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19th Century Kingston

During the nineteenth century, Kingston and its surrounding area experienced several fluctuations in fortune. The city grew rapidly in the early part of the century, reaching a peak in 1841 when Kingston became the capital of the Province of Canada. Following the move of the capital to Montreal three years later, the city's rate of growth slowed considerably. Kingston was eventually able to adapt by becoming a community of institutions.

Market Square from the upper floor of City Hall, 1859 (Queen's University Archives KPC 1859 V23).

The establishment of Queen's University, two teaching hospitals, and a psychiatric facility made Kingston a leading academic and medical centre. The military installations, including Fort Frontenac, Fort Henry, and Fort Frederick, built when tension was high between Britain and America, were subsequently developed as military training facilities. The penitentiary, also built in the nineteenth century, further contributed to the institutional character of the town.

Photograph of Summerhill (with original Colonnades and parapets) at Queen's University - showing old medical building (1858 - with original fenestration) on the left-hand side

The industry and commerce of mid nineteenth century Kingston were dependent on the military garrison, the transshipment business, and ship building. The withdrawal of the garrison in 1871 and the development of new technologies in transportation contributed to a second decline in the city's fortunes. The railway boom of the latter half of the century failed to have a significant economic impact on the city despite the completion of the railway line between Toronto and Montreal in 1856 and the Kingston and Pembroke Railway, or the 'Kick and Push,' in 1886.

Photograph looking towards Point Frederick from Railway Yard - Two ships docked on left - Ferry "Maud" passing by. 1885.