Queenston, the head of navigation on the Niagara River, was a bustling, growing town in colonial days and it was here that William Lyon Mackenzie, a young Scotsman, set up his printing office and began his public career.
The office, restored by the Niagara Parks Commission, is now used as offices by Niagara township.
It is not known that Mackenzie did the actual printing in this building, but he used it as his office for distributing and printing his famous paper, "The Colonial Advocate." For a time the printing was done in Rochester, but it is probable that the press was later brought to Queenston.
Mackenzie's fight for responsible government and freedom of thought and speech played an important role in the development of Canadian government, even though his efforts ended in a futile rebellion.
In Colonial Style
The Mackenzie Building, now a beautiful colonial style structure of Queenston limestone was restored from the complete ruins into which it had fallen, by the Niagara parks commission in 1938.
It was restored in detail, from the three walls which were all that remained of the first printing office. Other changes were made, Queen Street now curves to the side instead of around it as formerly, but the old honey locust or acacia trees, believed to have been planted by William Lyon Mackenzie still sweeten the spring air with their perfume. Care was taken not to destroy them when the building was destroyed.
It was on June 18, 1938, 114 years and one month after the first "Colonial Advocate" came off the press, that the Hon William Lyon Mackenzie King, prime minister of Canada, received from T. B. McQuesten, then chairman of the parks commission, the golden key with which he opened the door of the restored house of his renowned grandfather.
The original stone marker, outside the house, is inscribed: "Home of William Lyon Mackenzie, the birthplace of responsible government."
The Mackenzie building now a popular tourist attraction, is owned by the parks commission and has for a number of years been used as the council chamber and offices of the Niagara township council.
The upper floor is a very comfortable apartment for the caretaker.
Perhaps it was his enthusiasm and his readiness to fight to keep the freedom of thought and speech, which made him so popular in York, now Toronto, which he moved his press in 1826. It was in June of that year that a band of men entered his plant in his absence, destroyed his presses and threw his type into the bay, because he dared to criticize the actions of some members of the Family Compact.
Mackenzie took civil action against the rioters and received compensation. He was expelled more than once from the assembly where he was leader of the opposition.
His plans for rebellion were not wise enough or broad enough to attract a large following, the rebellion pointed the way to reform. Lord Durham was sent from England and his report led the growth of self government.