The Past of McBurney Park
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Easy location to get to, very accessible and low difficulty level, but can be a busy area, so beware of muggles! Bring a writing utensil
McBurney park – aka Skeleton Park
This park started out as the Garrison Burying Ground in 1816, then later switched to a Common Burying Ground three years later. In 1825, an Order in the Council by the Lietenant Governor officially declared it the Upper Burial Grounds with divided sections for the three main religions in the area at the time (Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Presbyterian).
In 1864, this cemetery was discontinued in use, due to the overcrowding conditions in the small 4-acre area.
After it closed, the upkeep declined. Vandalization and overgrowth were large issues, and the local residents wanted to see something done to the neglected land. The city of Kingston was given ownership of the land by the three churches, and after suggestions from the neighbourhood, proposed to turn it into a park.
Only the Roman Catholic church instructed that all remains in their section be exhumed and re-buried in another cemetery. The Anglicans and Presbyterians only did this if the families asked for it. And with that, in 1893, the city of Kingston hired a contractor to carry out the exhumations, bury the tombstones that remained and plough the land and plant trees so that it was more park like.
The job was very challenging, as there were numerous more bodies to be exhumed than were recorded, and many we in a decaying state. The community had fears that an epidemic may spread, and after the American consul in Kingston threatened to quarantine the port of Kingston and halt trade, the city stopped the exhumations (after moving about 540 remains) and proceeded with the leveling and landscaping of the park.
Frontenac Park was finished and opened by the summer of 1893. But that is not the name that the locals call it. Aptly nicknamed Skeleton park, it became a main feature in the neighbourhood, with playgrounds and picnic benches for visitors to enjoy. In the 1960’s, the park was re-named its current name of McBurney Park.
With the turn of the 21st century, the city of Kingston created a landscape renewal plan. New benches, as well as the removal of old trees and replacement with new ones were a part of this plan. Between the years of 2003-2005, the Cataraqui Archaeological Research Foundation assisted the city with these upgrades, carefully as to not disturb any remains lying beneath the ground.
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Coordinates are in the WGS84 datum