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Saturday, November 26, 2022
FUTURE VISION: Part 3 Fears oflosing links to past if hospital site is redeveloped

Amanda Gamble 

Friends of Fort George

The Friends of Fort George organization has some deep concerns about potential redevelopment of the former Niagara-on-the-Lake Hospital.

The old hospital property at the corner of Picton and Wellington streets in Old Town is steeped in over 200 years of history that we hope will be considered and preserved as the town reviews expressions of interest.

The Niagara-on-the-Lake hospital site was originally part of the Commons – the military reserve that surrounds the Fort George national historic site and stretches toward Butler’s Barracks, also a national historic site.

The green space beside the hospital is still owned and maintained by Parks Canada and includes some of the best preserved trench lines and batteries from the American occupation of Fort George in 1813.

The trench lines were part of the American defences during their seven-month occupation of the town, which ended in the burning of Niagara in December 1813. 

The trench lines were made from regular sandy soil mixed with clay that was brought in from places like Navy Hall to strengthen these features. 

They stretched from the northwestern bastion of Fort George, through the hospital property, along Byron Street (where they are still visible) and down through the St. Mark’s Church cemetery (where a plaque was placed during the War of 1812 bicentennial to highlight the trenches) and toward Queen’s Royal Park. 

These trench lines are significant, not only for their role in the War of 1812, but also as the longest defensive lines of an invading force in Canada.

As with many other individuals and groups in the town, we are concerned with the proposed development of the site.

We hope that consideration is given to its proximity to heritage sites, such as the Shaw Festival Theatre and Fort George, to ensure any development fits with the aesthetic of the area, does not compromise the historical integrity of the site, and maintains the historic sight lines and view planes of Fort George.

Amanda Gamble is executive director of the Friends of Fort George.