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Market Square Heritage Conservation District

City of Kingston, Ontario, K7L, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1985/03/26

Market Square; Rideau Heritage Initiative
Market Square Heritage Conservation District
Buildings within the district; Rideau Heritage Initiative
Market Square Heritage Conservation District
View of Market Square; Rideau Heritage Initiative
Market Square Heritage Conservation District

Other Name(s)


Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2007/05/25

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The City of Kingston's Market Square Heritage Conservation District forms a trapezoid in the heart of downtown Kingston. The District is bound on three sides by a diverse yet harmonious ensemble of commercial and institutional properties dating from the early 19th century, located on King, Clarence and Brock Streets. The centre of the District is the site of the historic marketplace, dating from 1801. Kingston's City Hall–a National Historic Site (built 1844, rebuilt 1865-66 and 1909) – occupies most of the eastern District boundary along Ontario Street.

The Market Square Heritage Conservation District was designated by the City of Kingston on March 26, 1985 via By-law 84-172, under Part V of the Ontario Heritage Act. Several properties within the District were previously recognized for their individual heritage value.

Heritage Value

The Market Square was designated by the City of Kingston as a Heritage Conservation District for its architectural, historical and contextual value. The built environment of the Market Square Heritage Conservation District shows the continuous process of evolution that has occurred throughout its history maintaining one of the most cohesive groups of historical properties in Kingston. This ensemble of exceptional individual properties, representing significant stylistic periods of architecture in Kingston, vividly demonstrates nearly two centuries of social, economic and political change and development in the City. The Market Square itself plays a vital role in establishing the context of Kingston's City Hall, one of the city's most architecturally and historically significant properties located prominently within the District and in Kingston.

The original marketplace was laid out by surveyor John Collins in 1801, thus establishing the area as the commercial heart of the city, and subsequently providing a natural location for the building that originally combined Kingston's City Hall and market house. Built in 1843-44, City Hall included a wing extending west to King Street to accommodate the market “shambles”. The market wing, destroyed by fire in 1865, was rebuilt to part of its original size. The last market tenants in the building moved out to be replaced by police and other city employees in the early 20th century and an open-air market continues to operate on the site of the original “shambles”.

The Market Square District is associated with many people and events of great significance to the history of both Kingston and Canada. Military history is central to Kingston's development, and the Market Square is associated with much of that history. The site was occupied by Col. John Bradstreet's British troops when they shelled the French during the battle of Fort Frontenac in 1758. The commencement of hostilities in the War of 1812 was announced here, and a military blockhouse was located here during that conflict. This area was also the assembly ground for troops going to fight in the Northwest Rebellion, and the First and Second World Wars. Many significant political events also took place in the District, such as the proclamation of Upper Canada as a separate jurisdiction by Governor John Graves Simcoe in 1792, the funeral procession of Sir John A. Macdonald in 1891 and the proclamation and celebration of Confederation on July 1, 1867. More recently, this was the site of the visit of Queen Elizabeth II in 1973.

The Market Square Heritage Conservation District contains significant archaeological resources and is a provincially registered archaeological site. The area directly behind City Hall was the site of a public archaeological excavation project. The Market Square remains an active part of Kingston's downtown core, and continues to foster much of the same market, civic, commercial and residential use that it has for more than two centuries.

Sources: City of Kingston Bylaw 84-172; The Market Square, Kingston: a Heritage Conservation District Study, by Lily Inglis and Harold Kalman, 1978.

Character-Defining Elements

Character defining elements of the Market Square Conservation District include:
- City Hall as a key focal point
- the open air market stalls
- the cohesive, consistent scale and massing of the commercial buildings
- the two, three and four-storey height of the commercial buildings - the regular fenestration patterns of the commercial buildings
- visual evidence of evolution of the architecture in the Square over time, through shifts in style and change in dominant building material - from stone, to brick, to concrete
- exceptional individual building styles including representations of 19th-century limestone Classicism, brick Italianate, late 19th-century brick commercial styles, the early 20th-century Neoclassical revival and mid-20th-century Brutalism
- contemporary works designed and constructed to protect in-situ archaeological resources
- design of the street-level commercial buildings to include upper floor office and residential spaces
- the key corner locations of several financial institutions housed in prominent buildings
- the spatial relationship of all buildings in the district to each other and to the open space in the Square




Recognition Authority

Local Governments (ON)

Recognition Statute

Ontario Heritage Act

Recognition Type

Heritage Conservation District (Part V)

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Governing Canada
Government and Institutions

Function - Category and Type


Historic or Interpretive Site


Civic Space

Architect / Designer




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

City of Kingston - Heritage Property Files

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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