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Fort York Visitor Centre 
100 Garrison Rd, Toronto
Developer: Fort York Foundation

Fort York Visitor Centre | ?m | 2s | Fort York Foundation | Patkau

Discussion in 'Buildings' started by AlvinofDiaspar, Feb 14, 2009.

  1. AlvinofDiaspar

    AlvinofDiaspar Moderator

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    From the Globe:

    MAKEOVER: IN TIME FOR THE BICENTENNIAL OF THE WAR OF 1812
    Fort York's latest battle - for funding
    Dust off the epaulettes and shoo away the beer festivals, the historic site is starting to get some friends in high places

    JEFF GRAY

    February 14, 2009

    Retreating British soldiers, relinquishing the capital of Upper Canada to invading Americans on April 27, 1813, had one last-ditch trick: They blew up their ammunition stores with the enemy just outside the walls of Fort York, creating what one witness called a "a great confused mass of smoke, timber, men, earth," killing or wounding more than 250 U.S. troops.

    Nowadays, it makes sense that Fort York's cannons are instead pointed at the cars roaring by on the towering concrete Gardiner Expressway, which looms overhead. Threats to the fort, the site where this city's future was sealed and an independent Canada was born, have long come not from Americans but from the indifference of Torontonians themselves.

    And it is not just the indignity of the hulking Gardiner and the nearby flashing billboards. Landfill and a concrete plant - soon to be a park - have long cut off the fort from the lake, as the railways cut it off from the city to the north. A condo boom has now added a wall of glass-and-steel towers to dwarf the fort's 19th-century battlements. School trips are down. A proposed light-rail line just west of the fort's walls has raised alarms.

    However, with plans forming to commemorate the bicentennial of the War of 1812 in June of 2012, the city and the site's supporters say it is time to make amends with the ghosts of Fort York - the city's only official national historic site - and treat it with the respect it deserves, starting with a $15-million visitors centre. But the battle to raise the cash from recession-weary governments and private donors is just beginning. "It has laid there forgotten," said Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone, co-chair of the city's War of 1812 bicentennial committee. Now champion of the fort's revival, he says Torontonians need to be reminded of the war's importance.

    He insists that early signs are good. The city has committed $5.7-million, and the federal government - the Conservatives promised to commemorate the War of 1812 in their election platform last year - cut a cheque last year for $617,000.

    The city's attitude toward the site appears to be changing. There is now a Fort York Boulevard, a new entrance and new neighbourhood springing up around the fort. A new art installation, meant to mimic the reflection that water would create on the underside of the Gardiner, is slated to recall the 19th-century shoreline that abutted the fort. Pedestrian bridges are planned to link the site to dog walkers, joggers and cyclists in the neighbourhoods to its north. City officials are even investigating whether Fort York could win UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

    And, Mr. Pantalone said, as of this summer, the fort will no longer be forced to rent out what is essentially a military graveyard to a summer beer festival that features beach volleyball and rock concerts.

    "If you care about your national historic site, you don't prostitute it," he said, even though the massive event represents about a third of the fort's 80,000 annual visitors.

    Greg Cosway, founder of the Beer Festival, took issue with the idea that he was pushed out, saying he and the city "mutually" agreed to change venues, with this year's festival moving to Exhibition Place. He insisted it wasn't inappropriate for a historic site: "If you got a bunch of young soldiers together back in the day and said, 'Hey, what about a beer event?', I am sure they all would have been keen."

    A citizens group, the Friends of Fort York, has started a foundation in an effort to raise as much as $5-million in private donations to help pay for the visitors centre and the site's makeover. More than $100,000 has come in, the group said.

    Fundraising consultant Nicholas Offord, who did a feasibility study for the Fort York Foundation, said the outlook is good, despite the economic downturn and the fact that Toronto donors have recently put up hundreds of millions for the renovated Royal Ontario Museum and Art Gallery of Ontario.

    "There is a community of people in the city of Toronto who think that the history of the city needs to be better celebrated ... and better promoted," Mr. Offord said, adding that close to half of the city has visited the fort at least once. "And I think this is right up their alley."

    He said the small scale of the project, at $15-million - although other plans to landscape and restore the fort run as high as $32-million - is modest. "That's a very manageable number," Mr. Offord said. "It's not like we're building a $200-million museum."

    Perhaps we should be, given that without the fort, there would certainly be no Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, no ROM, and no Canada, according to Carl Benn, the author of Historic Fort York, 1793-1993, and head of the history department at Ryerson University.

    Of course, the fort was not the only factor. But had the Americans not left York after occupying it for six days and then been repulsed the next summer by its rebuilt fortifications, they might have realized their aim and captured Upper Canada, turning it into a satellite of New York State.

    Toronto, instead of becoming a 21st-century cosmopolitan national financial capital of 2.5 million, would now look a lot more like a tiny dead-end rust-belt U.S. port, such as Rochester or tiny Oswego, N.Y. - population 20,000.

    "The leading war hawks in upstate New York were hoping to create a situation where Upper Canada would be a hinterland for their business interests," said Prof. Benn, the city's former chief curator, who worked at the fort as a historical interpreter in the early 1970s.

    In addition to the makeover for Fort York, the city is cooking up other events commemorating the War of 1812, possibly including performances linked to the Luminato arts festival in June of 2012. The city also plans to mark the bicentennial - being celebrated in other Ontario and U.S. communities too - with a "heritage trail" marking key points, such as the spot in what is now Parkdale where U.S. troops first landed.

    Sandra Shaul, in charge of the city's 1812 plans, said the trail should appeal to more than just military history buffs, perhaps with numbered sites and a Web-based guide that could be used for other themed walks, instead of standard-issue historic plaques: "There's more plaque on the walls here than on teeth in the dentist's office. What you want is something more flexible."

    Stephen Otto, who founded the Friends of Fort York in 1994 and has been fighting for the site ever since, said he is hopeful that the federal government will add to the $617,000 grant, since the national historic site has never received substantial funds from Ottawa.

    There is clearly money to be had: Witness the federal government's pledge to spend $20-million restoring the city's Brick Works site in 2007. With talk of economic stimulus on everyone's lips, it is also worth noting that the fort got its first major restoration in 1932, as a make-work project in the Great Depression.

    "It is the only national historic site in the largest city in the country," Mr. Otto said. "And you can't make more of them."

    ***

    National Historic Site

    Family Day provides an occasion for history buffs to get their geek on at the largest collection of original War of 1812 buildings in Canada. A self-guided audio tour reveals the fort from its earliest days as the harbour defence planned by John Graves Simcoe in 1793 through to the Battle of York in 1813, to its opening as a public museum in 1934 and beyond. Download the tour from http://www.city-surf.ca to your MP3 player before your trip to Fort York, or use the MP3 players available onsite.

    Location: 100 Garrison Rd. at the end of Garrison Road, off Fort York Boulevard or Fleet Street.

    Hours: Monday to Friday

    from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

    Saturday and Sunday

    from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

    Regular admission: adults $7.62, seniors and youths $3.81 children $2.86 (plus GST). Children five years and younger are free. (Free parking.)

    Email: fortyork@toronto.ca

    Call: 416-392-6907.

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/serv...4.FORTYORK14/TPStory/TPEntertainment/Ontario/

    AoD
     
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  2. junctionist

    junctionist Senior Member

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    That's a bit of a creative defence of the beer festival! It sounds like he would have preferred to keep it in the fort.

    It's good to hear investment coming for this neglected historical site. It may be modest, but it's that first step towards greater realization of our history. History can make a city a lot more interesting.
     
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  3. Tewder

    Tewder Senior Member

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    I agree this is an important site to be preserved and could possibly become a major tourist attraction if done right. Doesn't the fort represent one of the few military buildings from the War of 1812 still standing? I believe Fort George in NOTL was destroyed and what we see now is a restoration (except for the original 18th century gun magazine). Fort Erie may be original as it is largely built of stone.

    I'm also curious if there are ever any military recreations at Fort York. I've been to the one in Fort Erie and it was an excellent event. Again, if done right this could be a memorable event in 2012.
     
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  4. jks

    jks Continuous Lurker

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    Well, I went to Fort York yesterday for the first time, and IMO, it is better then Fort George and most other Forts. Firstly, you can just get in without having to pay a fare, well I paid, but at the souvenir shop. If they had admission at the front, maybe they wouldn't lose so much revenue. Other than that, it is one of the best forts because you can get into every single building. The tours are pretty often, and overall, I think it's a great experience. Of course, the Gardiner and rail corridir don't help, but the view of the skyline from there is amazing!
     
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  5. AKS

    AKS Senior Member

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    Isn't there admission charges? From the website it's $8 for adults. $4 for seniors and youths.
     
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  6. jks

    jks Continuous Lurker

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    There is, but to pay them, you have to go to the very back of the complex, where the souvenir shop is. There is no enforcement. IDK, maybe it was because it was family day or something, but when I paid, the lady didn't say anything. So my point was, they wouldn't have a funding problem, if they enforced admission.
     
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  7. Mustapha

    Mustapha Senior Member

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    In spite of repulsing the Americans, we don't celebrate our military history much. When I was in London in Oct 05, I accidently came across a military 'Tattoo' of sorts in Trafalgar Square, commenmorating the 200th aniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar. Soldiers rappelling down the walls of the National Portrait Gallery, a naval gun crew running around with pieces of a broken down field gun, shouted orders and blank machine guns being fired over the heads of the crowd. I just cannot imagine this happening in T.O.
     
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  8. wyliepoon

    wyliepoon Senior Member

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    From Spacing Toronto today...

    "Over the last few weeks I’ve been talking with folks organizing the bicentennial celebrations of the War of 1812. One of the possible events I’m most excited about is the re-enactment of the Battle of York when the Americans invaded our sleepy town. Re-enactors would come ashore around Marilyn Bell Park near Jameson and Lake Shore, and battle across the CNE grounds towards Fort York (hopefully the looting of the city will not happen this time around). If I had my way, we’d also re-enact burning down the White House as well as host a zobmie walk of dead Birtish and American soldiers too, but we’ll see if those things ever happens."
     
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  9. jks

    jks Continuous Lurker

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    I'd volunteer to burn down the White House.
     
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  10. Tewder

    Tewder Senior Member

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    LOL, good post Wyliepoon. This could be a fun event. They need to invite Americans to do the invading, and tall ships would be nice... fireworks in the evening... Anne Murray on the ramparts singing "The Mapleleaf Forever'... I jest, but it could be fun.

    For anyone interested I believe there are events happening in the Niagara region too.
     
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  11. Alexisto008

    Alexisto008 New Member

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    Fort York needs to become more visible. They should s consider redevelopment of the whole area.

    My idea would be to relocate and re-purpose the CNE's old Shell Tower, as gateway viewing tower Between Bathurst St. and the Fort. With direct access to it from Bathurst St. It would provide a beautiful view of the fort to the west, the city to the east and lake to the south. Build a walkway from it to the CNE along the north side of the fort. Relocate and build a Toronto Archive/ History Museum in the area just west of the fort. Here is a quick map.
     

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  12. junctionist

    junctionist Senior Member

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    They tore the tower down in 1986...
     
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  13. metroland

    metroland New Member

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    Wouldn't it be such a great idea if we had a huge party/concert commemorating the war? Sorry if someone had already mentioned it or it is already being planned.
     
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  14. wyliepoon

    wyliepoon Senior Member

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    Canadian Architect

    http://www.canadianarchitect.com/issues/ISArticle.asp?id=96251&issue=02182009&ref=rss

    Visitor Centre Design Competition/Fort York National Historic Site

    The City of Toronto invites design consultant teams, led by a registered Canadian architect, to submit Expressions of Interest (EOI) to participate in a two-stage national design competition for the design of a new Visitor Centre at Fort York National Historic Site.



    In 2012, Canadians will commemorate the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the subsequent 200 years of peace and prosperity. This milestone offers a timely opportunity to make a significant investment in Fort York, the birthplace of urban Toronto, the site of a turning point in the War of 1812, the city’s oldest establishment, an outstanding resource for learning and discovery, and a cornerstone in the City’s plans for urban revitalization.



    The + 25,000-square-foot Visitor Centre, estimated at approximately $15 million (not including landscape and exhibition components) and scheduled to open in June 2012 (the building construction to be completed by December 2011), will function as a “hub,†connecting the visitor to the entire 43-acre (18-ha) national historic site, connecting the site to the neighbouring communities, and contributing to a more coherent identity and improved visitor experience.


    The purpose of this call for EOI is to invite design consultant teams with a commitment to design excellence and a proven ability to design, develop and construct such buildings in a manner sympathetic to the surrounding cultural heritage landscape, to submit their qualifications. A Canadian architect should be the lead consultant of the team. International architects may participate on teams led by a Canadian architect. An Ontario architect with OAA registration is required to be part of the consultant team. Landscape architects, heritage professionals, interior designers, structural and/ or civil engineers, mechanical and electrical engineers, lighting designers, exhibition designers and graphic designers are also encouraged as participants on each team of consultants.



    Interested teams should submit an executive summary, followed by a folio of relevant design work (i.e., museum, cultural heritage landscapes, exhibition buildings, galleries, similar building types). This should not exceed 10 pages, double-sided, excluding appendices. Appendices should include curricula vitae of the team members.



    A selection of up to five (5) shortlisted teams will proceed to Stage II of the competition, which calls for a design concept for the Visitor Centre and the surrounding grounds. Stage II submissions should express outstanding design and program excellence in order to reflect the City’s aspirations that the story of Fort York be told in meaningful and compelling ways in order to emphasize its relevance to both local visitors and tourists today.


    Stage II submissions will be judged by a jury. The successful team will be retained to complete detailed designs and working drawings for the project. To obtain a copy of the Request for Expression of Interest (REOI) and more details, please refer to the City of Toronto’s call documents website at www.toronto.ca/calldocuments/ (Professional Services link) or https://wx.toronto.ca/inter/pmmd/calls.nsf/0/65B0BCCAF44F7C718525755F006EB357?OpenDocument.



    The submission deadline is 12:00 noon (local Toronto time) on March 11, 2009.
     
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  15. Tewder

    Tewder Senior Member

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    So encouraging! Toronto gets an historic site! ;)
     
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