Manager’s Report (fall 2015)
by David O’Hara, Site Manager
While it was an honour having the Magna Carta and Charter of the Forest on site at Fort York, it was certainly a relief to all when we reached the end of a very busy exhibition stretch and we knew the documents were safely en route to Winnipeg.
More than 13,000 visitors came to see Magna Carta: Law, Liberty & Legacy and its companion exhibition, Rights, Justice & Democracy: Toronto Perspectives. Successfully mounting this exhibit at Fort York and developing such a wide range of complementary programming provided a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate the skill and expertise of so many of the staff in the City's Museums and Heritage Services unit. Congratulations to all involved in the Small World On Common Ground Music Festival, the Magna Carta speaker series, the student film contest, the Muskoka Brewery pub nights, and so much more and thank you to all our sponsors and to our partners at Magna Carta Canada who worked so tirelessly to make the exhibit possible.
While the Magna Carta was making its way to Winnipeg, we moved directly on to our annual Remembrance Day Ceremony, a citizenship ceremony on November 13, and the third annual Frost Fair on December 5-6th. Our very busy season concludes with holiday programming from December 14th to 31st.
As 2015 comes to a close, we're quickly gearing up for 2016. In addition to the many events planned for the year, the new exhibits within the Visitor Centre will be fabricated and installed early in the year for an opening likely in April. This work will include exhibits within the gallery, vault and lobby of the Visitor Centre, the immersive Time Tunnel experience, and the production of a new Fort York orientation film to be played in the theatre.
Although we will remain surrounded by the Gardiner Expressway deck reconstruction for most, if not all, of 2016, we will continue to work away on our own site improvements. Landscape work on Garrison Common, including new lighting and the reconstruction of Garrison Road itself, will be finished in the spring of 2016. By mid 2017 we should see completion of many of the major landscape projects, including the Liquid Landscape in front of the Visitor Centre. Although contingent upon an additional $400k to be raised by the Fort York Foundation, a $200k grant from the Canada 150 Fund was recently received for the completion of this work. The Fort York Foundation has already raised a portion of this funding but continues to move towards the target (please visit www.fortyorkfoundation.ca).
The recently announced Project: Under Gardiner (see Greenberg page 8) will also provide an opportunity to complete landscape improvements across a significant portion of the National Historic Site. The first phase of this work, which is expected to be complete in 2017, will be carefully coordinated with our overall landscape master plan. The Dufferin/Pedelta/DTAH scheme for the Fort York Pedestrian/Bicycle bridge was recently announced as the winning design. The bridge, which will begin in 2016 for a 2017 opening, is a major step in connecting new and existing communities north of the rail corridor with Fort York, the waterfront, and surrounding neighbourhoods.
We will continue to make some of the smaller improvements on site throughout this same period. As an example, several of our interpretive signs were installed this fall, with more to come with the completion of larger construction projects noted above. The interpretive signs, which were designed by Leonard Wyma (Donderdag) and fabricated by WSI Sign Systems Ltd, were funded by the W. Garfield Weston Foundation as part of their grant for overall landscape rehabilitation.
On November 25 we made one relatively small but very significant move on site when we moved two British shell guns and one British mortar (all dating from 1843-1854) back to Fort York from the Fort Rouillé monument at Exhibition Place. The shell guns originally formed part of the Fort York’s Trent Affair battery from 1862 until the south rampart was restored in 1932-1934. Although always a part of the City of Toronto's collection, at some point prior to the conclusion of the Second World War, the shell guns and mortar were moved to Exhibition Place.
The mortar has been temporarily located on Garrison Common, just outside the Visitor Centre where the Ordnance Stores building once stood. Along with the return of these artifacts, one of our existing shell guns was moved to the corner of Fort York Boulevard and Bathurst Street to mark the corner of the National Historic Site. The plinth that received this cannon had been built as part of the Fort York Boulevard construction over a decade ago.
Manager’s Report (summer 2015)
by David O’Hara, Site Manager
2015 will be remembered as the season that never ended. We moved from a busy June with Field Trip, the Indigenous Arts Festival, and the Na-Me-Res Traditional Pow Wow to Taste of Toronto and the Pan Am Games in July.
Pan Am programming included the Aboriginal Pavilion on Garrison Common and the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation Cultural Village in the dry moat. Both of these components were very well organized and we record a huge thank you to the organizers, artists, musicians, vendors, and others involved.
Our annual Simcoe Day/Emancipation Day programming was well attended in early August, as was the TD Irie Music Festival held on Garrison Common on August 1 and 2. We were pleased to again work with the Ontario Black History Society on much of this programming and to bring an exhibit on Blacks in the Military to Fort York for the month of August. Other events included the Vegan Food Festival, Toronto Independent Music Experience, Lolë White Yoga, and Mad Decent Block Party. We were very pleased to be able to host The First World War Comes to Life, Canada's largest private operational collection of First World War vehicles, on August 8 and 9, and we hope to work with them again in the near future.
Other events included the Vegan Food Festival, Toronto Independent Music Experience, Lolë White Yoga, and Mad Decent Block Party. We were very pleased to be able to host The First World War Comes to Life, Canada's largest private operational collection of First World War vehicles, on August 8 and 9, and we hope to work with them again in the near future.
While things were busy on site at Fort York, the Fort York Guard were off in Niagara for the Fort George Fife and Drum Muster and Soldiers' Field Day. Our squad, who looked very impressive all season long, narrowly won the annual drill competition at Fort George. Congratulations all around. September continued to be active with Toronto Urban Roots Festival, TIFF in the Park on September 25, and our own Small World On Common Ground Festival of Music Arts and Community held on September 26 and 27 in partnership with Small World Music Festival (smallworldmusic.com).
The month winds down with a buildup for Magna Carta: Law, Liberty & Legacy. This exhibit opens in the Fort York Visitor Centre on October 4 and runs until November 7. Tickets can be purchased online at toronto.ca/magnacarta.
We really hope everyone comes out to see this exhibit and to support Fort York. Please spread the word. Fort York continues to be surrounded by major construction. Between now and through most of 2016 work will continue on the Gardiner Expressway. As the entire deck of the expressway is being demolished and replaced, the area underneath and in front of the Visitor Centre is fenced off and parking severely limited.
We apologize for the inconvenience and hope that you're patient with us as we get through this work. We do hope to continue our own site improvements as well. By the end of 2016, and certainly in early 2017, much of the major work around the Visitor Centre will be complete and circulation routes for vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists will be significantly improved. Construction on the Fort York Pedestrian Bridge is also expected to be underway in 2016; an announcement of the winning design is expected in the coming weeks.
On a positive note, we're pleased to report that the Fort York Visitor Centre won an Award of Excellence for 'Public Buildings in Context' at the 2015 Toronto Urban Design Awards. The Jury commented on the building as: A skillful insertion on a sensitive site, the centre adds necessary new space while allowing the fort itself, and the adjacent parade ground, to be undisturbed. The building itself does a lot with very little: Its front façade successfully evokes both a rampart and the original shoreline of Lake Ontario, gesturing toward two aspects of the city's history. The Visitors' Centre, however, is best seen as the beginning of a successful master plan; the jury strongly urges support to complete the architectural vision and also establish the planned landscape under the Gardiner Expressway. In the long term, this site will form an important link in a network of parks through the western downtown which could, and should, become crucial community assets.
"On The Job with a Military Animator" The Canadian Press interviews Fort York guardsman Cpl. Pat Jenish.
Cpl. Pat Jenish says wearing the uniform of a War of 1812 infantryman is a "fantastic honour”. The military animator at Toronto’s Fort York Historic Site describes a typical day on the job.
Click on the following link to view this enlightening video interview. http://www.msn.com/en-ca/money/other/on-the-job-with-a-historical-military-animator/vi-BBlq8UB
Donate or join The Friends of Fort York to support the The Fort York Guard and Fife & Drums.
First World War Comes To Life exhibit visits Fort York
First World War Comes to Life brought their travelling exhibit of Great War service vehicles to Fort York on Aug. 8 & 9. This is the largest private collection of operational First World War vehicles in Canada, focusing on how mechanization and transportation changed the nature of war.
Visitors to the exhibit were greeted by service vehicle and military interpreters from both Fort York and First World War Comes to Life. They enthusiastically answered myriads of technical and human interest questions and helped bring to life the men and women who used these vehicles and the roles they played in the war effort. Unlike many static museum displays, all of the First World War Comes to Life vehicles are in working order and a number of trucks, sedans and motorcycles were driven around the Fort York parade ground during the two day exhibit. Seeing a 1917 Dodge sedan hand cranked and hearing the engine sputter to life, was a delightful experience that few visitors had witnessed before. Each exhibit vehicle is now approximately 100 years old and has its own unique story of service and survival. For instance, the rare and recently restored 1917 portable field kitchen was found after languishing for many years on an Alberta ranch. Motorcycle enthusiasts were particularly interested to see working examples of the Trusty Triumph, Douglas and Harley motorcycles. They are rare survivors from a time when motorcycle design was in its infancy. Women, as interpreted in the field ambulance exhibit, made significant social gains through their work overseas as medics, ambulance drivers and motorcycle dispatch riders. When the war was over, few wanted to return to their former Edwardian-era society roles. Saturday’s event also included a unique flypast above Fort York by four aircraft from the The Great War Flying Museum including the Fokker Dr.I Triplane, Nieuport 28, Sopwith 1½ Strutter, and Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5a. The flight display further demonstrated how quickly mechanization had conquered land, sea and air.
For more information about both organizations and upcoming events, check the First World War Comes to Life website http://www.firstworldwarcomestolife.org and The Great War Flying Museum http://greatwarflyingmuseum.org/