Fort Rouillé Monument – The French Trading Post Once on Exhibition Grounds

1925 – Fort Rouillé Monument with Scadding Cabin in the background at Exhibition grounds. Fort Rouillé was a French trading post located on this site from 1750/51 until 1759, when its garrison destroyed it
1925 – Fort Rouillé Monument with Scadding Cabin in the background at Exhibition grounds. Fort Rouillé was a French trading post located on this site from 1750/51 until 1759, when its garrison destroyed it (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 3779)

Fort Rouillé Monument is located on the south side of Exhibition Place, just east of the Scadding Cabin in Toronto.

About Fort Rouillé

Fort Rouillé (sounds like roo·eel) was a French trading post and stockade located on the site from 1750/51 until 1759. This particular spot was chosen for a couple of reasons, the first being it was considered a protected area (a French commander said “vessels cannot approach within cannon shot”). The second was because of its proximity to the Humber River, a key transportation route used by Indigenous peoples. In 1750/51, Fort Rouillé was built so the French could strengthen their control of the Great Lakes area by intercepting and trading the valuable furs the Indigenous people collected before they travelled to the British fur-trading post at Oswego (on the southeast shores of Lake Ontario).

Fort Rouillé was named after Antoine Louis Rouillé, Minister of Marine. The fort was garrisoned with five soldiers, one officer, two sergeants and a storekeeper. Fort Rouillé, more commonly known as Fort Toronto, had four bastions connected by a wooden palisade. Inside the walls were six buildings, including barracks, officers’ quarters, a store, a storeroom, a guardroom and a blacksmith. Outside its walls on the north side were four outbuildings, plus the fort was equipped with five canoes. While it was considered a well-built fort, it was only used for trade.

As the conflict between the French and British escalated, an order came from France in 1758 that if the British should make an appearance at Fort Rouillé, to burn it down. In the summer of 1759, watchers at the French fort in Niagara saw a column of smoke in the direction of Toronto, indicating the order had been obeyed. All that was left of the trading post was a charred mass of timber, a low chimney stack made of brick and shattered flagstone floors.

1927 – The Fort Rouillé commemorative boulder was placed at the site in 1878. The inscription reads, "This cairn marks the exact site of Fort Rouillé, commonly known as Fort Toronto, an Indian trading post and stockade. Established A. D. 1749 by order of the Government of Louis XV in accordance with the recommendation of the Count de la Galissonnière, Administrator of New France 1747-1749."
1927 – The Fort Rouillé commemorative boulder was placed at the site in 1878 (Toronto Public Library TSPA_0112635F)

Fort Rouillé Monument

In 1878, the position of the chimney stack, depressions in the land and the line of pickets that had surrounded Fort Rouillé were still visible; however, that same year, to make way for the Industrial Exhibition (which officially began in 1879 and known today as the CNE), the ground was levelled. This destroyed the remains of the old French fort.

Dr Henry Scadding, one of Toronto’s first historians and the president of the York Pioneers, realized the historical significance of Fort Rouillé, especially to the beginnings of Toronto. One of Dr Scadding’s books is about Fort Rouillé and is titled “Toronto’s First Germ.” York Pioneers built a cairn to commemorate its existence, and in 1878, the city placed a boulder inscribed with details of Fort Rouillé on the site. The large commemorative stone, which today is on the monument’s east side, was left natural looking and dredged from the channel that leads into Toronto harbour.

Plans were then made to build a monument to the old French Fort. In 1884, at a ceremony with many dignitaries present, the column’s foundation stone marking the site of Fort Rouillé was placed. During the next two years, the lower portions of the pedestal were constructed. Funding for the monument came from grants and donations.

In August 1887, the Fort Rouillé Monument was installed. The following month, it was unveiled in a special ceremony by the Governor-General.

Fort Rouillé Monument Stats

  • It was designed by architects Langley & Burke.
  • The column is made from Credit Valley brownstone and weighed 8 tons when it was rough and 7 tons after being “dressed.”
  • The monument was made in Lionel Yorke’s Stoneyard, which was once located on a wharf on the south side of the Esplanade, at the foot of Jarvis St. At the time, it was the stoneyard’s largest job. It was hauled to Exhibition grounds on August 29, 1887.
  • Fort Rouillé Monument cost $2,500 to build.
  • The total height of the monument is 9 m or 30 ft tall, and the base is 2.9 m or 9 ft 6 inches square.
  • The column has eight divisions and tapers slightly from 1.5 m or 5 ft in diameter and gradually decreases to 0.7 m or 2 ft 3 inches at the top.

The Site Today

2022 - Looking north towards the Fort Rouillé Monument at Exhibition Place. The monument was installed to preserve for "future generations the memory of an interesting fact about the city's early history and to be an ornament of Exhibition Park"
2022 – Looking north towards the Fort Rouillé Monument at Exhibition Place

In 1982, the ground plan of Fort Rouillé was discovered during archaeological excavations. The concrete walkways surrounding the area delineate the walls of the 18th-century trading post. The site received heritage status from the city in 1995.

Did You Know?

  • Fort Rouillé was the last French post built in Southern Ontario.
  • It was established by order of the Marquis de la Jonquière, Governor of New France.
  • Fort Rouillé was also known as Fort Toronto (before Toronto was officially named in 1834). It was also called the old French Fort.
  • In 1891, during excavations at Exhibition Park to make a panoramic display, a discovery of skeletons were found laid in the ground, some in coffins and some not. The cemetery was exactly north of the monument, about 91 m or 300 ft away. It’s thought to be the remains of those who had died at the old French Fort.
  • Fort Rouillé Monument was installed to preserve for “future generations the memory of an interesting fact about the city’s early history and to be an ornament of Exhibition Park.”

Fort Rouillé Monument Photos

1925 – Fort Rouillé Monument with Scadding Cabin in the background at Exhibition grounds. Fort Rouillé was a French trading post located on this site from 1750/51 until 1759, when its garrison destroyed it
1925 – Fort Rouillé Monument with Scadding Cabin in the background at Exhibition grounds. Fort Rouillé was a French trading post located on this site from 1750/51 until 1759, when its garrison destroyed it (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 3779)
2022 - Looking southwest towards the Fort Rouillé Monument at Exhibition Place. The Scadding Cabin and the wind turbine are in the background
2022 – Looking southwest towards the Fort Rouillé Monument at Exhibition Place. The Scadding Cabin and the wind turbine are in the background
1927 – The Fort Rouillé commemorative boulder was placed at the site in 1878. The inscription reads, "This cairn marks the exact site of Fort Rouillé, commonly known as Fort Toronto, an Indian trading post and stockade. Established A. D. 1749 by order of the Government of Louis XV in accordance with the recommendation of the Count de la Galissonnière, Administrator of New France 1747-1749."
1927 – The Fort Rouillé commemorative boulder was placed at the site in 1878. The inscription reads, “This cairn marks the exact site of Fort Rouillé, commonly known as Fort Toronto, an Indian trading post and stockade. Established A. D. 1749 by order of the Government of Louis XV in accordance with the recommendation of the Count de la Galissonnière, Administrator of New France 1747-1749.” (Toronto Public Library TSPA_0112635F)
2022 - The commemorative stone that marks the site of Fort Rouillé is on the east side of the Fort Rouillé Monument at Exhibition Place. The boulder was placed in 1878 and was dredged from the channel that leads into Toronto harbour
2022 – The commemorative stone that marks the site of Fort Rouillé is on the east side of the Fort Rouillé Monument at Exhibition Place. The boulder was placed in 1878 and was dredged from the channel that leads into Toronto harbour
Circa 1915 – Soldiers march near the Fort Rouillé Monument and Scadding Cabin at Exhibition Camp. During World War I, Exhibition grounds were transformed into a military training and housing area
Circa 1915 – Soldiers march near the Fort Rouillé Monument and Scadding Cabin at Exhibition Camp. During World War I, Exhibition grounds were transformed into a military training and housing area (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 2277)
2022 - Looking north towards the Fort Rouillé Monument at Exhibition Place. The monument was installed to preserve for "future generations the memory of an interesting fact about the city's early history and to be an ornament of Exhibition Park"
2022 – Looking north towards the Fort Rouillé Monument at Exhibition Place. The monument was installed to preserve for “future generations the memory of an interesting fact about the city’s early history and to be an ornament of Exhibition Park”
1915 – Looking southeast towards Fort Rouillé Monument and cannons at Exhibition grounds with Lake Ontario in the background
1915 – Looking southeast towards Fort Rouillé Monument and cannons at Exhibition grounds with Lake Ontario in the background (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1548, Series 393, Item 12462)
Between 1950s and 1960s - Fort Rouillé Monument at Exhibition Place. The monument stands 9 m or 30 ft tall
Between 1950s and 1960s – Fort Rouillé Monument at Exhibition Place. The monument stands 9 m or 30 ft tall (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 497, Item 238)
2022 - Looking east towards Fort Rouillé Monument at Exhibition Place. The monument was installed in 1887 and is made of Credit Valley brownstone. Notice the CN Tower in the distance
2022 – Looking east towards Fort Rouillé Monument at Exhibition Place. The monument was installed in 1887 and is made of Credit Valley brownstone. Notice the CN Tower in the distance
1921 - An old-time mortar, cast in 1856, once at the site of Fort Rouillé Monument at Exhibition grounds
1921 – An old-time mortar, cast in 1856, once at the site of Fort Rouillé Monument at Exhibition grounds (Toronto Public Library TSPA_0112634F)
2022 - Looking northwest towards Fort Rouillé Monument at Exhibition Place. The concrete walkways around the area delineate the walls of the former French Fort
2022 – Looking northwest towards Fort Rouillé Monument at Exhibition Place. The concrete walkways around the area delineate the walls of the former French Fort
1920 - A postcard featuring the Fort Rouillé Monument with the Canadian National Exhibition in the background. Notice the dome of the Government Building, today home to Medieval Times
1920 – A postcard featuring the Fort Rouillé Monument with the Canadian National Exhibition in the background. Notice the dome of the Government Building, today home to Medieval Times (Toronto Public Library PC45)
2020 - Fort Rouillé Monument is located on the south side of Exhibition Place, just east of the Scadding Cabin in Toronto. The monument was installed to commemorate the existence of Fort Rouillé, a French trading post on the site from 1750/51 until 1759
2020 – Fort Rouillé Monument is located on the south side of Exhibition Place, just east of the Scadding Cabin in Toronto. The monument was installed to commemorate the existence of Fort Rouillé, a French trading post on the site from 1750/51 until 1759
Circa 1900 - Looking west towards Fort Rouillé Monument and the Scadding Cabin located on the south side of Exhibition grounds. The structure on the far right was the Lorne Cabin which had to be taken down due to deterioration
Circa 1900 – Looking west towards Fort Rouillé Monument and the Scadding Cabin located on the south side of Exhibition grounds. The structure on the far right was the Lorne Cabin which had to be taken down due to deterioration (Toronto Public Library R-2469)
1884 - A crowd and dignitaries at the ceremony to place Fort Rouillé Monument's foundation stone. The monument was fully installed in 1887
1884 – A crowd and dignitaries at the ceremony to place Fort Rouillé Monument’s foundation stone. The monument was fully installed in 1887 (Toronto Public Library R-2848)
2022 - The granite bench commemorating Fort Rouillé is located on the east side of BMO Field. It's one of 18 benches at Exhibition Place that were designed by Toronto-based artist Stephen Cruise and installed in 2007
2022 – The granite bench commemorating Fort Rouillé is located on the east side of BMO Field. It’s one of 18 benches at Exhibition Place that were designed by Toronto-based artist Stephen Cruise and installed in 2007
1880 - On the left is the commemorative boulder and former cairn marking the location of Fort Rouillé at Exhibition grounds. On the right are the Scadding Cabin (originally known as Simcoe Cabin) and the Lorne Cabin
1880 – On the left is the commemorative boulder and former cairn marking the location of Fort Rouillé at Exhibition grounds. On the right are the Scadding Cabin (originally known as Simcoe Cabin) and the Lorne Cabin (Toronto Public Library R-2685)
2022 - Fort Rouillé Monument French-language heritage plaque
2022 – Fort Rouillé Monument French-language heritage plaque
2020 - Fort Rouillé Monument heritage plaque
2020 – Fort Rouillé Monument heritage plaque
1886 - The Toronto City Directory showing the address of Lionel Yorke, stonecutter of the Fort Rouillé Monument
1886 – The Toronto City Directory showing the address of Lionel Yorke, stonecutter of the Fort Rouillé Monument (Toronto Public Library)
SOURCE
  • City of Toronto Heritage Register: 100 Princes’ Blvd
  • Ontario Heritage Trust
  • The Globe Newspaper Archives: Sep 8, 1882, pg 8
  • The Globe Newspaper Archives: Aug 26, 1887, pg 8
  • The Globe Newspaper Archives: Aug 27, 1887, pg 16
  • The Globe Newspaper Archives: Aug 30, 1887, pg 2
  • Toronto’s First Germ (Fort Toronto) by Rev Dr Henry Scadding (1878)
  • Brief Memoir of the Old French Fort at Toronto by Rev Dr Henry Scadding (1885)
  • Landmarks of Toronto: Volume 2 by J Ross Robertson (1896), pg 732
  • Photos: Denise Marie for TorontoJourney416
  • Vintage Photos: City of Toronto Archives & Toronto Public Library
  • Toronto City Directory by Might Directories Ltd 186 courtesy of Toronto Public Library