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A number of magnificent Victorian buildings bear witness to the city's glorious past, as do several large military schools, most importantly the Royal Military College and the National Defense College. Furthermore, Kingston lies on the shores of Lake Ontario and has an extremely attractive downtown area, which is bustling with life when the weather is fine. In 1673, the Comte de Frontenac sent René-Robert Cavelier de La Salle up the St. Lawrence River to scout out the perfect location for a trading post. La Salle chose to erect a fort, Fort Frontenac, at the point where the river met Lake Ontario. The site was a strategic one, since it was located along the route taken by both explorers and coureurs des bois (trappers). From that point on, the French began to develop lucrative commercial ties with the natives. They remained in the region for nearly a century, until 1758, when the fort was captured by the English, putting an end to French colonization in the area. After the English conquest, the area was abandoned until 1783, when Loyalists arriving from the United States founded Kingston here. As a stopping point on the Great Lakes Route, the town enjoyed renewed prosperity, and Fort Henry was built to protect the area during the War of 1812. Kingston gradually became bigger and bigger, and was even the capital of Upper and Lower Canada for a few years (1841-1844). Due to its proximity to the U.S. border and the fear of an American invasion, however, it lost the title to Montréal, which only held it itself until 1849, when Ottawa was finally named capital.
Fort Henry (Rte. 2, 542-7388) was built between 1832 and 1837 on a promontory overlooking Lake Ontario, in order to protect Upper Canada in the event of an American invasion. This large military post was never attacked, however, and was abandoned after the 1870s, when an invasion no longer seemed likely. Later, in the 1930s, the building underwent renovations.
Kingston's era of prosperity during the 1840s and 1850s corresponds to the apogee of neoclassicism in Canada. It is therefore not surprising to find a significant collection of buildings in this style, the majority of which are of grey limestone extracted from local quarries. This is the case with Kingston's City Hall (216 Ontario St.). This vast building was constructed between 1842 and 1844 when the town was the seat of government for United Canada.
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