Skip to main content

Issues in History: Kingston: A Cultural History

An image of Princess Street in Kingston from the early 1900s

The city of Kingston was the capital of Canada in the 1840s and home to Canada's first prime minister. It is known as the Limestone City because of its distinctive architecture. It's a garrison town, a college town, a place with more prisons than any other in the nation. All these aspects have been explored by historians, professional and amateur, public and academic. But not much has been written about Kingston's theatrical culture.

This course will examine the city's past through the lens of the theatre district that once existed on Princess Street. The new movie theatres and vaudeville houses that cropped up in the early 1900s to compete with the Grand Opera House were run not by "old stock" Canadians but by new immigrants: Jews, Greeks, and Irishmen. Theatre crowds got their snacks from candy stores and ice cream parlors, also run by new Canadians, including Syrians, Greeks, and Jews.

A cultural approach to Kingston's history opens up a new, more inclusive, perspective that allows us to see that it takes more than politicians, generals, and principals to make a city work--and play.

Students will be asked to design a walking tour of downtown for their final assignment, based on primary research.

Please note: This course is eligible to count toward the Canadian history requirements for both the History Major and Joint Honours degree plans as of Fall 2024. If you need this course to apply to your Canadian history requirements, please email once you have completed the course and we will update your academic record. 

Department of History, Queen's University

49 Bader Lane, Watson Hall 212
Kingston ON K7L 3N6




Queen's University is situated on traditional Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe territory.