Moving Skeleton Park, 1893

Skeleton Park, McBurney Park, Kingston, Ontario

Queen’s University Archives, Kingston Picture Collection, V23-Cem-Fron-7

Now in its twelfth year, The Skeleton Park Arts Festival runs from 21 to 25 June. For all of you who make it there (and you really should!), know that you will be celebrating the solstice with some of Kingston’s past residents, but they will be about six feet below you. Skeleton Park is still classified as a cemetery, since workers who were hired to remove the remains of those buried there found that many of the bodies had not properly decomposed and could not be moved. The City had been petitioned by residents as early as the 1860s to move the three cemeteries (Catholic, Episcopal, and Garrison) to either fix the poor state of the grounds, marred by broken fences, vandals, and serving as grazing grounds for local livestock, or remove the remains to a more suitable location. Rev. J. Mackie, interviewed for the British Whig in August 1886 noted “in three divisions there are melancholy neglect, shocking untidiness, and on all hands signs of wanton mischief. Thorns and thistles, rank grass, and docks and nettles have full possession both of the hallowed and unhallowed divisions…. The place can be made not only decent but beautiful …” The art and music at the park this weekend sure do go a long way to realizing Rev. Mackie’s vision!

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