With the exception of a couple of years in college (and not even that far away — I was in Belleville) and a few months living in Oshawa shortly after, I’ve lived in Kingston since I was born here in 1978. I love it here. I love the history, the natural environment, the people, the music scene… and some of the quirks!
There are three ‘ends’ in Kingston: the west end, which is the former Kingston Township (for those don’t still call it the township), the east end, which is the former Pittsburgh Township (for those that don’t still call it Pittsburgh or even ‘near the base’), and the north end, the southern border of which can start anywhere from Princess Street to Stephen Street to Railway Street. But in 40 years of living here, I have yet to hear anyone make reference to the ‘south end.’
There’s a Cricket Field, with two baseball diamonds taking up most of the real estate. I played soccer there when I was about six years old. I’ve seen ultimate and quidditch played there. But I’ve never seen cricket played in The Cricket Field. The Memorial Centre is where you go to watch that sport.
Many a townie will refer to the intersection of Bath Road, Concession Street, and Princess Street as ‘the traffic circle,’ even though it hasn’t been one for nigh on 45 years. I call it that, and I was born a few years after the roundabout was removed. It’s also often amazed me that the block of Princess Street between Division and Barrie is colloquially known as The Hub, due to some obviously successful branding by The Hub Group, which owns four bars and restaurants on that block: Stages, Ale House, The Grizzly Grill, and The Brass. I still sometimes find myself singing ‘At The Hub’ if At The Hop by Danny & The Juniors comes up on Spotify. Even the City of Kingston refers to this block as The Hub.
Another funny bit of townie vernacular is the Third Crossing, referring to the number of ways to get across the Cataraqui River without using a boat or ice skates. There are, in fact, three already: the Lasalle Causeway, Highway 401, and Kingston Mills Road (it’s a narrow swing bridge, but it counts!) .
Kingston has a lot of military heritage: Fort Frontenac, Fort Henry, CFB Kingston, The Royal Military College, four Martello Towers defending the harbour, and yet, with all of this, it seems that, when it comes to warfare, not much happened here. The Battle of Kingston was, at best, a minor skirmish during the War of 1812, which involved six ships over the course of three days, and three men were killed and few more injured. Fifty-four years prior, Colonel Bradstreet besieged the French-held Fort Frontenac. A bit of gunfire was exchanged before the French surrendered. It seems no more than two French soldiers died in the Battle of Fort Frontenac. There were some violent disagreements between the French and the Iroquois in the late 17th century (93 French soldiers died of scurvy in Fort Frontenac during an Iroquois siege), but for all the military buildings and institutions here, not much blood has been shed in warfare in the Kingston area. (To be fair, I am not a military historian by any means, so if I missed something, please let me know — nicely!).
Figuring out streets in Kingston must be challenging for newcomers. There are two Main Streets, neither of which are even remotely ‘main’ — in fact I don’t think there’s a store or office on either of them. There are also multiple streets named King (not just east and west), Victoria, Centre, Anne, Victoria, Wellington, Regent, James, George… you get the idea. There are technically two York Streets, although they’re close enough together that I’ve always thought it used to be one street until someone decided to build a block of houses in the middle. Things like that can happen.
There are plenty of quirky streets in Kingston, and other than Main Street(s) being anything but, here are my two favourites: there is no college on College Street. In fact, there aren’t any educational institutions for at least two blocks on any side of College Street. And there is the corner of Union and Division. I don’t know if this was planned, but it’s always struck me as beautifully ironic.