Administrator’s Report (summer 2012)

by David O’Hara, Site Administrator

The official launch of the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 has made for an extremely busy few weeks. On June 7 we hosted Toronto the Good, a gathering which brought to Fort York a broad cross-section of Torontonians with an interest in the City and in city building. On June 8 The Encampment opened on the first night of Luminato.

Commissioned in partnership with Luminato, it proved to be the great success we hoped when we first discussed the installation more than three years ago with artists Thom Sokoloski and Jenny-Anne McCowan ( Each evening between June 7 and 24, crowds of people visited The Encampment to experience the magic of 200 individually illuminated tents located within the fort’s walls. In the end there were more than 10,000 visitors. Anyone interested in ensuring that the stories associated with the War of 1812 and the potential of Fort York are understood and appreciated owes a huge thank-you to the 125 creative collaborators, scores of Fort York volunteers, and many others involved with the installation.

On June 14 the City of Toronto officially launched its War of 1812 Bicentennial Commemoration at Fort York. As part of the event it was announced that a lead legacy gift of $1 million from the W. Garfield Weston Foundation had been made to the Fort York Invigorated Capital Campaign ( The Foundation’s gift will be directed toward the rehabilitation of Garrison Common, which is part of the ongoing revitalization of the larger 43-acre national historic site. The event was attended by Andy Pringle, Chair of the Fort York Foundation fundraising cabinet; Geordie Dalglish, Director of The W. Garfield Weston Foundation; the Honourable Michael Chan, Ontario Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport; the Honourable James Bartleman; elder Garry Sault of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation; and the co-chairs of the City’s Bicentennial Steering Committee: Councillor Michael Thompson and Blake Goldring.

Free Bicentennial launch events continued over the June 15-16 weekend at Fort York with a variety of family-oriented programs, including music from Gin Lane, Morningstar River, Muddy York, the Barra MacNeils, the Metis Fiddler Quartet, and performances by the Fort York Regency Dancers, Lisa Odjig, Manifesto, and others. A special thank-you goes out to Alok Sharma, Supervisor of Special Events, for planning and producing the weekend, and to the staff and the 70 member Fort York Volunteer Team who pulled it off so successfully. While things were busy at the fort, various events were taking place as planned elsewhere across the City, including a special service at St. James’ Cathedral, a free open-air concert by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at David Pecaut Square, and The Loyalists, a participatory theatre performance in Victoria Memorial Square produced by Single Thread Theatre Company. Worth noting is that after the Fort York Guard opened the TSO concert to loud applause, it was invited to participate in three TSO performances the following week.

On the actual anniversary of the Declaration of War, the Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, formally launched the Federal Government’s War of 1812 Commemoration at Fort York. The event went well with Fort York as the backdrop, Councillor Paul Ainslie providing remarks on behalf of City Council, and the Fort York Guard figuring prominently.

After the launch, staff then moved into programming for National Aboriginal Day, in partnership with the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, and Canada Day. After the July 4 Parler Fort, our next Bicentennial event will be held on July 14. ‘On Common Ground’ is a free festival that we hope will grow into an annual celebration. The event, which will be our formal launch of the Garrison Common as a new public space, opens at 3 pm and features Sarah [i]Credit: Tom Ridout,[/i]The Encampment, Photo by Tom RidoutHarmer (9 pm), Shad (7pm), The Rural Alberta Advantage (5:30 pm), and Alex Cuba (4 pm). We encourage everyone to come down with family, blanket, hat, and umbrella (i.e. rain or shine).

Although work on various capital projects continues, updates on these items will be left for the next issue. The one to note now is that the tender for the Visitor Centre construction is out and bids from the pre-qualified general contractors are expected to be submitted in July.

Fort York Visitor Centre Wins Canadian Architect Magazine Award of Excellence

Visitors-centre award

On December 16 Canadian Architect magazine announced that the Fort York Visitor Centre has been recognized with one of its Awards of Excellence for 2011.

Designed in joint venture by Patkau Architects of Vancouver and Kearns Mancini of Toronto, the building–part of a $23 million upgrading of Toronto's birthplace–will start construction during the Bicentennial of the War of 1812. It will sit just outside the gates to the ramparts of the fort, within the National Historic Site and tucked into a slope in the ground that was once a bank on the shore of Lake Ontario.

Administrator’s Report (spring 2012)

by David O'Hara, Site Administrator

The year 2012, as expected, is already proving to be very busy. On the heels of another successful Queen Charlotte’s Ball in January, it was an honour to partner with Senior College of the University of Toronto on a daylong event to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. From the Ashes of War, A Nation is Born was sold out, thanks to our wonderful partners at Senior College and to all of those who participated in the event.

The Visitor Centre Project and rehabilitation of the Garrison Common are proceeding as planned. Construction of the new building is expected to be tendered in April for a mid-year start. Rehabilitation of the Garrison Common will begin by the end of March with the seeding of the former tree nursery site, which is almost 2 ½ acres in size. The area will be ready to support activities by the time of the launch of the War of 1812 Bicentennial in June.

Over the next two months, the Fort York staff and our partners will be working on various components of the 2012 program. Our largest undertaking, led by artists Thom Sokoloski and Jenny-Anne McCowan and commissioned in partnership with Luminato, is The Encampment, a large-scale art installation comprising 200 A-frame tents erected within the fort’s walls. Each tent will contain a visual representation of an aspect of the war’s civilian history. Like archaeologists, selected ‘Creative Collaborators’ will commit to “getting their hands dirty” by unearthing and transposing civilian stories from the War of 1812 into art installations that will be set up in each tent. If you are interested in becoming a Creative Collaborator, please visit for more information. See all the other Toronto Bicentennial programs and events at

Within the walls of the fort, our current archaeology exhibit has been recently removed from the Brick Magazine to allow for various capital improvements to the building itself. Some components of the exhibit have been relocated to the Blue Barracks. Work on the Stone Magazine has just been completed and the installation of an exhibit on Black Powder is anticipated in the next few weeks.

Recently too a request for proposals (RFP) has been issued for the detailed design of the national historic site lands to the east of Bathurst Street adjoining the Library District Condominiums. By May of this year a team will be on board to assist with the long-term planning and development of these parklands. Meanwhile, a cleanup of the east entrance from Bathurst Street was also completed a short time ago. In future, this entrance will function more as a secondary entry point, open for special events only, so we can direct museum visitors to our main entrance and Visitor Centre at 250 Fort York Boulevard where they can be properly oriented to the site as they begin their visit.

Fort York Guard Reports In

by Ned Gallagher

The 2011 season has been a tremendous success for the Fort York Guard. The Guard expanded to twenty-eight members, and the Volunteer Program, under new Drum Major Baknel Macz, added six young drummers and fifers. Despite this size, the Guard competed in the Fort George Soldiers' Field Day Drill Competition as a single unit–and won! In addition, Patrick Jenish, a new Fort York Guard, stood first in the individual speed loading competition with a time of 12 seconds. A week later, the Guard marched in the Warriors' Day Parade at the CNE, an event with a competitive component that the Guard and Drums had won two years running. This year the Guard took the Re-enactor' Shield yet again.

Fort York Guard on Parade. Credit: Kathy MillsFort York Guard on Parade.It was also a year of great managerial success. Under the care and supervision of Joseph Gill, and with the counsel and hard work of Kevin Hebib, the Guard was able to equip the large staff with all the gear it needs. The Guard also successfully managed a major leadership transformation. Baknel Macz assumed the role of Drum Major with both energy and ability, and Mark Riches reinforced his reputation as a strong manager and commander. With such excellent leadership, a solid group of returning staff, and new equipment, the Fort York Guard will be something to watch during the 2012 Bicentennial.

Ned Gallagher has served with the Fort York York Guard for eleven years, most recently as its Sergeant-Major. Along the way he attended and graduated from Trent University.