Why I Live Here: KINGSTON

Martha Hill Duncan had her first piano lesson at age eight. Now, almost 50 years later, she’s an award-winning composer, piano teacher, director of a women’s choir and founding member of Red Leaf Pianoworks, a nationwide composers’ collective. Originally from Texas, Hill Duncan now tickles the ivories in Kingston, a vibrant and arts-loving community teeming with singers, musical ensembles and its own full-time symphony orchestra.

Home is where the harmony is

“We’ve been in Kingston since 1988. My husband is an astrophysicist at Queen’s University. We bought our house because it has a big area for my grand piano along with cathedral ceilings and big windows. My choir practises here sometimes, and I have recitals. The house revolves around the piano room! Everyone else just kind of makes their way around it. But the best thing about my house is the garden. We spend a lot of time outside and, in the summer, we just kind of go crazy with flowers.”

Strike the right chord

“When I first came to Kingston we couldn’t get a doctor, but now things seem much better. We have excellent care, excellent physicians. I think Queen’s University and the Royal Military College of Canada attract people worldwide. Everywhere we look, there’s more seniors’ housing going up. And it’s getting more and more luxurious. There’s lots of great shopping. I love walking. And that’s what saved me, when I came from Texas in the winter. I wasn’t a skier or a skater. I’d try to embrace it, just bundle up and not be housebound.”

Lessons learned

“Even though Kingston is small, it’s a university town so you have lots of arts. There are tons of composers here for the size of the city. When you’re in a small town, you have this ability to get around in a short time, so you can take advantage of voice, music and dance lessons, whereas in a bigger city it’s harder to get. My colleagues are all really supportive of one another. I heard that, in Toronto, teachers are more competitive.”

This town is definitely her “forte” “Kingston is beautiful. We’re surrounded by water. Last summer, we loved taking the ferry to Wolfe Island. My husband and I love eating and cooking, so we’re always trying out new restaurants. Windmills, right in the heart of downtown, feels like a local Kingston hangout, with really good food – and friendly.”
—Lisa Bendall


Kim Donaldson is a sales rep and accredited senior agent with Sutton Group Masters Realty Inc.

“What’s particularly beautiful about Kingston is that it’s on Lake Ontario and borders the Thousand Islands. The downtown is really quite spectacular. It’s culturally diverse, and we have plenty of parks and walking trails. Kingston is sandwiched between Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto, so if somebody’s looking to retire to Kingston, they’re typically close to their families.”


Average home price $273,902

 Population 123,363

 Health care Three teaching hospitals (Kingston General Hospital, Hotel Dieu Hospital and Providence Care) providing general and specialty care

 Distance to Ganonoque: 30 km; U.S. border: 43 km; Napanee: 45 km; Ottawa: 195 km

 Need to know Ranked by MoneySense magazine as the third-best place to live in Canada. Choose from more than 100 downtown restaurants and major acts at the K-Rock Centre and the Grand Theatre. Close to affordable cottage country. Stable employers include post-secondary institutions, hospitals and the federal government.

— Kingston FebFest winter festival

— Kingston Buskers Rendezvous

— CORK international sailing regatta

— Limestone City Blues Festival

— Kingston WritersFest