Oct 5, 2010

Visit Kingston, Ontario - The Limestone City

Kingston is a wonderful place to visit. It is called the “Limestone City” because so many of their buildings are constructed of limestone. We decided to make the trip a circle drive so we crossed over the 1000 Island Bridge and headed west to Kingston returning home via the ferries to Cape Vincent. We stayed at the First Canada Inn located conveniently off Highway 401. The price was reasonable and parking, breakfast, and the Internet were gratis. The city bus stop is nearby but it was only a few minutes drive to the city center.

It is usually best to tour a city on Sundays or holidays because there is less traffic and often free on-street parking. Our first stop was the Visitor’s Center where the train that carried the body of Canada’s first Prime Minister home is adjacent to the Center and it is where the city trolley begins.

The Confederation Trolley Tour gave us an excellent overview of the city. The tour allowed us to stop and reboard at Bellevue, the home of John A. MacDonald, the first Prime Minister of Canada. Restored to the 1840s, and staffed by costumed interpreters, the house and gardens are kept much as they would have been during the time that Macdonald lived there with his wife and infant son. No matter how many historic homes I visit there is always something interesting to see and learn. The Italianate-style house has three floors but on seven levels. The wash tub shaped like a boot and covered so as to keep the water warm was especially unique.

After the trolley tour we had just enough time to drive to the Penitentiary Museum located in the former Warden's limestone residence. It is located across the street from the current prison, Canada's oldest penitentiary. Most amazing was the artistic creativity of the inmates and their ingenuity in developing escape plans. If only those traits had been properly channeled. One of the docents was a former guard and shared, “Some of the inmates just could not deal with the outside world and after they were released they were returned. They were glad to be back.”

A visit to the Cathedral of St. George pointed out a Central New York connection. A plaque on the wall told about Molly Brant, sister of Joseph Brant whose statue is at Mexico Point Park. Because the Brants were loyalists during the American Revolution they moved to Canada. Molly bridged the gap between the Indian and white cultures. Molly and her children by Sir William Johnson were key members in the founding of the church with Molly being the only female founder.

We stayed three nights, which turned out to be perfect. We really enjoyed the luncheon cruise on the St. Lawrence that included information on the area interspersed with music. There were many great homes and camps along the shore We were duly impressed by the new multi-million dollar mansion built by an American from Watertown whose wealth came from those green pine tree deodorizers that dangle from car rear view mirrors.

We also visited the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes. The Alexander Henry, an icebreaker, is in the adjacent dry dock. It is being renovated and may be reopened next season as a B&B. That is where I would like to stay on our next visit.