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The Inner Harbour Then and Now: Episode Three of Stories of the Swamp Ward

As the Inner Harbour is the heart of the Swamp Ward, I’ve published quite a bit about it already: check out particularly the post about the day we painted the train tracks on the grass of Doug Fluhrer Park, or the one about the meaning of the word “Cataraqui,” and then there is the app walking tour Life and Labour in the Inner Harbour, available for free for Android from the google playstore via Kingston Walking Tours. I’m told people really enjoy doing that tour — it has maps and audio and is even available in French — a good way to spend part of an afternoon with a dog or a travel mug of tea!

There is much more to be told about this oldest and layered part of Kingston, but in this post, as a complement to the purely audio podcast form, I offer some photographs I’ve taken — going close and idiosyncratic rather than comprehensive.

Helmet in Bailey Broom Factory, by Laura Murray, 2014

At the time I wandered into the abandoned building with my camera, the city was about to tear down the Bailey Broom Factory. In fact, few knew that’s what the Cataraqui Street building was. Saved, it has now been bought by RAW Design of Toronto and is to be renovated for architectural offices. I like this photo because it makes me wonder — whose hard hat? left there in what mood and what situation? Also the texture of the floor and the rusty chain shows the grit of years of use.

Sucker’s List, NGB, detail, by Laura Murray, 2015


The “Sucker’s List” in the National Grocers Building, across the street from the Bailey Broom Factory, raises similar questions. On it, a number of men wrote their names and the dates they “graduated” — presumably from working there. The dates are in 1939 and 1940. Did they go to war? But the motto at the bottom suggests that despite the title they gave their chunk of wall hidden behind a door, they weren’t entirely suckers.

damaged blueprint, A. Davis & Sons fonds, Queen’s University Archives, by Laura Murray, 2015

When John Duerkop opened a filing cabinet at his in-laws’ family cottage in 2012, he found a treasure trove of papers from the Davis family’s tannery business that he later arranged to donate to the Queen’s Archives. Some damage had been done, however. This blueprint, somewhat the worse for wear, looks to me like an aerial photograph of an unknown and unpopulated land.

Evelyn Mitchell and her burler, by Laura Murray, 2015

You have heard the remarkable voice of Evelyn Mitchell, who upon her arrival from Yorkshire in 1951 went to work at the Woolen Mill. She’s the one who went to work happy on the rare occasions that her sister made her lunch. She has a striking visual and spatial memory in the way she describes work she did picking tomatoes during the war in England, and picking off “sloughs” from fabric in Kingston. Here are her hands, and the “burlers” she used at the mill.

Lake Ontario Ice Sign, Cataraqui Street, by Laura Murray, 2014

Two more. Bob Fray of Kingston Sign Service painted this large sign, probably in the 1950s. At the time I took the photo, I was trying to persuade the owners, on the verge of closing, to sell me the sign or give it to me. Instead, they trashed it. I found it crumpled at the back of the property. But I do have the photo!

Queen’s Navigation Certificate, collection of Marc Shaw, by Laura Murray, 2015

And finally, to take us a bit further into the past before closing, let’s travel to the time when Kingston was a node in a vital marine industry transporting goods up and down the Great Lakes, from Thunder Bay to the Atlantic. Marc Shaw remembers his uncle-in-law John Beatty Munroe: “He lived on Alma, #42, almost at the corner… the certificate was always on the wall. He was a captain for the Britamat, Britimaloob, ships that sailed for the British American Oil Company to the head of the lakes, and he did that for 40 years.”

Once again, here’s the link to the audio experience on the Inner Harbour — in less than half an hour it takes you from the drama of a burning swamp and a destroyed tinker-toy ferris wheel right through to meditations about the future of Belle Park.

— Laura Murray