Kingston steals the show on set of Murdoch Mysteries

Canadian hit series features Limestone City in upcoming season

Murdoch Mysteries filming in Springer Market Square.
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This Monday, television show Murdoch Mysteries brought Kingston back in time to 1907 with period costumes, vintage cars, and horse-drawn carriages.

The Canadian detective series set up shop in Springer Market Square on Sept. 30 to film part of Season 13 in the first of a three-day shoot.

As a long-running Canadian detective show, Murdoch Mysteries is set at the turn of the 20th century. The show has also been Canada’s highest-rated scripted TV series for the past three years. This episode is centered around the Kingston Penitentiary, where the show headed for filming after wrapping up in the Square.

Fans of the show began to gather as early as 5:00 a.m. and some even came from Buffalo, New York to get a front-row seat at the filming.

Kingston has been growing in popularity as a film location for years. It has set the stage for projects such as Crimson Peak and Titans, where it stood in for US locations, and Alias Grace, a TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel based on a real Kingston Penitentiary prisoner.

Credit: Sebastien Molgat

Kingston’s limestone Victorian architecture, significant historical locations, and well-preserved streetscapes make it an attractive option for filming period pieces. The show’s locations manager Will Hoddinott scouted Kingston as a potential setting for the show about four years ago. His job poses the challenge of finding historical sites unmarred by modern aesthetics. He said coming to Kingston was worth the drive from Toronto, and hopes to come back.

Though the episode is set primarily at the Penitentiary, Hoddinott wanted to feature the Square because it’s an iconic symbol of the city. In 1907, Kingston was a bustling hub on the Canadian landscape, attracting immigrants from across the newly-formed country and internationally, due to its thriving industry and accessible location on the shore of Lake Ontario. Even then, City Hall set Kingston apart from other up-and-coming Ontario towns, serving as a reminder of the city’s long history and role as Canada’s first capital. 

Yannick Bisson, who stars as the series’ lead Detective William Murdoch said he wanted to represent Kingston in a positive light and bring attention to the rich history of the city.

The crew’s enthusiasm for the city was reflected in their engagement with locals and Kingston businesses.

With filming closing streets and drawing gawkers, local businesses were disrupted. Hoddinott offered a solution in the form of “Murdoch Dollars.” Tokens distributed to cast, crew, and extras that can be spent at participating businesses around the set. After filming has wrapped, Hoddinott collects the Murdoch Dollars and reimburses the businesses for the value they accumulated.

Credit: Sebastien Molgat

Film commissioner for the Kingston Film Office, Alex Jansen, described Kingston as film-friendly and noted how important the city’s cooperation has been. For filming to go forward the surroundings had to be altered, from removing garbage cans, covering up the skating rinks’ floodlights, closing streets, and switching out the Canadian flag for the Union Jack.

Executive producer and writer Peter Mitchell said that some of the extras were local actors. He also mentioned that Murdoch Mysteries was a pioneer in Canadian television for actively seeking out filming locations in less-represented cities in the country.  

Less than an hour after wrap, the Square was nearly back to normal, save for a few lingering fans and small props. The Canadian flag replaced the Union Jack, and Kingston returned to the 21st century.

Corrections

This story has been corrected to reflect the accurate length of the shoot and the season number.

The Journal regrets the error.

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