Portsmouth Village

Although I don’t really live in Portsmouth Village, I like to say I do.  Technically, I live in Alwington neighbourhood, which is right on the eastern edge of Portsmouth Village.  Close enough. 

*tangent* – recently (past three months or so) I’ve noticed that I’m becoming more ambivalent (than usual)  toward planning research.  As identified in a class last night, planning research is not linear often leads to yet another “$50,000 dollar study to explore the causality between walking and the number of movie rental stores in the neighborhood”.  Can research be  an excuse not to do anything?  That is where science, tech and engineering deep-sixes the pseudo-sciences…they seem to go places with their knowledge.  

The point is, while I should be diligently scribbling away on my Master’s report,  I finding wandering around Portsmouth Village far more fulfilling and useful.  Taking crappy photos, thinking about the space and then forcing my thoughts onto the internet feels like a better and more tangible use of time and energy than reading yet another article (complete with Chi2, R2 and other advanced numbers) about why walking, affordable housing and growing food etc.  is good for us.

IMG_1370So, this is Portsmouth Village (est. 1784).  It’s got everything one needs in a complete, mixed-use village.  Pub, pharmacy, secondary suites, sidewalks, places of worship,  sushi, sandwiches, hardware store, giant anchors, sailors, the 1976 Olympic summer games, ample green-space, some brown-space, museums, water, houses, mini-vans, trucks-on-blocks,  traffic, trees, shrubberies, convicts, boats, small dogs, trash,  home businesses, bikes, a general stores, movie rentals, a laundromat,  an insane asylum, modernist buildings, new urbanist stuff, old limestone homes, old wood homes, underground parking,  graffiti, government hacks, empty park benches, ducks and other small woodland creatures and most importantly, a Yonge Street.


Unlike Kingston’s other attempt at New Urbanism, the Portsmouth development actually seems to work…kind of.  At best, it jives well with the older architecture, at worst it adds another layer of diversity to an already patchwork of buildings and styles.


One of the nicest parts of Portsmouth Village is the waterfront trail which bypasses the old (and very creepy) psychiatric hospital and links into Lake Ontario Park.


If one is not down with limestone architecture, there are a couple of lakeshore condos.  Not much too look at, but they offer a killer location.

IMG_1380   …and so does Kingston Pen.


Had a bad day?  Or maybe you just want to ask your girlfriend to marry you.  There is plenty of old concrete wall space @ the abandoned crazy house for all of your public message needs.


This inukshuk is guarding against American invasion.


Lake Ontario Park shoreline.  There is a small graffittied cavern near the boulder on the horizon. 


Delicious and nutritious Lake Ontario water.


A message to God, enshrined on stone.


Back in the day the old psychiatric hospital obviously wasn’t big enough.


Did you take your meds today? 

IMG_1406 It’s even creepier at night.


Heavily modified limestone home, next to a post-war house, next too a duplex.  All kinds of homes here.


Presently, Tim Horton’s is the heart and soul of Portsmouth Village, providing nourishment to thousands of downtown commuters, local residents, St Lawrence College students and prison staff each week. Unfortunately, it is also the ugliest addition to the community and has brilliantly succeeded in destroying the historic value within the center of the Village. 


The main drag.  Must like traffic to live here.  

It’s just a good, interesting and nice place to live which embodies pretty simple and basic planning principles.  Building diversity, mix uses, functional green spaces, tight and multi-modal transport friendly, good connections to the greater community.   Nothing fancy here…no over-designed, over-planned, over-researched, over-budged approaches.   Sure it has it’s bad eggs, the Tim’s, the traffic down the centre, some inefficient land uses and strange parcel designs, some gentrification,  but it is fairly obvious that the community works.  I’m sure that most people would agree.  Keep it  simple.  Planning doesn’t need to be rocket science.  90% is just observation. Good spaces have been around for centuries…Portsmouth is testament to that.

7 Responses to Portsmouth Village

  1. Andrew says:

    My friend James and I always look to see what’s changed on that wall every time we take a walk down that way. Also, does that inukshuk supplement the cannons facing southward?

  2. niall says:

    I hope no fingers were injured in the construction of that inukshuk.

    some interesting observations on portsmouth village- tho, one aspect you missed were the students and turbulence they are causing within this typically sleepy neighbourhood. Very similar to our project course this year, residents of portsmouth must deal with the development pressures from housing st lawrence college students. just north of those historic limestone buildings along king street lay numerous student party houses- adding yet another dimension to the neighbourhood

  3. Bryan says:

    Yeah, there is some definite student ghettoization going on in the areas north of King Street.

    I was down there this morning getting breakfast…that Tim’s drive-thru…holy shit….spilling onto King Street…people yelling at one another in the small parking lot.

  4. Allison says:

    Is the building for the old insane asylum used for anything now or is it just abandoned?

  5. Bryan says:

    One of the adjacent buildings is still in use, but the main complex is abandoned.


    First frontal lobotamies in world were performed there.. allegedly.

  6. Allison says:

    Very fascinating!

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