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.