The Royal Tavern, Kingston, Ontario

My days of bar hopping are long past. The five and a half years of rural life which wrapped up a year ago did its best to kill the habit geographically as did the advent of kids. There are, however, things that are habits and things that are personality traits and I think that the architecture of bars will always interest me. One class could be called the hard little place, that is not a sports bar, not a pub, not a road house. It might be a neighbourhood bar if you didn’t like the neighbours. The old Victory Lounge, formerly in the Lord Nelson Hotel in Halifax, Nova Scotia, or The Green Dory in the Halifax Shopping Centre come to mind as examples as does The Hillsborough Hotel (aka “the hug and slug”) in Pembroke, Ontario. I may, with such an introduction, be slandering the Royal Tavern on Princess street on one particularly non-gentrified block but the place simply does not invite. I would be interested in being proven wrong.





I thought that the adjective “Royal” was not permitted except with government permission. Indeed, as no doubt you all shouted as one at the screen ust now, look up section 10(1)(a) of Ont. Reg 122/91 which makes implying a connection to the Crown a dodgy matter. Did the Queen Mum put in a good word? Maybe she stopped there once in 1937. Most likely the name is saved by section 12(1) and the grandfathering clause for pre 1991 uses. Glad we cleared that up. The phoney Dickensian touches on the exterior, like the Ye Oldie font illuminated “Tap Room” sign over the door, are intriguing but you can bet the inside will disappoint, that the only thing on tap might be Labatt Blue. Actually it kind of looks like a location for a meeting of toughs on Canada’s first coroner TV drama from the late 60’s, Wojeck. The mock ecclesiastical glass and angled door, detailed below, are interesting but somewhat weird touches. I will have to look again but it appears that to the left of the building there is a filled in carriage arch which would have led to a back stable. There are still a number of these arches around the town. There is one great one in Charlottetown, PEI in a wooden house on one of the streets behind the former The Harp and Thistle.





Later: The carriage way is confirmed and even advertised. Apparently the place is very old on the inside even having cobbled or stone floors.

The other day I went back to get the exterior of the rear and was glad to see that the old limestone and double dormers are still there. At City Hall, there is a framed 1875 business directory map of the downtown which shows the building as having the twin dormers and an enclosed walled space out back. From the view below of the inelegant car park you can see reminants of the old walls to both sides of the property with the capping of the wall to the left apparently still intact. Likely it was for horse barns and other out buildings, it is kind of nice to imagine a walled ale garden circa 1840. Come to think of it, though, it is three dormers I am looking at with the one to the right being over the carriageway. The carriageway now feeds into the lean-to like addition to the right of the picture.



Line Up For The Photo!!

....must grill...must...grill...

On Saturday afternoon, the four year old cousin had her birthday. Lots of family photos. Many Canadian men begging for grilled meats causing much shovelling of snow from around the gas BBQ at brother-in-law’s.

March is clearly the snakey, cabin-fever month after the glum of February. The maple syrup shacks are opening up in defiance of both Lent and winter, making the first agricultural crop of the year, boiling tree sap down something like 1/20th. Through the spring the sugars made by the tree shift from the first light runnings to dark.

As it roasts, baste a leg of lamb in dark maple syrup after poking it full of garlic and rosemary.

Martello Towers


Martello towers guard the mouth of the Rideau. There are actually three in the picture, the third hidden by the trees to the left. It stands out in the mist better here. Built in the 1840s to protect the then high-tech canal technology of the Rideau accessed between the nearest two towers, the theory was similar to Halifax Harbour’s defences – a killing zone of miles deterring any thought of attack. One gun in the red roofed tower to the left had a range of 7 miles. Greater detail and a harbour map can be found here.

Men at Serious Play

So we went over to St. Lawrence County, New York, on Saturday to catch a War of 1812 re-enactment of the Battle of Ogdensburg organized by a local group, Forsyth’s Rifles Inc.. We were not disappointed. I had never been to one of these things before – other than being a mock soldier at Citidel Hill in Halifax for one day (I got sun stroke in the shade) – and so in had some pre-conceptions that, on one hand, it would be like a radio nerd convention and, on the other, a bit gungho.

It was neither. About 60 guys, who could very well have been all high school history from either side of the river/border, played out the actual battle with some authenticity for over about an hour. They were quite happy to answer all questions and made sure everyone kep a safe distance. The grey-coated British advanced over the ice in formation, cannons roared from both sides and fifes were played. It was quite cold and a couple guys said they were considering taking Walmart and holding it instead.

I wrote earlier this month on the events and provided links in that post. A year later in the War of 1812, the USA invaded Eastern Ontario and got hammered at Chrysler’s Farm where a much smaller force protected Montreal against 8000 soldiers (including the real Forsyth’s unit) coming up the river from Sackett’s Harbor. There is a bigger re-enactment in summer of that battle which we will likely take in. The Ogdensburg guys head over for that.

Some short movies of the action – all around 2 Mbs so expect some delay

The fifes play as the battle nears
The US forces march out to meet the Brits
a US cannon fires
The US musketmen are ordered to fire at will – note small Brit snowshoe unit coming up to the left in trees

Please give me a heads up if any of the links in the multi-media post do not work.

Good Planning

Pub, Art, Hair, Curry, Texmex. I like this block – kitty corner to S&R – which incorporates a 1870’s firehall, some limestones a few decades older as well as a new brick build with a hair place that fits in the scheme. Next to it, tucked behind down the alley to the right is Curry Village, one of the great Indian restaurants in the downtown. Behind to the left you’ll see a Holiday Inn which was built on an old wharf like others in the downtown – rather than on land occupied by historic buildings. At the intersection, Cornerstone is a private art gallery with Inuit art among other things. The 1876 firehall half shown to the right of the picture is a Lonestar. To the left, the newish pub Merchant MacLiam built in the last year or two fills the oldest space in the scene, an 1840 warehouse with a very similar build to Halifax’s Lower Deck with more of a Middle Deck crowd. The pub, curry and texmex all meet in patios at the back with view of the river.


Built largely in 1820 as some kind of markethouse, the S&R Department is a landmark in Kingston, being something of a Margolians of Truro but at the same time selling a broader range of stuff than just clothes and shoes including some groceries, drugs and, up on the top floor, hardware, toys and linens. I don’t know what the “S” and the “R” stands for but in local accent it is pretty much pronounced “snar”. – and just to prove these are the end times, even they have a web site where we find the answer to my question:

The 175 year old limestone building that houses S&R was an integral part of the downtown long before the store came into being more than 40 years ago. It was designed by the same architect as Kingston’s City Hall (George Browne) and constructed in 1817. Among other things, it has been a merchandise mart (1860’s), piano factory (1890’s) and a barracks during W.W.II. S&R was opened in 1959 by Maurice Smith and Percy Robinson after extensive heritage renovations.

Five Hundred

Five hundred posts in around nine months. I received my congratulatory prizes from Portland the other day: a T-shirt from a deep sea fishing outfit from California and a wind-up radio that includes a warning not to wind up until the batteries have had 5 hours charge from a 12 volt adapter (not included). So in honour of the passage of time a side-by-side shot to the southwest from the dome.

Two images of the same view mid-19th century and early 21st


I noticed the older photo down a hallway at work, a view from the dome of City Hall which I have twinned with one of my own from a couple of weeks ago. According to the St. George’s Cathedral history, the older photo must be from between 1838 and 1862 as you can see the second larger dome built in the latter year is not present. So it is around 150 years older than my shot from the other day. The church’s predecessor, more on the actual market square the row of houses to the bottom of each photo face, is the location of the declaration of government in Ontario in 1792:

John Stuart, “Father of the Anglican Church in Upper Canada”, was the Rector. On July 8th, Lieutenant Governor John Simcoe, standing on the steps of St. George’s Church, took “the required oaths” of office and read the Royal Commissions, thus connecting St. George’s with the beginnings of provincial government in Ontario.

The actual date of the first European settlement in Kingston was 1673 by the French at Fort Frontenac. La Salle, the great explorer [after whom a car was named and referenced in the All in the Family theme sung by Archie and Edith Bunker] was the first seigneur and used the fort as a base for his explorations into the interior..which did not turn out all rosy. In 1758 Fort Frontenac was taken by the English. Ransacked and abandoned, it remained unoccupied for the next 25 years. [An interactive map of the entire St. Lawrence area starting with Fort Frontenac in the west from 1776 is here.] In 1783, Major Samuel Holland was sent to survey the condition of the fort, and in the same year temporary barrack facilities were constucted. Sammy is well known in PEI as its first surveyor (though it was only a part of his larger works) and the briefly celebrated namesake of Samuel Holland Institute of Technology (a joke since at least 1993 – scroll down page) which was soon renamed Holland Collage.

157 Years Of 25 Watts Of Power

The glass reads “Last Gas Lamp 1847 – 1947.” This is the lamp I referred to the other day. I passed it heading to Queens walking down King Street to do the seminar on section 7 Charter “liberty” and biometric surveillance. It is odd doing public talking when I am not being marked, looking for a client or trying to keep a client out of jail…

Notice that the light is on – that’s the yellow glow behind the 1947.

Painted Wall


It reads “GAS THE MODERN FUEL” and I noticed this near the foot of Queen Street by Ontario, seen from behind S&R. It is pretty faded but a really nice font. The municipality has run natural gas distribution since the 1800s. This is near the old gas works site. Here is some info on city gas works in Canada. There is still one last gas street lamp lit dating from 1847 on King Street East near William.