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 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