Government on Fire : The History and Archaeology of Upper Canada’s First Parliament Buildings

by Frank A. Dieterman and Ronald F. Williamson

The old British North American province of Upper Canada was the predecessor of today’s Canadian province of Ontario. Its original Parliament buildings, located just west of Parliament Street in what is now the City of Toronto, were burned by invading US forces during the War of 1812.

In the fall of the year 2000 a dedicated team of archaeologists, aided by meticulous historical research in the documentary record, uncovered some decisive evidence of surviving physical deposits from the buildings that were burned almost two centuries ago. The evidence includes fragmented early clay bricks above a loose laid limestone footing, and the charred remains of wooden floor joists and floor boards.

Historical and archaeological data taken together indicate that the 2000 excavation revealed a small portion of the south wing of the original Upper Canada Parliament buildings complex. Soil layers in the excavation walls suggest that more of the burned buildings remain intact under the current paved surface.

Government on Fire presents a lively account of the discovery of an important historical and archaeological site, for Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and beyond. It also suggests lessons for urban planners and heritage conservationists, who may imagine that little is left of the more distant past, within the complex and intertwined history of institutional and industrial development in the cores of our cities.

Frank A. Dieterman is a historical archaeologist. He holds a PhD from the University of Toronto, and currently works as a staff archaeologist with Archaeological Services Inc. As Chief Archaeologist of Archaeological Services Inc., Ronald F. Williamson directed the Parliament Buildings project. He has a doctorate in Anthropology from McGill University in Montreal.

136 pages, 140 x 215 mm, softcover, 70 b&w and 16 colour illustrations. ISBN:1-896973-26-4.

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