On Common Ground


This tract of land in Niagara-on-the-Lake has witnessed an amazing cavalcade of Canadian history.

For 250 years a large tract of oak savannah at the mouth of the Niagara River designated as a Military Reserve has witnessed a rich military and political history: the site of the first parliament of Upper Canada; a battleground during the War of 1812; and annual summer militia camps and the training camp for tens of thousands of men and women during the First and Second World Wars. In the midst of the Reserve stood the symbolic Indian Council House where thousands of Native allies received their annual presents and participated in treaty negotiations.

From its inception, this territory was regarded by the local citizenry as common lands, their "Commons." Although portions of the perimeter have been severed for various purposes, including the Shaw Festival Theatre, today this historic place includes three National Historic Sites, playing fields, walking trails, and remnants of first-growth forest in Paradise Grove.

On Common Ground chronicles the extraordinary lives and events that have made this place very special indeed.


At 320 pages, this attractively produced book is full of photographs and detailed maps and must surely be the definitive history of this unique piece of Niagara-on-the-Lake….Residents and aficionados of Niagara on the Lake, and anyone who spends time in this unique place, will find this detailed history invaluable. But even those less familiar with the space may find this worth a gander for an interesting view of Canadian history from one particular corner.

Niagara Life magazine

About the Author

Richard D. Merritt

Posted by Kendra on December 6, 2014
Richard D. Merritt photo

Richard D. Merritt

Richard D. Merritt was co-editor and contributing author of The Capital Years: Niagara-on-the-Lake 1792-1796. Although an ophthalmologist by profession, he has had a lifelong interest in Niagara's history. In 2009 he was named Niagara-on-the-Lake's Citizen of the Year for his contributions to heritage preservation.