Generous Donations from Mrs. Marianne Girling; Karen Girling and Bruce MacLellan; and the Upper Canada Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution

Near the end of 2013 the Fort York Foundation received three particularly meaningful gifts towards the building of the Visitor Centre. One came from Mrs. Marianne Girling; another from her daughter and son-in-law, Karen Girling and Bruce MacLellan; and a third from the Upper Canada Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Marianne Girling who gave securities valued at well into the five-figure range is a great-great granddaughter of Capt. John Denison. Her link to Canada and Toronto dates from the eighteenth century when Capt. Denison immigrated here at the urging of Hon. Peter Russell. His descendants now number several hundred in the Toronto area and beyond.

Bruce MacLellan and Karen Girling made their first gift to Fort York two years ago. But after visiting the site with Foundation Chair Andrew Stewart, Executive Director Susan Perren, and Chief Curator Wayne Reeves in autumn 2013 they made a pledge equally generous as Mrs. Girling’s gift. Speaking as one, the donors shared their hopes for an expanded role for the fort: “Our family believes in the importance of making Canadian history accessible to people. Starting as newcomers in the 1790s, our Denison ancestors played a part in building and defending Canada, including at the Battle of York. Newcomers from all around the world are still building Canada and this visitors’ centre will help them learn about our great country.”

The Upper Canada Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution is part of a patriotic service organization founded in 1890 for American women. In November 2012 three of its members visited Fort York, and toured the site, including the kitchens, before presenting a cheque for $1000 to Andrew Stewart. The DAR’s generosity is much appreciated and takes its place alongside other acts of goodwill to, and American interest in, Fort York, for example, a memorial plaque to Gen. Zebulon Pike erected in 1934 by the National Society of the United States Daughters of 1812, and a sugar maple planted along the south ramparts in 1968 by the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society.

TD Bank Group Donation

In addition to their $50,000 donation to support War of 1812 Bicentennial education programs at the City’s historic sites, TD Bank Group will be donating $100,000 to support the revitalization of the Garrison Common. This donation enhances the $1 million gift from The W. Garfield Weston Foundation to the Fort York Foundation for the Garrison Common.

The focus of the TD Bank Group’s donation will be on the west end of the Common and in the area of the Strachan Avenue Military Burial Ground, the focal point of our annual Remembrance Day Ceremony. Improvements to this area will include new walkways, interpretive signage, tree plantings, and re-surfacing in the area surrounding the memorial wall and flagpole. Work is expected to be underway, if not complete, by the end of 2014.

Administrator’s Report (fall 2013)

by David O’Hara, Site Administrator

On the heels of our successful, albeit soggy, On Common Ground: Festival of Culture and Community, we moved into our fall event season. As part of Nuit Blanche we had an independent installation at Fort York with “The Other Side of the Gardiner.” Set beneath the Gardiner Expressway, this immersive installation was created with light, snow, and sound by Abraham Galway and Lauren Poon (http://cargocollective.com/theothersideofthegardiner). October also included Fort York after Dark tours as part of Halloween programming.

In partnership with the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, we held another successful Citizenship Ceremony on November 8. Although the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Chris Alexander, was unable to attend at the last minute, we were pleased to have Senator Don Meredith in attendance. Also on hand to greet our newest citizens were Councillor Mike Layton, Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, and human rights activist Sally Armstrong. A special thank you and congratulations to the Fort York Building Citizenship Committee for all their ongoing work.

The site was busy with many other activities throughout the fall. Filming on-site included YTV’s Cache Craze and episodes of Showcase’s Beauty and the Beast. At the end of September, the SickKids Foundation once again held the Great Camp Adventure at Fort York, bringing over 1400 campers, sponsors, partners, volunteers, and Camp Crew to the site, and raising more than $1.3 million for SickKids.

Our annual Remembrance Day ceremony was well attended once again. Undertaken in partnership with the Toronto Municipal Chapter IODE (Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire), this ceremony has taken place in the Strachan Avenue Military Burial Ground for over fifty years. Other core programming included pastry and mince pie workshops and our 2nd annual Frost Fair on December 7 and 8. Capital work across the site is ongoing, with many projects continuing throughout the winter new-fort-york-signs 150months. The Fort York Visitor Centre is moving along and completion of the building shell makes it much easier now to get a sense of the building from both the Garrison Common and Fort York Boulevard perspectives. The 2013 phase of site work for the Visitor Centre is now complete, including paving of the parking lot and construction of the main entry walks to the building. Window frames have been installed and the general contractor is now heating the building using portable heaters in order to advance all interior components. The first parts of our master plan for signage were installed this fall: two signs at the Strachan Avenue pedestrian entrance and one at the corner of Fort York Blvd and Bathurst Street.

Completion of the Visitor Centre and implementation of several of the major landscape improvements will certainly result in a very complicated site throughout 2014. Programs planned for the first quarter and over the busy summer season will exacerbate the situation. With many events scheduled for the Garrison Common, it’s likely that major work not completed in the spring will be held over until fall in order to minimize the impact on events and site access. By the end of the year, a first phase of landscaping will be complete and we will be working towards the installation of new exhibits in the Visitor Centre. Planning for 2014 events, including celebration of the Visitor Centre opening, is underway; details will be provided soon. One focus in the year ahead will be programs, exhibits, and events related to the centennial of the Great War.

David Spittal, senior project coordinator for the Visitor Centre, reports that over 80% of the Visitor Centre’s concrete shell, including the building façade and roof, is complete. Mechanical equipment has been delivered, and electrical and other site-servicing work continues. For those visiting the site, our General Contractor, Harbridge + Cross, has installed the first weathered steel panel at the far west end of the building. This first panel was installed early as a test. The building itself is expected to be substantially complete by the end of May 2014, with exhibit installation and landscaping scheduled over the summer months. An official opening date has yet to be finalized.

Administrator’s Report (summer 2013)

by David O’Hara, Site Administrator

Following our roster of early summer events, which included Arts and Crafts ‘Field Trip’ and our own War of 1812 Festival Weekend. Fort York’s event schedule was busy through the remainder of the summer. Major events hosted on-site throughout July and August included The Toronto Urban Roots Festival, Mad Decent, The Grove Festival, and Riot Fest. Our own core events included Canada Day and our annual Simcoe Day and Emancipation Day event on August 5. A special thank you goes to Sandra Shaul, Museum Administrator, and Rosemary Sadlier, President of the Ontario Black History Society, for assisting in pulling together such a wonderful event with The Honourable David C. Onley, 28th lieutenant-governor of Ontario, and over 2000 people in attendance.

The summer season concluded with our On Common Ground: Festival of Culture and Community. On Common Ground was a family-friendly festival that marked the transition from summer to fall, and the global quest for peace, with a creative exchange of arts and culture. The weekend included performances by Jane Bunnett & Carnivalissimo, The Lemon Bucket Orkestra, Escola de Samba, Gordon Monahan’s sound installation Erratum Addendum, four of Dusk Dances’ most popular works, Clay & Paper Theatre, and a farmers’ market. This event was planned and implemented by Robert Kerr, Kristine Williamson, and all of the staff and volunteers at Fort York.

Our 2013 season further emphasized the increasingly important role all of our volunteers play in making our programs and events successful. With assistance from our partners at Evergreen, original seed-funding for the program from RBC, and our on-site Volunteer Coordinator Cathy Martin, our volunteer program continues to grow. A special thanks to everyone involved with the success of this program.
 
All components of our overall site master planning exercise continue to move forward. This includes ongoing work on the future removal of the Garrison Road bridge, planning for the future Fort York Pedestrian/Bicycle bridge, work on the yet to be named park at the east end of the fort by the new Fort York Library (http://www.urbantoronto.ca/news/2013/09/proposed-design-released-mouth-creek-park) and a 2014 phase of landscape improvements to the Garrison Common. All of these components have been integrated into our overall site master plan (DTAH consulting), which was presented to, and enthusiastically received by, the City of Toronto’s Economic Development Committee on September 17.

At the September 17 meeting, the Economic Development Committee also acknowledged two generous donations made by TD Bank Group. TD is donating $100,000 to the Fort York Foundation to assist with the revitalization of the Garrison Common. This donation focuses on the west end of the Common and enhances the $1-million gift from the W. Garfield Weston Foundation to the Fort York Foundation for the Garrison Common.

TD Bank Group also donated $50,000 towards supporting War of 1812 Bicentennial educational programs at the City’s historic sites. Participating museums include Fort York, Mackenzie House, Colborne Lodge, Montgomery’s Inn, and Gibson House. The donation makes it possible for students of the Toronto District School Board and the Toronto Catholic District School Board to attend the educational programs at no cost. Almost 2000 students have already participated in the program, which will continue through June 2014.

David Spittal, senior project coordinator for the Visitor Centre, reports that over 80% of the Visitor Centre’s concrete shell, including the building façade and roof, is complete. Mechanical equipment has been delivered, and electrical and other site-servicing work continues. For those visiting the site, our General Contractor, Harbridge + Cross, has installed the first weathered steel panel at the far west end of the building. This first panel was installed early as a test panel. The building itself is expected to be substantially complete by the end of May 2014, with exhibit installation and landscaping scheduled over the summer months. An official opening date has yet to be finalized.
An aerial view of the fort looking east shows the substantial progress on the Visitor Centre that’s been made over the summer. Photo by Danny Williams

About 80% of the concrete shell of the Visitor Centre has been poured, and the interior spaces are now taking shape. Photo by David Spittal, Toronto Culture