Fort York presents: Canada's 100 Days (video presentation)
Manager's Report (Fall 2018)
by David O’Hara, Site Manager
Moving into the fall at Fort York used to involve transitioning from a busy summer season with the Summer Guard and a handful of events to just getting ready for the return of school visits. The reality now is that the event season is year-round and we’re doing more in a full calendar year than ever before.
In September we developed a rich program to commemorate the one-hundredth anniversary of the Canadian contribution to the final days of the First World War. On September 21 staff and volunteer re-enactment groups provided a free education day for local schools. During the weekend were military displays, exhibits – including one from the Vimy Foundation – and demonstrations by uniformed re-enactment units. Authentic foods from the front line and the home front were prepared by our own kitchens. We offered Alison Norman’s lecture “In Defence of an Empire: Six Nations of the Grand River and the Great War,” 10 Short Films from Toronto’s Great War Attic, and much more.
A huge thank-you goes out to all involved in this multi faceted event. It clearly demonstrated the depth and range of expertise we have on staff here at Fort York as well as the strong network of partners and supporters we lean on to pull this kind of event together. (For pictures of the Canada’s Hundred Days weekend, see the previous issue of the F&D, archived at www.fortyork. ca, or scroll through the fort’s Facebook page).
One of the highlights from this living history weekend was the release of Recipes for Victory: Great War Food from the Front and Kitchens Back Home in Canada by Whitecap Books in Vancouver. Created by staff and volunteers at Fort York National Historic Site, this lavishly illustrated cookbook features kitchen-tested recipes from a century ago that will support the Historic Foodways Program here at the fort. Available in our own Canteen, the book is distributed internationally by Whitecap (and there’s a great recipe from the book on page 16).
Another aspect of culinary history at the fort was Canada’s Table, held on October 13 “in celebration of our cookbooks.” The one-day event was packed with workshops and talks by the likes of Bonnie Stern, Anna Olson, Tara O’Brady, Matt Basile and David Wolfman. Our thanks to Bridget Wranich, Elizabeth Baird and the entire Organizing Committee for putting together such a wonderful – and inaugural – Canada’s Table.
Also this fall we again hosted the Rexall OneWalk to Conquer Cancer, when more than 3,200 participants raised over $4.7 million for the cause. On September 29, the Sick Kids Foundation held its annual event at Fort York, this year with the Barenaked Ladies headlining the Get Loud Festival. The first weekend of October saw the Jumblies Theatre presentation of “Talking Treaties” with artists and visitors singing, dancing, and acting their way around Fort York, sharing stories of the complex treaty history of the city. And on October 20 and 21, Fort York hosted Toronto’s Soup Festival. Our scary Halloween programming had another successful season with the After Dark Tours running for five consecutive nights, most of them sold out.
Fort York staff continued to collaborate with The Bentway on many initiatives throughout the fall. The largest was on the weekend of October 13-15, when we hosted an installation under the Gardiner by renowned Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde called Waterlicht. This brought as many as 30,000 people down to Fort York.
If you had managed to stay until the early hours of October 14, you would have been able to watch the second span of Garrison Crossing, the Fort York pedestrian and bicycle bridge, being hoisted into place across the southern rail corridor. The bridge, which will open in 2019, will connect Liberty Village, Niagara and other neighbourhoods to the north with Fort York and the waterfront.
On November 10, Fort York staff in historic uniforms participated in the rededication of Coronation Park, immediately south of the armoury. Fort York and other Museums & Heritage Services staff helped develop plans for the park’s rehabilitation. Those in attendance included the Mayor, the Lieutenant Governor and a strong guard of The Royal Regiment of Canada in ceremonial scarlets. The next day, on the 100th anniversary of the armistice that marked the end of the First World War, close to 1,500 people attended Fort York’s annual ceremony at the Strachan Avenue Military Burial Ground; see the photo on this page and the Remembrance Day gallery at www.theglobeandmail.com.
On November 15, with the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, 39 new Canadians were sworn in at one of our annual enhanced citizenship ceremonies. The event featured round-table discussions, an Indigenous feast and music. Special guests and speakers included our MPP Chris Glover, Ontario Heritage Trust Executive Director Beth Hannah, and Don Cranston, Chair of The Friends of Fort York.
Finally, on the first day of December, more than 700 visitors came to our seventh annual Frost Fair. Visitors enjoyed all kinds of demonstrations and activities – notably the East York Barbershoppers – and were able to peruse vendors as varied as The Cedar Basket Gift Shop, the Lone Wolf Trading Company, ChocoSol, Toronto’s First Post Office, and more.
With the onset of winter comes the return of The Bentway’s figure-eight Skate Trail. The uniqueness of being able to skate under the Gardiner, tracing what was once the shoreline of Lake Ontario, is one of the reasons we agreed to bring The Bentway to Fort York National Historic Site. We hope you take the chance to come down for a skate and to visit the fort’s many original buildings and displays when you’re here.
Manager's Report (Summer 2018)
A nother successful summer has come to an end at Fort York and it was certainly a busy one for the men and women of the Fort York Guard. While the weather was far from ideal in 2018, the Guard can be proud of their accomplishments. Once again they distinguished themselves at Fort George during the annual Soldiers Field Days, coming in a close second just behind the Grenadiers of the Fort George Guard. They were also part of two Bentway-related events, the Toronto Summer Music Festival’s “Reflections of Wartime” concert in July and the opening of the Strachan Gate in August (watch the Fife & Drum Corps on City TV’s coverage of the opening here: https://www.bttoronto.ca/videos/stella-is-live-at-the-bentway-3-of-4/).
Moving into September, and on the heels of several big third-party events on Garrison Common, we held our own Canada’s Hundred Days: A Great War Living History Weekend. Almost 300 students joined our educational programs on September 21 and many more visitors came down to the fort over the weekend to commemorate the Canadian contribution to the closing days of the First World War.
During the weekend, visitors could browse displays of the uniforms, weapons and equipment of both sides. In a series of tents was a comprehensive display of Canadian medical services. There were demonstrations of weapons, tactics, and communications as well as numerous Great War Foodways presentations. A huge thank you goes out to all the fort’s staff, particularly Kevin Hebib, Colin Sedgwick-Pinn, Bridget Wranich and Melissa Beynon for leading the charge, and to our many partners, including the Canadian Centre for the Great War, the Canadian Military Heritage Society (PPCLI & CAMC), Soldiers of the Kaiser, the 11th Swiss Rifles Association, Parks Canada, the Great War Flying Museum, the Hamilton Vintage Signals Team and Gary Blakeley, Alison Norman and Scott Woodland.
We were also pleased to have our new book Recipes for Victory: Great War Food from the Front and Kitchens Back Home in Canada on hand for Canada’s
Hundred Days. Just released by Whitecap Books, this lavishly illustrated cookbook was created by staff and volunteers at Fort York. It features kitchen-tested recipes from a century ago that will continue to support the award-winning Historic Foodways Program here at the fort. Whitecap is distributing the book internationally and you can pick up a copy in our well-stocked Canteen.
Also early this October we were pleased to see the Talking Treaties Spectacle return to the grounds of Fort York. Talking Treaties is an outdoor pageant, rooted in oral history and community collaboration, that explores the treaty history of the Toronto area through words, song, movement and spectacle. Inspired by the historical research of Victoria Freeman and others, director Ange Loft led professional and community performers through vignettes of the Dish With One Spoon, the Toronto Purchase, the Treaty of Niagara and more. A huge thank you to all involved, particularly our partners at Jumblies Theatre.
If you’re visiting Fort York before the end of November, our site partners at the Bentway have a new exhibit called “If, But, What If?” which includes art works from Michael Awad (Toronto), Steven Beckly (Toronto), Wally Dion (upstate New York), Mani and Sanaz Mazinani (Toronto and San Francisco), Alex McLeod (Toronto), Sans façon (Calgary) and Jon Sasaki (Toronto). The signature work WATERLICHT, by Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde, was a large-scale light installation at Fort York in mid October. Visit http://www.thebentway.ca for more about all of this.
Sunday morning, November 11, we will once again, in co-operation with the Toronto chapter of the IODE, present our evocative Remembrance Day service. At 10:45 a solemn procession of period-uniformed staff and standard bearers will leave the fort’s west gate and make their way to the Strachan Avenue Military Cemetery at the west end of Garrison Common. There, a public service will honour all members of the Toronto Garrison who have fallen during the past 220 years in defence of Canadian ideals and freedom.
The last big event of 2018 will be the annual Frost Fair, this year promising to be bigger and better than ever. On the first day of December you and the whole family can enjoy musical and military demonstrations while the kids are entertained with drill workshops, dress-up fun, games and crafts. You’ll be able to shop for unique gifts by local artisans, gifts ranging from jewellery to historical reproductions to holiday greenery. Our talented Volunteer Historic Cooks will have their Heritage Café open for lunch. Check our Upcoming Events listings at the end of this issue for ways to keep the children busy in the kitchen over the coming holiday season.
We’re pleased to see the end to much of the construction around our site. The first phase of the Bentway is now largely complete. The second span of Garrison Crossing, the pedestrian and bicycle bridge spanning the rail corridor north of the fort, was scheduled to be lifted into place on October 13. Work on the underside of the Bathurst Street bridge was completed in September. That means work on Lower Garrison Creek Park, part of Fort York National Historic Site on the east side of Bathurst, can begin in the spring. Final trail connections along the north side of the fort between Garrison Crossing and the new park will be completed at the same time; see the designer’s own description of the park in the April 2018 Fife and Drum.
The principled legacy of Stephen Otto
by Andrew Stewart
Stephen Anderson Otto, who died this past April, was the founding and managing editor of The Fife and Drum from 2003 until 2017. His life-long work in fostering heritage, architectural history and conservation in the Province of Ontario and his founding role in the Friends and the Fort York Foundation are well known.
Perhaps less widely appreciated was his skill in forecasting problems and opportunities for the fort and the neighbourhood. His concerns always arose from first principles: define and protect Fort York’s interests; strengthen its historic assets; and diffuse knowledge about Toronto’s founding site across the city. These principles inspired his choice of topics for The Fife and Drum.
Over the years they included building projects (especially the Visitor Centre) along with site and precinct planning issues, examining their threats and opportunities (the Armouries, development proposals and pedestrian connections). Stories acknowledged the work of staff and volunteers at the fort and in the city’s museum departments and broadly explored the history of the neighbourhood (Fort Rouillé, the strangling of Fort York by railways and meat packers). For the War of 1812 bicentennial he commissioned a series of articles and reviews from accomplished authors and familiar names: Carl Benn, Richard Gerrard, Bob Malcomson, Chris Moore, Don Graves and many others. Art and archaeology were combined in erudite reports on 19th-century fort drawings, excavations and collections. There were stories about opportunities seized (York Militia Colours and the names of nearby streets) and missed (Battersby portrait). Sometimes – such as the Thomson family’s role in the building of the fort – the stories were researched and written by the editor himself.
Many of the best will be published in an anthology of The Fife and Drum in the autumn by the Friends of Fort York and Garrison Common. This writing and so much more was persuaded into existence by Steve with a relentless focus on agenda, an eye for detail, and a firm congeniality. As he once in December emailed to our board: “Eggnog, mandarins, shortbread and maybe a cake will help the agenda pass that much more quickly too.”
For two engaging summaries of Steve’s life and accomplishments, see his obituary in The Globe and Mail by John Lorinc and Alex Bozikovic on April 27, 2018, and a profile by Christopher Hume in the Toronto Star on March 21, 2010. Andrew Stewert is Board Chair of The Fort York Foundation.