Administrator’s Report (late fall 2012)

by David O'Hara, Site Administrator

2012 has certainly proved to be the busy year we all expected. In addition to our regular roster of programs and events we were able to add new offerings throughout the year. Most recently, we scheduled more than sixteen special event days in October, including the tremendously successful food symposium “Best Before 1812.” In November we hosted one of two annual Citizenship Ceremonies and at least 900 attended our Remembrance Day memorial. The year comes to a close with the Fort York Frost Fair on December 8–9 and programming throughout the weeks of December 15–31.

An expansion of activities, combined with the efforts of our staff and volunteers, has resulted in a significant increase in attendance in 2012. Staff worked hard to keep up with a calendar booked for school groups; the Canteen’s success continues; and our site rentals have increased significantly throughout the year. Largely as a result of the efforts of Kristine Williamson, Museum Outreach Officer, Fort York hosted several unique events in 2012. These included the 2012 Bliss Ball, where the Dilawri Foundation raised more than $1 million for the Sick Kids Foundation; it featured Grammy and Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, Steven Page, and Martin Sheen. Other occasions were Diner en Blanc, many smaller private bookings, and five successful concerts on Garrison Common.

Those attending recent events at Fort York might have noticed our new team of front line volunteers–our ‘Garrison Greeters’ and ‘Heritage Hosts.’ This new program was developed then launched as a result of our ongoing partnership with the Evergreen Foundation and thanks to the financial support of RBC. Our Volunteer Coordinator, Cathy Martin, has done a wonderful job recruiting and training over 100 volunteers to assist during special events. As we move into 2013, and with the Visitor Centre opening in 2014, the roles filled by our volunteers are becoming increasingly important (visit www.fortyork.ca for more information).

In 2012 restoration work on the Stone Magazine was finally finished and an exhibit on Black Powder installed. Restoration work is also underway on both the Officers’ Brick Barracks and the Brick Magazine. Early in 2013 our new interpretive and way-finding signs will be installed. The recent start of construction on the Visitor Centre has required the closure of our Fort York Boulevard entrance. This access will be closed for the duration of construction, requiring those arriving by vehicle to use the entrance at Fleet Street and Garrison Road. When the Visitor Centre opens in 2014 Fort York will be easier to find and easier to access. It will have a more visible street presence with the main entrance at 250 Fort York Boulevard. Working with the Toronto Parking Authority, we have recently implemented a ‘Pay and Display’ parking system at Fort York. Given our location in downtown Toronto, with many other major tourist destinations in the vicinity and 6000 new units of housing to the immediate south, the need to implement such a system was pressing. The objective is to keep the small amount of parking that we have priced reasonably, but available at all hours. The majority of net revenues from the parking operation will be directed back towards programming at Fort York.

Work on the Landscape Master Plan also continues. This Plan is the clearest way of demonstrating how all of the component pieces that are Fort York come together. They are the new Visitor Centre, the Fort York Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge, a rehabilitated and expanded Garrison Common, the Strachan Avenue Cemetery, the interface with the Fort York Armoury, and the lands that extend under Bathurst Street to CityPlace and to a new Toronto Public Library on the eastern boundary of the national historic site. Eventually, this assembly of pieces will make more sense as one coherent whole, providing a much stronger visual and physical presence for the fort and providing many more opportunities for interpretation of the site and its significance.

Landscape Master Plan for Fort York National Historic Site. Prepared by DTAH, Toronto, 2012.