War of 1812 Festival

Large crowds gathered on Fort York's parade ground to enjoy the War of 1812 Festival, Fort York National Historic Site, 15-16 June 2013. Photo: Andrew Stewart.Large crowds gathered on Fort York's parade ground to enjoy the War of 1812 Festival, Fort York National Historic Site, 15-16 June 2013. Photo: Andrew Stewart.Fort York National Historic Site once again became a theatre of war this past weekend with muskets, marching and cannon fire at the free War of 1812 Festival.

More than 6,000 people witnessed Toronto's most traumatic and historic battle, restaged in three stirring sequences. Over 250 re-enactors, collectively called the Re-Enactment Regiments of the Crown Forces and U.S. Forces of North America, descended upon and camped out at Fort York throughout the weekend.

"A military battle re-enactment of this scale has not been mounted at Fort York for more than a decade," said Councillor Michael Thompson (Ward 37 Scarborough Centre), Chair of the City's War of 1812 Bicentennial Steering Committee. "This weekend was a special opportunity for visitors and for Torontonians to fully experience a pivotal time in Toronto's history."

Crown Forces opposing U.S. Forces in a reenactment of part of the Battle of York on Garrison Common, War of 1812 Festival at Fort York National Historic Site, 16 June 2013. Photo: Andrew Stewart.Crown Forces opposing U.S. Forces in a reenactment of part of the Battle of York on Garrison Common, War of 1812 Festival at Fort York National Historic Site, 16 June 2013. Photo: Andrew Stewart.The battle scenes were created and narrated by historic re-creation director Peter Twist. Known in North America for his 1812-era battle re-enactments, Twist is also recognized for his battle choreography on some of the Pirates of the Caribbean films.

Throughout the weekend, Fort York also appeared as it was two centuries ago, with period music and dance by the Drums of the Crown Forces, the York Regency Dancers, Gin Lane and Anishinabe First Nations performers, Morningstar River.

At the Sutlers' Row marketplace, merchants peddled 1812-era reproduction items, including clothing and accessories. Visitors also toured the encampment, interacted with the re-enactors and watched demonstrations of trade and artisanal work while enjoying period food and food presentations in the Officers' Quarters and the outdoor fire pit.

A British flag-raising launched the festival on Saturday morning while on Sunday morning, the U.S. Stars and Stripes flew over Fort York, symbolically signalling the fall of the fort to the Americans.

"The revitalization of Fort York and the Garrison Common is creating a unique downtown space that can be enjoyed by its surrounding community and by all Toronto residents," said Councillor Mike Layton (Ward 19 Trinity-Spadina).

The Fort York Foundation received a $100,000 gift from TD Bank Group in support of the revitalization of the western end of Fort York's Garrison Common. The Garrison Common hosted the weekend's battle re-enactments and will also host many large events this summer.

"U.S. and Crown Forces reenactment units at flag-lowering ceremony during the War of 1812 Festival, Fort York National Historic Site, 15-16 June 2013. Photo: Andrew Stewart.U.S. and Crown Forces reenactment units at flag-lowering ceremony during the War of 1812 Festival, Fort York National Historic Site, 15-16 June 2013. Photo: Andrew Stewart.Fort York’s Garrison Common is not only a part of Toronto’s history, but it also continues to be significant space for residents and visitors to enjoy,” said Alan Convery, Senior Manager, Community Relations, TD Bank Group. “At TD we are committed to protecting urban green spaces and are thrilled to be part of the revitalization of this beautiful space in the heart of the city.”

The TD Bank Group funds will support the rehabilitation of the historic military burial ground and the surrounding ceremonial area, the installation of modern interpretive signage, maintenance of existing trees as well as the planting of new ones, and resurfacing of the central walkway.

The War of 1812 Festival was presented by the City of Toronto with support from the Government of Canada, the Province of Ontario, Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund, Tourism Toronto, the Department of National Defence, Pioneer Energy, the RBC Foundation, and AGF Management Ltd.

All of the War of 1812 Festival events are part of the City's War of 1812 Bicentennial Commemoration program. Fort York is located at 250 Fort York Blvd. and is one of 10 historic museums operated by the City of Toronto. The public can call 416-392-6907 or visit http://www.toronto.ca/fortyork for more information on the Fort's many events.

The public can also find, and interact with, Fort York at https://twitter.com/fortyork
and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/fortyork

Toronto is Canada's largest city and sixth largest government, and home to a diverse population of about 2.8 million people. Toronto's government is dedicated to delivering customer service excellence, creating a transparent and accountable government, reducing the size and cost of government and building a transportation city. For information on non emergency City services and programs, Toronto residents, businesses and visitors can dial 311, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Shane Gerard, Communications Coordinator
City of Toronto