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Once a hub of activity in 1840s, the military site is being unearthed at the Canadian National Exhibition

An 1880s postcard shows a British military parade at Stanley Barracks. Initially called New Fort, the barracks were built in the 1840s on what is now the Canadian National Exhibition grounds in Toronto. At the time, the fort was on the shores of Lake Ontario. The foundations of the white barracks buildings will be incorporated into the design for a new hotel.

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The stone officers’ quarters is the only building that remains today. It will be featured in the hotel landscaping. The rest of the buildings were torn down in the early 1950s.

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The officers quarters, seen here in the background, barely hints at what was once a complex of six large stone buildings, whose foundations were paved over for CNE parking.

Michelle Siu/The Globe and Mail

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Archeologist Kristen Hahne digs into the CNE parking lot in front of the Direct Energy Centre in mid-November. Her team is excavating the foundations of the enlisted men’s barracks.

Michelle Siu/The Globe and Mail

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Archeologists Nina Mittendorf, left, and Kristen Hahne work near a massive coal cellar that was dug in the centre of the building years after it was built. Modifications were made to chimneys so coal could be burned rather than wood.

Michelle Siu/The Globe and Mail

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Artifacts such as pipes, ceramics, buttons and even a piece of chalk for a pool cue were found in the excavations.

Michelle Siu/The Globe and Mail

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HK Hotels, a boutique hotel developer from New York, is working with NORR Architects to display the remnants of the fort – a rare opportunity to preserve history in a new development.

Michelle Siu/The Globe and Mail

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University of Western Ontario history professor Aldona Sendzikas, who has written a book about the history of the Stanley Barracks, said most visitors to the CNE have no idea what an important role the fort played in Toronto’s history.

Michelle Siu/The Globe and Mail

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The plan is to give visitors a sense of the scope and size of a large military installation that was an important part of the city’s life for more than a century, said architect David Northcote, of the Toronto office of NORR Architects. “It is an exciting project and it has been intriguing to work on it,” the project manager added.

Michelle Siu/The Globe and Mail

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