Establishing the Fabric of Kingston

1840-1847
The view down Brock Street from Wellington Street circa 1875. Source: Library and Archives Canada.Pinterest
The view down Brock Street from Wellington Street circa 1875. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

Kingston wasn’t always the “Limestone City.” At one time, most of the houses were built of wood which contributed to the severity of the fire of April 17-18, 1840 that destroyed most of the downtown. Apart from the emerging commercial properties, the fire devastated the market-place which was so essential for the daily life of Kingston’s consumers and local agricultural suppliers. This need prompted rapid reconstruction further promoted by the optimism engendered by the recognition of Kingston as capital of the Province of Canada in 1841. Between 1840-42, the number of houses doubled to 900, though many were flimsy. In 1847, “An Act to prevent Wooden Buildings being erected in the thickly-built parts of the City of Kingston, and for the further prevention of fires” dictated a shift in building materials. Local geology dictated the use of limestone. However, the striking architecture of Sydenham Ward and other parts of downtown Kingston is made up of mid-century buildings constructed of the brick brought in by mid-nineteenth century railways.