67 Colborne Street

Queen's became a university in more than name on this north-end Kingston street in 1842. On March 7 of that year, the University's first classes were held in a rented small frame house at 67 Colborne Street, Queen's first home.

Through its doors that day, Queen’s first 15 or so students (the number is imprecise, but all male and including Thomas Wardrope) arrived for their studies under the guidance of two professors, one of whom was the college’s first principal. The two professors were Principal Thomas Liddell and Rev. Peter Colin Campbell. They offered two degree programs: theological instruction for would-be Presbyterian ministers and general arts education.

Four months earlier, Rev. Liddell, selected by the Colonial Committee of the Church of Scotland, had arrived in Kingston. In his luggage, Rev. Liddell brought the new Queen’s charter across the Atlantic. His teaching focused on theological training: church history, Hebrew, logic and liturgy. Peter Colin Campbell, another Presbyterian minister, taught students Latin, Greek, French and mathematics.

The professors immediately held exams for the students, seven of whom were studying for the Presbyterian ministry, on the first three books of Virgil's Aeneid and the first three of Caesar's Commentaries. Ten students passed and were admitted "as members of the University"; the other three were invited to stay and make what progress they could with the help of tutors.

By the fall, the two professors found themselves overwhelmed, as each was teaching seven hours a day. To share the teaching burden, the college hired another Presbyterian Minister, James Williamson, who took to teaching natural philosophy and mathematics.

Queen’s tiny student body set about creating a campus community. They formed the Dialectic Society of Queen’s College to debate their mutual scholarship. These evening meetings provided the kernel of student self-government at Queen’s, which would solidify in 1858 with the birth of the Alma Mater Society.

Queen's stayed in the rented house for only six months, after which it moved to a stone house on Princess Street. The original Colborne Street house still stands. It is now a family residence.

[house on Colborne]
67 Colborne Street
[photo of 67 Colborne Street]