Interview with War of 1812 Rifleman Private Harris on Fort York National Historic Site Revitalization & Visitor Centre Design Competition
1812, Design Competition, Fort York, Garrison Creek, Heritage, Interview, Museum, Revitalization, Waterfront
By HiMY SYeD
This weekend from noon til 6 p.m. at Toronto City Hall, Torontonians got their first chance to view proposals from four of the five finalists drawn from 31 submissions, in the Fort York National Historic Site Visitor Centre Design Competition.
Following the Design Competition Launch on Friday afternoon in Committee Room 1, we noticed a couple of time travelling Soldiers from the War of 1812.
We caught up with one of them and asked if he was up for an interview, he was. Here is a bit of our conversation:
T. What is your name and rank ?
Soldier from 1812 : Rifleman Harris, 1st Battalion King’s Regiment.
T. Rifleman Harris –
T. All right, Private Harris, how did you end up in His Majesty’s Service ?
Private Harris : How shall I put it, I am an expert at locks. Opening them if one has lost their key, that sort of thing. I opened one too many locks and found myself in front of the Table Magistrate. It was either Take the King’s Shilling or end up in Newgate Prison. I took the Shilling.
T. How did you time travel from 1812 to 2009 ?
Private Harris : My therapist sent me here.
T. Your Therapist ???
Private Harris : Dr. Tom. He’s our resident shrink at the Garrison. I was worried the war might end badly, bringing about the end of British North America. Those yanks are a tricky bunch, you can’t take you eyes off them for one minute !
Dr. Tom told me to fret not, the Fort and Toronto would indeed survive and thrive, I didn’t believe him. He sent me here to prove me wrong, he likes doing that.
T. Now that you’re here in 2009, is there anything you’d like to take back with you? To 1812 ?
Private Harris : Centralized plumbing! It is marvellous !
T. You don’t have running water ?
Private Harris : Afraid not. When we must go we simply relieve ourselves in the lake on the south side of the Garrison wall, but that’s where the Yanks would be aiming for so it is doubly dangerous business.
T. And when you’re thirsty ?
Private Harris : As for drinking water, we do have a well, but what’s drawn from it is usually black and it’s not my first preference. Numerous soldiers have apparently died from drinking water from the well or the creek. I finally had one stomach cramp too many, so out of sheer necessity I am now a Pint and Ale only man. Cheers !
T. I always wondered about the origins of that Beer Festival at the Fort… So you’ve walked in the secret tunnels from Fort York to and from the Wheat Sheaf Tavern ?
Private Harris : The What ?
T. The Wheat — Oh never mind, after your time.
Of the four proposed Visitor Centre Designs you’ve seen, do you have a preference ?
Private Harris : I do indeed. This one, Design “D”.
T. Why is that ?
Private Harris : It looks familiar, much like how it is in my time. I like standing guard in the walls and looking out. In Design “D” see here and here, there are no obstructions when one looks out to the Lake.
T. What about the Gardiner Expressway ? That overpass, doesn’t it block one’s view of the lake ?
Private Harris : I guess so, but no more than any of those new towers. Condominiums, I hear are all the rage. I got to get me one before I leave.
T. Before you go, there’s also a pedestrian bridge in the works, any thoughts on that ?
Private Harris : I keep hearing about all these horseless carriages blocking horse lanes when they park in the street.
T. You mean bike lanes.
Private Harris : Be that as it may, in my day, people left their horses anywhere they liked. Sometimes horses died from running out of horsepower. Right in the middle of the horse lanes. People would come and carve up the dead horse and take away the meat, nasty business. If that bridge helps people avoid all those horseless carriages and carnage on the roads, maybe it’s a good thing.
T. Maybe. We’ll just have to wait and see.
In the meantime here are more images of Design “D”.
We’ll also have to wait and see which of the four proposals wins the juried design competition.
You can learn more here: