"Tales of pioneer hardship and deprivation have been told many times. Yet still we remember in wonder, that people accomplished so much with so little; that men and women with simple tools, their bare hands, and their own inventiveness cleared the land, drained the swamps, made their own clothing and provided their own food. Through all these difficulties God was with them and they wanted their children educated intellectually and spritually." from Norfolk Street United Church history

Friday, June 24, 2011

Ontario Heritage Trust to commemorate site of province's first parliament buildings and War of 1812

TORONTO, June 23, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - Today, the Honourable Michael Chan, Minister of Tourism and Culture, and Dr. Thomas H.B. Symons, Chairman of the Ontario Heritage Trust, announced a new interpretive centre commemorating the site of Ontario's first parliament buildings and the War of 1812.

"This commemorative centre will provide a unique opportunity for citizens and visitors to learn about and mark significant events from our collective past - a fitting and timely initiative as we prepare for next year's celebration of both the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, events that will highlight and reinforce the Crown's important role in our parliamentary democracy," said the Honourable David C. Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario.

"The opening of the new interpretative centre is an innovative approach in the commemoration of the province's first parliament site," said Minister Chan. "The bicentennial of the War of 1812 is a wonderful opportunity to highlight such significant sites and honour these chapters in our history."

The commemorative centre will open in February 2012 at 265 Front Street East in Toronto, on a property acquired by the province and transferred to the Ontario Heritage Trust in 2005. It and three adjoining properties comprise the site of Ontario's first purpose-built parliament buildings. Opened in 1797, the buildings were burned by invading American forces during the War of 1812. They were later rebuilt, but were destroyed by fire again in 1824.

"This new commemorative centre will not only shed light on the history of this site, it will also put that history in a provincial and national context," said the Honourable Glen Murray, Minister of Research and Innovation and MPP Toronto Centre. "It will be an excellent addition to the other attractions that bring visitors into this historic neighbourhood."

"Next year's bicentennial is an ideal time to draw attention to the importance of Ontario's first parliament buildings, which were destroyed in battle during the War of 1812," said Dr. Symons. "We are delighted that the new commemorative centre will showcase this history, exploring the evolution of our democracy and the significance of the war, both of which have played major roles in shaping the province and the country we know today."

The existing building on the property, a former car dealership, will be adapted to house the new commemorative centre. The front showroom area will accommodate interpretive exhibits and displays, as well as provide space for educational activities and special events. A request for commercial leasing proposals for the remainder of the building will be initiated in the near future, to assist with the operating costs of the centre.

"Many citizens of Old Town Toronto and local organizations have been eager to see this site commemorated and interpreted, particularly as the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 approaches," said Rollo Myers, who has been actively involved for many years with the protection of the site of Ontario's first parliament buildings. "I'm delighted that the Trust's centre will celebrate the bicentennial and showcase the critical early years of Upper Canada, as many of Ontario's most important institutions - social, political and religious - trace their beginnings to this site."

As the Trust begins to plan for the centre, it will develop opportunities to involve community groups, provincial and federal partners, War of 1812 regional groups and educators to ensure that the site's programming reflects its significance from a local, provincial, national and international perspective.

The Ontario Heritage Trust is an agency of the Government of Ontario, dedicated to identifying, preserving, protecting and promoting Ontario's heritage.

Quick facts:

...The first parliament site in Toronto is located on the block bordered by Front Street East on the north, Berkeley Street on the west, and Parliament Street on the east.

...Burned during the War of 1812, it is the only parliamentary site in Canada to have been attacked in an international war.

...Today, the site is historically significant as the birthplace of democratic government in Ontario.

Learn more:

Information about the history of Ontario's first parliament buildings is available on the Trust's website at www.heritagetrust.on.ca. Details about the interpretive centre will be posted as they become available.

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