Something distinct about Kingston, Ont. is its fortresses and links to Canada’s military history. 

One of those important monuments can be found doting the shores of the St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario, the Martello Towers.

While they’re found all over the world, there are only nine left in Canada and Kingston has four, including the only one you can visit in Ontario. 

Many of the Martello Towers in the region can be found with a distinctive red roof. One is a museum, called Murney Tower Museum, and has opened its doors to a new exhibit after being closed for most of the pandemic. 

Museum Curator Simge Erdogan-O’Connor says that the towers were constructed in the 1840s by the British. 

"The whole reason for their construction was to defend the city against attacks that could come from the United States at any time," Erdogan-O'Connor says.

But it wasn’t just a tower, this was also a home to soldiers and their families, explains Erdogan-O’Connor.

While in operation for its 40 years, two or three families may live inside, but experts have found proof that up to 22 people lived inside at its peak, and all on the same floor.

"Their private areas were separated by blankets hung up in between the beds," she explains.

The towers are part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site that includes the Rideau Canal and Fort Henry. 

On a class tour, elementary school student Ruby Splinter says that she enjoyed seeing the history. 

"That soldiers used to live here and they’d fight with cannons," she says of her favourite part. 

Mom Erica Splinter says it’s her first time visiting.

"It’s just amazing for her to learn about where our country comes from and all the history we have to offer," she explains.

The museum is run by the Kingston Historical Society and runs on donations, it’s also the oldest operating museum in the city. The museum is open through the summer.