Kingston is located at the eastern end of Lake Ontario, near the United States border. The population of the city proper in 2006 was 117,207 or 152,358 for the larger metropolitan area. Its nickname is the “Limestone City” because of the stone construction of many of its historic buildings. Kingston was the first capital of what was then the United Province of Canada, from 1841 to 1844. It was also home to Canada's first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald.
Samuel de Champlain first explored the region for France in 1615. In 1673, the French established a military fort and trading post on the Mississaugas’ First Nation site known as Katerowki. The fort was captured by the British in 1758. They created a new settlement, calling it Kings Town, in honour of George III. Kingston’s strategic location made it a natural defense post against the Americans.
Kingston was an early important shipping port, but its shallow waters and the competition of the railroad eroded this position. During the second half of the 19th century, the city had a small textile industry as well as shipbuilding and locomotive works. During the Second World War, industrial activity picked up for a time with companies like Alcan, DuPont and Northern Telecom building plants in town. These companies all declined, however, in the decades after the war.
The economic base of Kingston has long been in the city’s institutions, many of which were established in the 19th century. They include the Kingston Penitentiary, the General Hospital, the Hôtel Dieu Hospital, Queen’s University and The Royal Military College. Tourism in Kingston is also an important source of revenue, thanks to the city’s heritage, history and waterfront amenities. The city is currently attempting to attract new technology firms by marketing itself as a “smart city,” a fitting role given its strong tradition in academia and research.
The ethnic composition of Kingston’s citizens has been rather homogeneous since the city’s beginnings; its early settlers mainly came from the British Isles. The Jewish population grew in the mid-to-late-19th century, and a few Chinese moved to Kingston in the early 20th century. Multiculturalism increased in the 1960s and 1970s and this diversity continues with recent immigrants from Eastern Europe, the Middle East and South Africa.
In terms of arts and culture, Kingston is proud of its symphony orchestra and well-supported visual arts community. Finally, excellent sailing can be found throughout the area; sailing events were held there for the 1976 Summer Olympics out of Montreal, and the Kingston Yacht Club hosts the annual Canadian Olympic Regatta Kingston.