Former Kingston mayor Harvey Rosen to be honoured with portrait

Harvey Rosen, Kingston’s 94th mayor, will be honoured in a special portrait unveiling ceremony at city hall Sept. 1. Supplied photo

Kingston’s 94th mayor will be honoured in a special ceremony at city hall early next month.

Harvey Rosen, who served as the city’s mayor from 2003 to 2010, will take his place among dozens of past Kingston mayors and other high-ranking municipal officials whose life-sized portraits adorn the walls of the historic municipal building.

Local artist Daniel Hughes, who was commissioned to paint Rosen’s likeness more than a decade after he left office, used a series of photographs to capture Rosen’s likeness.

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“I’m happy with the result. It was a real honour to paint Harvey and to be part of the historic collection at city hall,” says Hughes, who also teaches in the fine arts department at Queen’s University and has painted former Royal Military College principal John Cowan and former Queen’s University chancellor David Dodge for their respective institutions.

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Harvey Rosen on the night of his landslide election win as mayor of Kingston in 2003. He served as mayor until 2010. CKWS TV

Hughes says Rosen’s oil-on-canvas portrait, about 32 inches tall by 24 inches wide, was painted over three months last spring and features a head and shoulders image of Rosen wearing the chain of office.

“This is obviously a more contemporary painting than the earlier pieces that hang in city hall. Harvey has a big smile on his face,” he adds.

The small, largely private unveiling ceremony on Sept. 1 will be an emotional time for those who attend.

Rosen, 73, has been in failing health for the past two years and he’s not expected to be well enough to attend his portrait unveiling ceremony, according to his wife, Sharon.

They were married 15 years ago while Rosen was in office.

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The late-morning ceremony will take place in the second-floor hallway outside the council chamber.

The upcoming portrait ceremony was organized by Geoff Coons, the former mayor’s longtime executive assistant, who says even though Rosen’s health is declining he remains alert with limited mobility at his home north of the city.

“His health was been declining for a couple of years. He can’t talk anymore but can still communicate using a tablet,” says Coons, who has remained in steady contact with the Rosen family while in his current role as associate director at the Queen’s University Smith School of Business MBA program.

About two dozen close family members and friends, including current Mayor Bryan Paterson, will attend the ceremony that will cap a remarkable career in public office for Rosen, who served as a councillor in Kingston Township and then on the now-defunct board of control in the newly amalgamated city.

Former Kingston mayor Harvey Rosen is the focus of the latest portrait of mayors to hang in city hall, continuing a tradition that dates back to the mid-1800s. The portrait will be unveiled Sept. 1. CKWS TV

In the years following the amalgamation of the city and Kingston and Pittsburgh townships, Rosen was elected on a bold vision to move the city into the 21st century with an ambitious, and costly, plan to rejuvenate many of the city’s decaying infrastructure of roads and recreational and cultural assets.

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He was elected as Kingston’s top politician by defeating then-incumbent mayor Isabel Turner in a landslide victory in 2003 on a ‘go big or go home’ platform.

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Rosen championed a number of multi-million-dollar building projects, later dubbed the ‘Group of 7,’ and mustered enough support on council to push them through.

The high-profile projects dominated much of his first term in office, including building the downtown sports and entertainment centre and the multiplex ice pads, restoring the Grand Theatre, widening John Counter Boulevard, K&P Trail expansion, revitalizing Market Square into a year-round attraction and upgrading the Ravensview sewage treatment plant.

Former mayor Rosen championed the ‘Group of 7’ projects during his seven years in office, including construction of the Large Venue Entertainment Centre in downtown Kingston. CKWS TV

After not seeking re-election as mayor in 2010 and failed attempts to capture the federal and provincial Liberal nominations in Kingston and The Islands, Rosen retreated from public life.

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He and his wife ran Turtle Hill Cottages in Newboro, which they sold in 2020 while hoping to spend more time travelling.

Rosen’s portrait is expected to hang near the council chamber, where his vision of developing more modern city amenities dominated the political debate during his two terms in office.

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