Note: This article was first published in the January 22, 2014 column, written by Floyd Patterson.
Two kilometers east of Kingston City Hall is an 1814-1816 rural village, much of it looking as way-back-then, as you’d see in a Peachey painting. Any buildings more than two stories high, other than St. Mark’s Church, won’t be allowed in Barriefield. That’s the Law.
The Heritage Conservation District (HCD) known as Barriefield Village, Highway 15 and Highway 2 in Kingston East, is marking its 200th anniversary of first settlement in 1814. Surveying of lands in the area, and the allocating of ownership rights, had been underway from before the loyalist arrivals in 1784. Richard Cartwright, who had been granted 1,345 acres, chose to set up a planned community with some of his lands, which fronted on the Cataraqui River.
In William Patterson’s history of former Pittsburgh Township, Lilacs and Limestone, it is recorded “In 1814, Richard Cartwright divided the westerly part of his farm into two-acre town lots. Based on a plan of three streets running east-west and three north-south; it provided 13 lots of four fifths of an acre apiece, as well as two industrial lots on the water (one lot of two acres, the other of six; see Appendix One, Part Four). This subdivision became Barriefield.” It was named after Commodore Robert Barrie, Commissioner of the Royal Navy Dockyard, which existed on Point Frederick, where the Royal Military College now is. The first stone homes to be built on Barriefield Hill, and today helping to sustain Barriefield’s historic character, in its bicentennial year, include Barriefield House, built 1814-1816, by William Baker, a cabinet maker at the dockyard; Stephen Andrews house, 1814-1816, farmer; Mason Anderson house, 1820s, built by John Mason, a stone mason; “Willomere,” built 1818 by John Hendry, a shipwright, and sold to John Martin who ran it as Richmond Hotel, the village’s first hotel/tavern; John Marks House, built 1824 by John Grant, yeoman, restored 1977; Thomas Chittle house, 1820/30; John Medley house, 1814-20; Jacob Sharman House, 1820s, second storey added 1860s; James Medley house, tailor, 1856-57; many other early architectural examples, both frame and stone, built mainly during 1830s – 1880s.
In Lilacs and Limestone, p. 73, “from a few structures before 1820, it had become a village of twenty buildings in 1830, and of nearly fifty by 1850. The population was over 400 by 1845, and there were then three taverns, two stores, two blacksmiths and a shoemaker.”
The historic buildings conservation movement that took hold in the early 1970s, in the Kingston area, led to the Province of Ontario passing the Ontario Heritage Act 1974, to prevent the destruction of historic sites, and require municipalities to pass by-laws to fulfill this policy. The Council of Pittsburgh Township (now part of Kingston East ) appointed The Pittsburgh Township Historic Buildings Committee, as Robert Cardwell and Christine Sypnowich explained “…to ward off inappropriate development such as high-rise apartment buildings and wholesale demolition that might jeopardize the heritage integrity of Barriefield.” (Whig-Standard, June 19, 2010). On April 21, 1980, the Council passed the by-law, and amended its Official Plan to include The Barriefield Heritage Conservation District Plan. This became an Order of the Ontario Municipal Board, March 5, 1981. The designation as a Conservation Heritage District, requires the owner of a property within the district to obtain a permit from the municipality, to alter buildings or landscapes, and enables the municipality to expropriate lands or historic structures, to prevent them from being destroyed.
The council memberships who completed and passed the preservation by-laws included Reeve Edward Swayne, Reeve Hans Westenberg, and Councilors Vincent Maloney, Cameron English, Sydney Taylor, William Greenlees. Barry Gordon, Margaret Irwin and Herbert Stewart.
”Barriefield’s designation owes as much to its distinctive rural character, cultural heritage landscapes and the historic integrity of the village as a whole,” Cardwell and Sypnowich, recall. The handcrafted, simple, rugged designs, some with modest classical touches, often were the handiwork of men who had learned their skills of assembly building canals, ships, and fortress walls, and tourists visit the village to view these early buildings. It’s an architectural, 20-decade legacy whose doors you can enter, whose rooms you can occupy. “Barriefield is a unique example of a pre-Confederation rural village, its buildings dating back to 1814, with a splendid old church set in a commanding position, green spaces and historic homes.” The village has been carefully preserved and maintained thanks to the commitment, effort, and additional expense undertaken by ordinary people – doctors, pensioners, waiters, artisans, civil servants and teachers.
The selection of photographs below show Barriefield homes as they appear today. Local residents take pride in their community and keep the small limestone cottages as they would have been 200 years ago.
By Floyd Patterson
Floyd Patterson,is a member of the Kingston Whig-Standard’s Community Editorial Board and is one of the most well known modern-day Kingstonians; he has he has been an open-line radio host, TV producer, newspaper columnist and city councillor. He is also the president of the Frontenac Heritage Foundation. TI Life looks forward to more articles relating to Kingston and the Townships in the future.