• Edward A. Smith, A plan of the town, and adjacent fortifications, of, Kingston, 1816, Library and Archives Canada

    Edward A. Smith, A plan of the town, and adjacent fortifications, of, Kingston, 1816, Library and Archives Canada, Sir John Coape Sherbrooke fonds, e011081077. (Map courtesy Library and Archives Canada)

"It contains some good houses, and stores … and all the appendages of an extensive military, and naval establishment, with as much society as can reasonably be expected, in a town so lately created from the 'howling desert.' "

One wonders what Lt. Francis Hall would make of Kingston, Ont., today, 200 years after he penned this blunt assessment of the settlement for his travelogue Travels in Canada, and the United States, in 1816 and 1817.

As a British Army officer, Hall would have been keenly aware of Kingston’s military and strategic importance during and after the War of 1812, a fact acknowledged in the title of his otherwise bucolic painting Kingston Dockyards and Citadel from the Town, shown below. Indeed, Hall might have had much to discuss with fellow soldier Lt. E.A. Smith, who created the map above in the same month Hall visited Kingston, which in less than a decade would be twice as large as York, as Toronto was then known.

With files from Isabelle Charron, early cartographic archivist, Library and Archives Canada

Francis Hall, Kingston Dockyards and Citadel from the Town, 1816 or 1817, Library and Archives Canada, c003236k

Francis Hall, Kingston Dockyards and Citadel from the Town, 1816 or 1817, Library and Archives Canada, c003236k (Courtesy Library and Archives Canada)