Brief History of the Frontenac Heritage Foundation

46 Years of Protecting Built Heritage

The Frontenac Heritage Foundation (FHF) was organized in 1972 by ten directors: M. Angus, H. Cartwright, K. Cartwright, A. Cohoe, H. Finley, G. Muirhead, J. Purvis, S. Sadinsky, A. Stinson and V. Swain. According to one of the founding members, Helen Finley, it was organized because the Kingston Historical Society did not want to involve itself in the protection of built heritage. I don’t personally know that to be true, but it is possible that with the Society being organized in 1893, and with the threat of demolitions in the city’s core in the early 1970s, that people felt there was a need for an organization to focus on the protection of our built heritage fabric.

At any rate, the Frontenac Historic Foundation was created, and on April 5, 1973, the first annual meeting was held, with 70 members in attendance and with Chair Margaret Angus presiding. Guest speaker R. A. J. Phillips spoke about the role of Heritage Canada in preserving and restoring buildings. The main issue at the time was whether the Foundation should acquire a property at 665 King Street in Portsmouth Village. Requests were made for volunteer labour, and for donations of old windows, paneling, and other such interior fixtures which might be used in the restoration of the building. The restored building was sold at auction and the auctioneer was Val Swain.

Also noted in the first newsletter was the organization underway trying to save the round-cornered Mowat building (designed by George Browne and built in 1841) located at Princess and Bagot Streets. The Bank of Nova Scotia wanted to demolish the building, and directors Swain, Angus, Finley and Muirhead went by train to Toronto to discuss their objections with the bank officials. A letter-writing campaign ensued, and a march down Princess Street brought more attention to the issue, with attendees wearing funeral clothes.

Over time, there have been multiple building restorations after 665 King Street, including 112 Rideau Street (1974), and the 1830s Hyland-Stanton stone house at 415 Regent Street in Barriefield (1990) 205 William Street (1996). Also, the jurisdiction for the FHF has expanded from the old City of Kingston to a much larger Kingston region, including neighbouring municipalities.

In 1976, the Foundation sponsored a conference ‘New Life for Old Buildings’ and ‘Decline and Fall: Architecture in Kingston and Frontenac County’ an exhibition at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. The exhibition included black and white architectural photos taken by Emil Erkan, and for buildings that had been demolished, related artifacts were included in the exhibit (stained glass, wooden trim, etc.). Gerald Finley authored an accompanying book ‘In Praise of Older Buildings’.

Starting in 1982, awards were given to homeowners, architects and tradespeople who have been involved in restoring their heritage buildings. This is an annual highlight for the Foundation and is a popular event.

In 2002, a building was donated to the Foundation at 62 – 66 Brock Street, and with that, responsibilities to commercial and residential tenants and to maintaining a heritage building in downtown Kingston.

Over the 45 years, the name has changed to Frontenac Heritage Foundation. The FHF assisted various authors to publish books and spearheaded much advocacy work across the Kingston region. The original logo changed from an aspen leaf, to the FHF with a backwards ‘F’ to the current logo.

Now, we publish a booklet ‘Foundations’ three times a year, hold educational events each month, and we organize a special project each year. In 2017 the Dry Stone Wall Festival was organized in Barriefield with the support of Dry Stone Canada, St. Mark’s Anglican Church and the Barriefield Village Association. That year, the Foundation updated its website, adopted a new logo, and became active on social media, with a public Facebook page.

For 2019, we are organizing a one-day workshop ‘Regenerating Places of Faith’, to discuss re-use of church buildings; with congregations dwindling, people are trying to find ways to use these wonderful structures in interesting and respectful ways. The workshop scheduled for June 1, is to be held at The Spire. And of course, we continue our advocacy work trying to protect our built heritage fabric in the broader area. In 2018, the FHF was one of four parties opposing the 16 storey Capitol tower at 223 Princess Street, and the decision to turn down the application is now being contested in the Divisional Court. The FHF is also opposing the 19 and 23 storey towers proposed by Homestead Holdings. Memberships have increased 60% over the last three years to 115 at present, so clearly this advocacy work is resonating with the community. We welcome new members at any time, and one can now join on-line at the following link:

S. Bailey, President

Jan 10 2019

Thanks to the meticulous record keeping of Diane Duttle, we have an excellent record of the newsletters that were produced over time.