This Week in History


Kingston Becomes Capital of New Province

For the week of Monday February 9, 1998

On February 10, 1841, Kingston was declared the capital of the newly created united Province of Canada. Since 1791, Britain's Canadian territory had been divided into Upper and Lower Canada. (Today we know these as Ontario and Quebec). However, rebellions in 1837 and 1838 proved to everyone that the 1791 constitutions had failed. In 1840 the British parliament reunited the two Canadas.

Old Building with Newer Additions

Old Building with Newer Additions
© Parks Canada / Historical Services Branch / James De Jonge

The choice of Kingston as the new province's capital was made by her first Governor General, Charles Poulett Thompson, Lord Sydenham. After selecting the capital, Sydenham's next task was to locate an appropriate parliament building. Kingston General Hospital had been completed in June 1835 but, because the town lacked money for furniture and medical supplies, it was still unopened. The hospital had served as barracks during the 1837-38 Rebellion, but had not been used since. Lord Sydenham decided that the hospital would serve as a very good parliament building so he leased it from the town. After minor changes to the interior, Parliament officially opened on June 15, 1841. Kingston did not remain the capital city for long. The last parliamentary meeting in Kingston was held at the hospital in November 1843, and in the spring of 1844 the capital was moved to Montreal.

Fenwick Operating Theatre

Fenwick Operating Theatre
© Courtesy of the Kingston General Hospital Archives

Kingston General Hospital is also an important place for its medical history. In 1845, ten years after it was built, the Kingston General opened as a charitable institution. Over the years, Kingston General, like other hospitals in Canada was transformed from a hospital that cared for the poor to a centre of scientific health care and research. Still functioning today with many of its oldest buildings intact, this hospital is an enduring reminder of the evolution in health care in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Three Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada plaques have been erected at the Kingston General Hospital to commemorate the "Meetings of Parliament, 1841-1843" of the united Province of Canada, and the contributions of its first two governors general - Lord Sydenham and Sir Charles Bagot. Another HSMBC plaque commemorates Kingston General Hospital as a national historic site for its associations with the evolution of public health care.

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