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Home >> About Kingston >> Kingston's Location & History

Location & History

Map demonstrating the Kingston's location on the border of Canada and the United States.

The City of Kingston is situated at the entrance to the St. Lawrence River and Thousand Islands in eastern Ontario, Canada.

Kingston is a medium-sized city located at the entrance to the St. Lawrence River and Thousand Islands region of southeastern Ontario. The city is a short ferry boat ride from Wolfe Island, a mostly rural community directly across from Kingston and the largest of the Thousand Islands. Wolfe Island is linked to northern New York state (United States) by another ferry.

Founded in 1673 by the French explorer and nobleman Comte Louis de Buade de Frontenac, Kingston is often referred to as the "Limestone City" because of its many beautifully preserved homes, buildings and churches, many of which bear the Frontenac name. The first building erected in Kingston — Fort Frontenac — is still standing on the city's waterfront and used by the Canadian military.

Fort Henry, built during the War of 1812, is one of the city's many historic landmarks. In 2007, the United Nations declared Fort Henry, four Martello towers and the Rideau Canal as a world heritage site. Kingston forms the southern end of the canal, a scenic 202-kilometre waterway that connects the city with Canada's capital city of Ottawa.

Kingston is considered one of the best places to live in Canada. It has a temperate climate with four distinct seasons and a highly educated workforce. The city is rich in parks, arts and recreation facilities. Hundreds of international students come to Kingston every year to study at two of Canada's oldest universities, Queen's University and Royal Military College, and at St. Lawrence College. Kingston is also home to a large military base.

Originally settled by the French, modern-day Kingston still has a large and vibrant francophone population. Many Kingston residents are descended from the United Empire Loyalists who came to Canada after the American War of Independence in the late 1700s.

Kingston is noted for its quality of life and convenient location mid-way between two of Canada's largest cities, Toronto and Montreal. Kingston is two hours by car from the nation's capital of Ottawa. From 1841-44, Kingston itself served as Canada's capital city. Canada's first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, is buried in Kingston's historic Cataraqui Cemetery. Every year, the city hosts "First Capital" celebrations in honour of its role in Canada's history.

For More Information

Kingston Economic Development
Information about Kingston for visitors, residents and potential employers. Includes maps, visitor services, and a calendar of events.

City of Kingston
The city’s website has information for residents and visitors. Includes maps of city neighbourhoods, online payment options, news and links to many other community organizations. Some information on the site is also available in French (Services en français), thought most is in English only.

Stones: A Guide to the Social History of Kingston
An interactive guide to the social history of early Chinese and Black settlers, gays and lesbians, Jews and prisoners in federal penitentiaries.

Kingston’s History Online
A searchable database of materials chronicling the history of Kingston.

Kingston Historical Society
Information about significant events and dates in the history of Kingston.

Kingston and Area
General information about the characteristics and services offered in Kingston and surrounding communities. Includes links to the City of Kingston, Kingston Transit, Kingston Whig-Standard and many other community services.

Historic Walking Tours
Information on free walking tours in Kingston. Explore the city and different neighbourhoods, learn about local architects, follow in Sir. John A.’s footsteps, and investigate local Naval and War of 1812 historic sites. Includes downloadable maps and some audio tours.

McBurney Park Neighbourhood Association
The McBurney Park Neighbourhood Association represents residents in the King’s Town District of Kingston. Includes a history of the park, map, news posts, and business listings. The association can also be followed on Twitter.

Photo Library: Images of Kingston (City of Kingston)
A gallery of photographs depicting life in Kingston. Includes images of the city’s main street, farmers’ market, ice-skating, City Hall, Fort Henry hill, sailboats in the Kingston harbour, Wolfe Island ferry, Royal Military College and the historic Kingston skyline.

Canada’s Most Sustainable City
A 5½-minute video about Kingston’s community sustainability planning and Kingston’s efforts to become Canada’s most sustainable city. Includes footage of the city’s post-secondary institutions, downtown, energy efficient civic entertainment and recreational facilities, and the nearby Wolfe Island wind farm. Also included are links to the main Sustainable Kingston website.

Kingston Information Radio (City of Kingston)
Kingston Information Radio is a recurring 10-minute loop of information about road closures, traffic conditions, weather, changes to recycling and garage collections, holiday closures and event listings. Public meeting announcements and important police messages are also broadcast on this commercial-free radio service.

Kingston MarketView Webcam
Visitors to this site can see an up-to-the-minute view of Kingston’s historic market square in the heart of the downtown core.

Friends of Kingston Inner Harbour
A community organization focused on the enhancement, stewardship and preservation of Kingston’s Inner Harbour waterfront. Includes information about the association, it’s initiatives — such as creation of the Inner Harbour Heritage Trail, heritage preservation and historical tours — community events, how to become involved, a photo gallery, links, and contact information.

Barriefield Village Association — A Heritage Conservation District
Information on Barriefield Village – a unique heritage conservation district — including maps, a gallery, and a listing of various heritage homes and sites. News, links and contact information for the association — which aims to protect the original heritage of the district, are also provided.

The Great Waterway
Ontario tourism site detailing the highlights on offer in the areas along the Rideau Canal and the St. Lawrence Seaway from Quinte West to Cornwall, including Kingston. Features descriptions of all the different areas with suggestions on what to see and do, plus an events calendar and a video road trip. Also available on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Kingston — The Great Waterway
Ontario tourism site. Includes information about special events, places of interest and travel tips for the Kingston area and many areas nearby. Includes an online directory of places to stay in Kingston and various videos.

Snapshot Kingston
City of Kingston dynamic online tool that shows how Kingston has grown and changed over time. Explore nearly 150 years of Kingston’s history using maps and images.

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