The original Fort Henry was built during the War of 1812, between Great Britain and the United States of America.  At the time Canada was a British Colony.  During the War of 1812, the British anticipated an attack on Point Henry due to its proximity to the Royal Navy Dockyards (now the site of Royal Military College) and to the mouth of the St. Lawrence River. The loss of this vital trading route would have cut off communication between Kingston and everything to the east of the city.


The original fort bears no resemblance to what you see today; between 1832 and 1837 a second fort was built on the site of the first and this is this fort that guards our city today. It was considered even more necessary to fortify this point after the War of 1812, due to the completion of the Rideau Canal (built from 1826-32), placing Point Henry at the intersection of three important waterways: the Rideau Canal, the St. Lawrence River, and Lake Ontario. Fort Henry is the largest fortification west of Quebec city. The fort cost 70,000 British pounds sterling to build, the equivalent of $42,000,000 in today's dollars.


The fort was abandoned by the British Army in 1870, and was garrisoned by Canadian troops until 1891. The fort subsequently fell into disrepair until 1936. It was then restored under the direction of Ronald L. Way as a living history museum. The fort was first opened as a museum on the 1st of August 1938.

When you first enter the fort you stand in the Advanced Battery, named for the grouping of guns at the point. The purpose of these guns was to protect the fort from an attack from the lake. It was, however, considered unlikely that an attack would come from the water. The guns situated in the Advanced Battery are on the highest point in the Kingston area (about 100 feet above the water) and could easily outrange any hostile Naval guns. Also, the Royal Navy's strong presence at the dockyard would likely discourage any Naval attack.

A more likely route of attack would come from the north, overland. As a result the Fort's defences are oriented towards this threat.

Should the enemy manage to penetrate the first line of defence, namely, the guns of the fort, they would be confronted by the dry ditch, 40 feet wide and 30 feet deep. Enemy soldiers in the dry ditch would find themselves confronted by rifle fire from the fort's 302 rifle loopholes.


The well on the west side of the ramp-way is the only part of the first Fort Henry still standing.


Fort Henry was not attacked by the Americans during the War of 1812 and there have been no armed conflicts between our nations since that time.  Today the fort serves as a piece of living history and a wonderful tourist attraction.

The fort is staffed by high school, college and university students who form The Fort Henry Guard and provide visitors with a very realistic picture of military life in the 19th century.


David, the mascot of the Fort Henry Guard.


Fort Henry is alive with special events throughout the summer season.  Special performances by the US Marine Corps and the Kingston Symphony Orchestra are regular features.  


Throughout the summer Wednesday and Saturday evenings resound with the sounds of drums, rifles and cannons as the Fort Henry Guard present their world famous Sunset Ceremony.  After the Union Jack is lowered to end the Sunset Ceremony a stirring fireworks show brings the evening to a colourful end.


In late September the fort is taken over by ghosts, ghouls, goblins and gargoyles and the historic site is transformed to Fort Fright.  It's a fun filled Halloween treat!

Dinner in the Officer's Mess

Click the red and white arrow to see a 3 minute video.


For complete details on activities at Fort Henry refer to their official web site here:

Try to include Fort Henry in your vacation plans.  Have dinner in the Officer's Mess before you enjoy the Sunset Ceremony!  It's a great night out.