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 ( 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