Forts of Kingston

Various Miscellaneous Sites

Located at the confluence of the Cataraqui and St. Lawrence Rivers, the French first had a military presence here in 1673, with a log stockade named Fort Cataraqui. It was rebuilt and renamed Fort Frontenac in 1675. It became a major depot of military supplies for western posts such as Fort Niagara and Fort Detroit and others. The British attacked and destroyed the fort after a long seige in 1758. Not affected by the American Revolution, Kingston was not regarrisoned by the British until 1783, who later established TÍte de Pont Barracks in 1789 on the site of the old French fort. The present-day barracks were built in 1819 - 1824. The original French name was restored in 1939. It is now home to the Canadian Land Force Command and Staff College. Preserved ruins of the original fortress can be seen within the compound, and also outside the compound at Ontario Street and Place d'Armes.

The British Navy established a Royal Dockyard and Depot at Point Frederick on Navy Bay in 1789. The Point Frederick Blockhouse was built in 1791 to defend the facility from American attack. The dockyard continued in operation until 1854. (see also Fort Frederick)

During the War of 1812 against the United States, Kingston was ringed with a log palisade wall and six wooden blockhouses along the western edge of town. Blockhouse #1 was located at Gore and Ontario Streets, Blockhouse #2 was located at Wellington and West Streets, Blockhouse #3 was located at West and Sydenham Streets, Blockhouse #4 was located at Princess and Clergy Streets, and Blockhouse #5 was located near Sydenham and North Streets. A small blockhouse was also located on the shore at West and Ontario Streets. Two inline batteries were located at Sydenham and William Streets, and at Sydenham and Ordnance Streets. Inline barracks were located behind the battery at Sydenham and William Streets. Barracks were also located at Artillery Park at Barrack and Bagot Streets. Also built in 1812 were blockhouses at Point Frederick (see Fort Frederick), Point Henry (see Fort Henry), Murney's Point, and at Snake Island, located about seven miles southwest of the harbour. A large battery was also located at Missisagua Point. An American naval force from Sackets Harbor, New York, attacked Kingston in 1812, driven off by the batteries at Points Frederick and Henry. A stone battery was later built at the Market, located at Princess and Ontario Streets, in front of the present-day City Hall (built in 1841 as the first capitol building of Upper Canada).

During the 1820's, plans were made to upgrade the harbour's defences. Six large masonry redoubts were planned to surround the harbour, complemented by six Martello Towers (the sixth tower, not shown on the following map, was to be located on Snake Island). Only one redoubt was ever constructed (Fort Henry in 1832), and only two of the originally planned towers were ever built, at Murney's Point (1846) and at Cedar Island (Cathcart Tower) (1846). Two towers were later added to the plan, to be built at Point Frederick (1847) and at the Market Shoal (Victoria Tower) (1847), due to military tensions with the United States over the Oregon Crisis. These later defences never once had to fire a shot in anger. British troops continued to man these posts through the turbulent 1860's, during the American Civil War and the Fenian Raids. The British Army left Canada in 1871, and the forts were left to the Canadian Militia. The last units left in 1891, with the abandonment of all defences.

Today, Fort Henry has been restored, as well as Fort Frederick and Murney Martello Tower, open to the public with displays and demonstrations. The Cedar Island Tower and the Shoal Tower also still exist, but are not open for visitation. The Market Battery has also been reconstructed, now located within the Flora MacDonald Confederation Basin Park. All other defenses no longer exist. As noted above, the Canadian Land Force Command and Staff College now occupy Fort Frontenac (TÍte de Pont Barracks), and the Royal Military College now occupy Fort Frederick and the Royal Dockyard. The Canadian Armed Forces also now occupy Vimy Barracks, at CFB Kingston, located northeast of Fort Henry.


base map courtesy of St. Lawrence Parks Commission
Map of proposed Kingston fortification sites, drawn 1829.
LARGER VERSION IN DETAIL (472 KB)


Preserved ruins of a bastion of Old Fort Frontenac (1675 - 1758),
located in the median outside New Fort Frontenac (1824 - present).


courtesy of Parks Canada
Blockhouse #5 in Kingston, from a 1907 watercolor.


The Victoria (Shoal) Martello Tower (1846 - 1870?) on approach from the ferry.


The Victoria Tower from the city marina.
Fort Frederick and the Royal Military College in background.


photo by Larry Zarysky - Photo Decor Ltd.
A postcard of an aerial view of the Victoria Tower.
A reconstructed segment of the Market Battery (1812) is located in front of City Hall.


The Murney Martello Tower (1846 - 1890).
Murney Martello Tower official website


Uniforms hung on the drawbridge.


The moat and a defensive bastion.


photo by Ernie Hunter - Hunter Studios
A postcard of Murney Tower.


A 32-pounder gun on the top gun platform.


The interior magazine on the lower level.


Murney Tower viewed from the water's edge.


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