Kingston, Ontario is a Canadian city located in Eastern Ontario, about 200 kilometres (124 miles) from Ottawa, Ontario on Lake Ontario where the St. Lawrence River, flows out of the lake, near the Thousand Islands. Originally a First Nations settlement called “Cataraqui,” the growing European exploration in the 17th Century made it an important trading post. In order to control the fur trade, French explorer LaSalle founded Fort Frontenac in 1673.
Kingston is the county seat of Frontenac County. According to the 2006 Canadian census, the population of the city proper was 117,207, while the population of the metropolitan area was 152,358.
Kingston is nicknamed the “Limestone City” because of the many historic buildings built from the local limestone.
The French originally settled upon a traditional Mississaugas First Nation site called Katerokwi (Cataraqui in the common transliteration, and according to French pronunciation rules should be said “kah-tah-RAH-kee,” although it is generally pronounced “kah-tah-ROCK-way”) in 1673 and established Fort Cataraqui, later to be called Fort Frontenac. The fort was captured and destroyed by the British in the Battle of Fort Frontenac during the Seven Years’ War in 1758. A receiving centre for fleeing refugees from the American Revolution some years later, Kingston became the primary community of south-eastern Upper Canada.
New settlement from the United Empire Loyalists (UEL) and Mohawks from the Six Nations in New York, led by Molly Brant (the sister of Six Nations Leader Joseph Brant – Tyendinega), formed a significant part of an expanding population in the area at the end of the 18th century.
During the War of 1812, Kingston was the base for the Lake Ontario division of the Great Lakes British naval fleet which engaged in a vigorous arms race with the American fleet based at Sackett’s Harbor, New York for control of Lake Ontario. After the war, Britain built Fort Henry and a series of distinctive Martello towers to guard the entrance to the Rideau Canal. All still exist, and Fort Henry is a popular tourist attraction. In 2007, the Rideau Canal and the fortifications at Kingston were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Kingston’s location at the Rideau Canal entrance to Lake Ontario, after canal construction was completed in 1832, made it the primary military and economic centre of Upper Canada. Incorporated as a town in 1838, the first mayor of Kingston was Thomas Kirkpatrick. Kingston had the largest population of any centre in Upper Canada until the 1840s. Kingston was incorporated as a city in 1846.
Kingston was chosen as the first capital of the united Canadas and served in that role from 1841 to 1844. The first meeting of the Parliament of the United Canadas on June 13, 1841 was held on the site of what is now Kingston General Hospital. The city was considered too small and lacking in amenities, however, and its location made it vulnerable to American attack. Consequently, the capital was moved to alternating locations in Montreal and Toronto, and then later to Ottawa in 1857. Subsequently, Kingston’s growth slowed considerably and its national importance declined.