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We are pleased to welcome you to the website of the Swamp Ward and Inner Harbour History Project. The acronym for that is SWIHHP, and to give you a hint how we pronounce it, this first post will focus on the Bailey Broom Factory.

Exactly one year ago today, on June 30 2014, Kingston City Council voted to save the Bailey Broom Factory building, after a brief and intense community campaign. The city had acquired the land for other purposes, and initially planned to tear down the quaint little brick building at the corner of Cataraqui and Rideau Streets. Few people knew its history at the time. But Michael and John Sinclair who own a business across the street got wind of the demolition, and from their alertness and concern grew a huge outcry, with hundreds of letters generated in a very brief span of time. The building was saved: it’s for sale now, and we can all keep our fingers crossed it is bought and brought back to life in a good way. But also, this near-loss showed that the city has been quite cavalier in identifying buildings that may be of heritage interest. It undertook last summer to integrate and update its inventory, as a beginning to a fuller process of listing and designating buildings of significance, even or especially if they are twentieth-century, industrial, or not widely noticed. And the Bailey Broom Factory rediscovery showed the value of engaging with people’s personal and family archives: only because Ida Hudson, a niece of Sam Bailey, provided them, do we have photos of this Kingston entrepreneur and community leader. (It is appropriate that he was known as an avid curler as well.)

Sam Bailey, courtesy of Ida Hudson
Sam Bailey, courtesy of Ida Hudson

The Swamp Ward and Inner Harbour History Project emerges out of Laura Murray’s curiosity about the part of Kingston where she has lived for twenty years. SWIHHP will focus more on people than on buildings, but a sense of place and built environment is central to its philosophy. The Swamp Ward and Inner Harbour are the oldest parts of Kingston. They were also, up until the 1970s, the heart of Kingston’s industrial economy. While the Sydenham Ward is the area people usually think of when they think of Kingston’s history, the Swamp Ward (as it was called, sometimes with a sneer but often with pride, and as it is called again) has just as rich a history. And a lot of that history is still in reach within the memories and photo albums of Kingston residents. That is what we hope to bring to light and cherish with this project.

This summer, Laura (Professor of English and Cultural Studies at Queen’s), along with student assistants Bronwyn Jaques and Lauren Luchenski, is conducting archival research and beginning an oral history project. If you or anyone you know would like to tell us any stories or ask us any questions, please do contact us. We will be only too happy to listen. As our research proceeds, we plan to offer walking tours, school visits, and perhaps some community-based artistic explorations of the rich materials these neighbourhoods have to offer. Read the blog and you’ll be the first to know what’s happening!

— Laura Murray

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