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Visiting Kingston, Ontario and its City Hall: Neoclassicism by George Browne, completed 1844

Updated on July 10, 2012
Provincial flag of Ontario
Provincial flag of Ontario | Source
Kingston, Ontario, City Hall
Kingston, Ontario, City Hall | Source
City Hall, Kingston, Ontario
City Hall, Kingston, Ontario | Source
John A. Macdonald, probably circa 1850
John A. Macdonald, probably circa 1850 | Source
Map location of Kingston, Ontario
Map location of Kingston, Ontario | Source

Reflecting the civic standing of a former capital of the Province of Canada

This most impressive building in Kingston, Ontario, was completed in 1844, its architect having been George Browne (1811-1885) (1), also known as a designer of bank buildings.

Some history and features

Its striking dome is probably the Neoclassical structure's most famous feature and has come to be emblematic of the City. The building's main frontage is complemented by a four-pillar portico.

The edifice was executed in limestone; indeed, such was the popularity of limestone as a building material in Kingston in the 19th century that people began to speak of Kingston as the Limestone City. The popular nature of this type of stone was probably linked to the extensive mining of limestone in the Kingston area from the beginning of the 19th century.

The significant 1844 date of its completion makes the City Hall, in fact, a kind of monument to the dynamic rôle that some of its citizens played during the Province of Canada period (of which Province Kingston was capital for some years) and in the run up to Confederation, 1867. If the City Hall is a Kingston historical monument in stone, then a Kingston monument in flesh and blood, so to speak, was none other than Sir John A. MacDonald himself (2), Indeed, Sir John A. (albeit when he was plain 'Mr') and John Counter donated the original clock for the building.

Some of the pictures which I have supplied are somewhat significant in that the City Hall is often floodlit, making for a most impressive, urban scene. Also, I have included a view of Sir John MacDonald, the date of which is uncertain, but it most probably depicts him at a time when he was prominent among Kingston's city dignitaries in the Province of Canada period.

Kingston's City Hall is designated a National Historic Site of Canada, and as well as its municipal rôle, it is thus a visitor attraction in its own right.

The City Hall is located at 216 Ontario Street, Kingston, Ontario.

July 10, 2012


(1) Other buildings for which Architect Browne is particularly reputed include the Kingston Branch of the Bank of Montreal and Molson's Bank in Montreal / Montréal. In 1844, when the capital moved to Montreal / Montréal, Architect Browne moved there also, where he continued to achieve distinction.

(2) Although Sir John MacDonald was not born in Kingston (actually he was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1815), and as a longserving Prime Minister was also deeply associated with Ottawa, it was Kingston where he lived and worked for many years, where one of his residences, Bellevue House — now a National Historic Site of Canada — is located and where, at Cataraqui Cemetery, he was buried in 1891. Indeed, the remains of Sir John A. MacDonald lay in state in 1891 in what is now Memorial Hall at Kingston's City Hall, given the veteran Prime Minister's long association with the city. (Does this maybe prefigure the lying in state of Pierre Elliott Trudeau at Montreal's city hall in 2000, given Mr. Trudeau's long association with that city?)

Also worth seeing

In Kingston itself, other visitor attractions include: Fort Henry; Bellevue House; the Frontenac County Courthouse; Portsmouth Village; the Flora MacDonald Confederation Basin; and many others.


How to get there: Kingston/Norman Rogers Airport, at Kingston , Ontario is served by Air Canada, offering scheduled flights to Toronto Pearson Airport, with wide flight connections, and by charter airline Brock Air Services. Car rental is available from Kingston/Norman Rogers Airport. You are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


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