Fort York National Historic Site – Toronto’s Founding Landscape

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2021 – Looking southwest from the Bathurst St bridge towards Fort York National Historic Site in Toronto
2021 – Looking southwest from the Bathurst St bridge towards Fort York National Historic Site in Toronto

Have you had a tour of Fort York? The national historic site is located at 250 Fort York Blvd and bounded by Strachan Ave to the west and Bathurst St to the east. Known as “Toronto’s founding landscape, “the Fort is on 43 acres of land. A defensive wall surrounds Canada’s largest group of original War of 1812 structures.

In 1793, the British army, headed by Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe, ordered a garrison to be built on today’s Fort York site. It was the primary harbour defence to guard York (today’s Toronto).

The Battle of York 1813

In the Battle of York 1813, many of the structures in the fort were destroyed when American soldiers stormed ashore by way of ships. At that time, Lake Ontario was touching the south side of the Fort (lake filling to push the shoreline south didn’t start until decades later). The Fort was rebuilt sometime between 1813 to 1815. It remained the City’s harbour defence until the 1880s and home to the military garrison until the 1930s.

1934 - Fort York No. 2 Blockhouse
1934 – Fort York No. 2 Blockhouse (Toronto Public Library R-2449)

Fort York’s Restoration

Between 1932 and 1934, the City restored Fort York. On Victoria Day 1934, Fort York opened as a historic site museum in celebration of the centennial of the incorporation of the City of Toronto.

Highlights Include:

No. 2 Blockhouse: One of the first structures built in the second half of the War of 1812. It housed soldiers and was made of thick, square-timbered walls. It gave protection, plus the windows and loopholes allowed for defence.

North & South Soldiers’ Barracks: In 1815, each building was home to 100 people, including the soldiers, their wives, and children. These numbers reduced as the years went on.

Other notable features: Stone Magazine (1815), West Wall (1811, 1934), Circular Battery (1811), Brick Magazine (1814) and more.

Fort York is open year-round. Tickets should be purchased in advance (online) and operate on a pay-what-you-can basis.

About 500 m to the northeast of this historic site is what’s known today as Victoria Memorial Square. This park is Toronto’s earliest-known military burying ground, established by British authorities. Garrison Common is on Fort York grounds, about 400 m to the west. In this area is the Strachan Avenue Military Burying Ground. Established in 1863, it was Toronto’s third such cemetery and was in use until 1911.

Fort York National Historic Site Photos

2021 – Looking southwest from the Bathurst St bridge towards Fort York National Historic Site in Toronto
2021 – Looking southwest from the Bathurst St bridge towards Fort York National Historic Site in Toronto
1934 - Looking west inside Fort York towards No. 1 (east) Blockhouse and the Brick Magazine with No. 2 (centre) Blockhouse in the centre background
1934 – Looking west inside Fort York towards No. 1 (east) Blockhouse and the Brick Magazine with No. 2 (centre) Blockhouse in the centre background (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 810)
2020 – Looking into Fort York from the Eastern Gate towards the Brick Magazine and No. 2 (centre) Blockhouse
2020 – Looking into Fort York from the Eastern Gate towards the Brick Magazine and No. 2 (centre) Blockhouse
1885 - Looking towards Fort York from the Eastern Gate
1885 – Looking towards Fort York from the Eastern Gate (Toronto Public Library R-2841)
2020 – Looking northeast at Fort York towards the Officers' Blue Barracks and No 2 (centre) Blockhouse with the CN Tower in the distance
2020 – Looking northeast at Fort York towards the Officers’ Blue Barracks and No 2 (centre) Blockhouse with the CN Tower in the distance
1980 - Looking northeast towards the Toronto skyline from Fort York. Notice No. 2 (centre) Blockhouse, the Brick Magazine and No. 1 (east) Blockhouse
1980 – Looking northeast towards the Toronto skyline from Fort York. Notice No. 2 (centre) Blockhouse, the Brick Magazine and No. 1 (east) Blockhouse (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 46, Item 98)
2020 - No. 2 (centre) Blockhouse at Fort York
2020 – No. 2 (centre) Blockhouse at Fort York
1934 - No. 2 (centre) Blockhouse at Fort York
1934 – No. 2 (centre) Blockhouse at Fort York (Toronto Public Library R-2449)
1950 - Looking east towards No. 2 (centre) Blockhouse at Fort York
1950 – Looking east towards No. 2 (centre) Blockhouse at Fort York (Toronto Public Library R-2978)
1934 – The interior of a Blockhouse at Fort York (Toronto Public Library R-2451)
1934 – The interior of a Blockhouse at Fort York (Toronto Public Library R-2451)
2020 - No. 1 (east) Blockhouse at Fort York
2020 – No. 1 (east) Blockhouse at Fort York
1922 – No. 1 (east) Blockhouse at Fort York
1922 – No. 1 (east) Blockhouse at Fort York (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1548, Series 393 Item 17522)
1871 - Blockhouse at Fort York
1871 – Blockhouse at Fort York (Toronto Public Library R-2882)
Circa 1899 - Looking west towards the Soldiers' North Barracks, "D" Barracks and the Officer's Brick Barracks and Mess Establishment at Fort York. "D" Barracks were taken down during the 1934 restoration
Circa 1899 – Looking west towards the Soldiers’ North Barracks, “D” Barracks and the Officer’s Brick Barracks and Mess Establishment at Fort York. “D” Barracks were taken down during the 1934 restoration (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 70, Series 327, Sub Series 1, File 5, Item 3)
2020 - The Officers' Brick Barracks and Mess Establishment at Fort York National Historic Site
2020 – The Officers’ Brick Barracks and Mess Establishment at Fort York National Historic Site
1885 – The Officers' Brick Barracks and Mess Establishment at Fort York
1885 – The Officers’ Brick Barracks and Mess Establishment at Fort York (Toronto Public Library R-2911)
2020 - The Fife and Drum at Fort York
2020 – The Fife and Drum at Fort York
2020 – A musket demonstration during a tour at Fort York National Historic Site
2020 – A musket demonstration during a tour at Fort York National Historic Site
2020 – Inside Fort York National Historic Site
2020 – Inside Fort York National Historic Site
1926 – Looking south from Fort York towards Tip Top Tailors, today's Tip Top Lofts
1926 – Looking south from Fort York towards Tip Top Tailors, today’s Tip Top Lofts (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 1502)
2020 - The Brick Magazine at Fort York
2020 – The Brick Magazine at Fort York
1934 – The Brick Magazine at Fort York
1934 – The Brick Magazine at Fort York (Toronto Public Library R-2461)
1930 – Looking northeast at Fort York. Notice the Sir Isaac Brock Bridge, known as the Bathurst Street Bridge behind the Brick Magazine
1930 – Looking northeast at Fort York. Notice the Sir Isaac Brock Bridge, known as the Bathurst Street Bridge behind the Brick Magazine (Toronto Public Library R-3001)
2020 – The Fort York Gard at the Western Gate
2020 – The Fort York Gard at the Western Gate
2020 - The Western Gate at Fort York
2020 – The Western Gate at Fort York
1885 - Looking east from Fort York's Western Gate
1885 – Looking east from Fort York’s Western Gate (Toronto Public Library R-6869)
1903 – Looking east at Fort York from the western entrance. In the distance are the Officers' Blue Barracks and the Artillery Barracks. The historical plaque on the wall was erected by the Canadian Club in 1899
1903 – Looking east at Fort York from the western entrance. In the distance are the Officers’ Blue Barracks and the Artillery Barracks. The historical plaque on the wall was erected by the Canadian Club in 1899 (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 70, Series 327, Sub Series 1, File 5, Item 1)
1900 – A plaque at Fort York that reads "The Old Fort - Established by Lieutenant Governor Simcoe at the mouth of the Garrison Creek in 1796 for the Queen’s Rangers. Garrisoned by British troops during the War of 1812-14 and at different times until 1871. Taken by American troops April 27th 1813 during the attack on York. Evacuated May 1st 1813."
1900 – A plaque at Fort York that reads “The Old Fort – Established by Lieutenant Governor Simcoe at the mouth of the Garrison Creek in 1796 for the Queen’s Rangers. Garrisoned by British troops during the War of 1812-14 and at different times until 1871. Taken by American troops April 27th 1813 during the attack on York. Evacuated May 1st 1813.” (Toronto Public Library R-2843)
1934 – Looking east at the western gate at Fort York
1934 – Looking east at the western gate at Fort York (Toronto Public Library R-2460)
2020 – The Eastern Gate at Fort York
2020 – The Eastern Gate at Fort York
1934 - Looking east from inside Fort York after the restoration in celebration of the centennial of the incorporation of the City of Toronto. Notice in the distance on the left the Sir Isaac Brock Bridge, known as the Bathurst Street Bridge, and the Royal York Hotel
1934 – Looking east from inside Fort York after the restoration in celebration of the centennial of the incorporation of the City of Toronto. Notice in the distance on the left the Sir Isaac Brock Bridge, known as the Bathurst Street Bridge, and the Royal York Hotel (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 603)
1890s - Looking northeast from inside Fort York
1890s – Looking northeast from inside Fort York (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 326, File 5, Item 13)
2020 – Looking southwest towards the South Soldiers' Barracks at Fort York
2020 – Looking southwest towards the South Soldiers’ Barracks at Fort York
1934 – Looking south towards the Soldiers’ South and North Barracks at Fort York after restoration
1934 – Looking south towards the Soldiers’ South and North Barracks at Fort York after restoration (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 811)
1934 – The South Soldiers' Barracks at Fort York
1934 – The South Soldiers’ Barracks at Fort York (Toronto Public Library R-2442)
Circa 1900 – Brick Soldiers' Barracks at Fort York
Circa 1900 – Brick Soldiers’ Barracks at Fort York (Toronto Public Library R-2906)
1903 – Looking north towards the South Soldiers' Barracks at Fort York
1903 – Looking north towards the South Soldiers’ Barracks at Fort York (Toronto Public Library R-2916)
1885 - Looking northwest towards the Soldiers' South and North Barracks, "D" Barracks and the Officer's Brick Barracks and Mess Establishment at Fort York. "D" Barracks were taken down during the 1934 restoration (Toronto Public Library R-2950)
1885 – Looking northwest towards the Soldiers’ South and North Barracks, “D” Barracks and the Officer’s Brick Barracks and Mess Establishment at Fort York. “D” Barracks were taken down during the 1934 restoration (Toronto Public Library R-2950)
1950 – A aerial view looking east showing Fort York, Royal York Hotel, Maple Leaf Stadium and Tip Top Tailors
1950 – A aerial view looking east showing Fort York, Royal York Hotel, Maple Leaf Stadium and Tip Top Tailors (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1128, Series 380, Item 65)
1934 – Looking southeast from Fort York towards Maple Leaf Stadium and Tip Top Tailors, today's Tip Top Loft
1934 – Looking southeast from Fort York towards Maple Leaf Stadium and Tip Top Tailors, today’s Tip Top Lofts (Toronto Public Library R-6871)
July 4, 1934 – A ceremony to return the mace of the Parliament of Upper Canada, seized by American troops in 1813. Notice Maple Leaf Stadium and Tip Top Tailors in the background
July 4, 1934 – A ceremony to return the mace of the Parliament of Upper Canada, seized by American troops in 1813. Notice Maple Leaf Stadium and Tip Top Tailors in the background (Toronto Public Library R-2975)
1934 – Looking southeast from Fort York towards Loblaws Groceterias Company Limited building and Maple Leaf Stadium
1934 – Looking southeast from Fort York towards Loblaws Groceterias Company Limited building and Maple Leaf Stadium (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 602)
1934 – Looking south from Fort York towards Tip Top Tailors, today's Tip Top Lofts
1934 – Looking south from Fort York towards Tip Top Tailors, today’s Tip Top Lofts (Toronto Public Library R-2976)
1932 – One of the old houses on the site of Fort York
1932 – One of the old houses on the site of Fort York (Toronto Public Library TSPA_0112638F)
Between 1932 and 1933 – The Officers’ Blue Barracks at Fort York at the time of its reconstruction. Notice the four surviving chimneys found inside the building today
Between 1932 and 1933 – The Officers’ Blue Barracks at Fort York at the time of its reconstruction. Notice the four surviving chimneys found inside the building today (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 801)
2020 – Looking northeast towards the Dry Moat at Fort York. Notice the CN Tower in the distance
2020 – Looking northeast towards the Dry Moat at Fort York. Notice the CN Tower in the distance
1899 - Gun Storage Shed in the Ordnance Yard on Garrison Rd at Fort York
1899 – Gun Storage Shed in the Ordnance Yard on Garrison Rd at Fort York (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 70, Series 327, Sub Series 1, File 5, Item 8
2021 - Looking southwest towards Fort York National Historic Site from the Sir Isaac Brock Bridge, known as the Bathurst Street Bridge
2021 – Looking southwest towards Fort York National Historic Site from the Sir Isaac Brock Bridge, known as the Bathurst Street Bridge
2020 – The Well at Fort York was hand-dug and sunk in 1802. The Well is over 7 m deep, has an outside diameter of 3 m and is lined with lakeshore stone
2020 – The Well at Fort York was hand-dug and sunk in 1802. The Well is over 7 m deep, has an outside diameter of 3 m and is lined with lakeshore stone
2020 – Fort York National Historic Site at 250 Fort York Blvd
2020 – Fort York National Historic Site at 250 Fort York Blvd
1980s - An aerial view looking southwest towards Fort York
1980s – An aerial view looking southwest towards Fort York (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 359, Item 18)
2022 - Fort York National Historic Site map
2022 – Fort York National Historic Site map (Fort York information plaque)
1912 - Goads Map showing the location of the Fort York
1912 – Goads Map showing the location of the Fort York (Toronto Public Library)
1871 – Plan showing some of the man-made water features of the site at the time of the fort’s transfer from Britain to Canada: three wells; one underground water tank; three latrines: three privies; two urinals; and two ablution rooms. All drainage was underground by this time
1871 – Plan showing some of the man-made water features of the site at the time of the fort’s transfer from Britain to Canada: three wells; one underground water tank; three latrines: three privies; two urinals; and two ablution rooms. All drainage was underground by this time (Map by Lieutenant Donald Mien, Royal Engineers, 1871, Library and Archives Canada NMC-5382)
1858 - Atlas of the City of Toronto showing the location of the Fort York
1858 – Atlas of the City of Toronto showing the location of the Fort York (Toronto Public Library)
1870 – Fort York (Old Fort) and Stanley Barracks (New Fort) being handed over from the Royal Engineers to the Dominion Government of Canada when the British Army permanently withdrew from the country
1870 – Fort York (Old Fort) and Stanley Barracks (New Fort) being handed over from the Royal Engineers to the Dominion Government of Canada when the British Army permanently withdrew from the country (Library and Archives Canada NMC23157)
2020 – The heritage plaque reads:
The Battle of York 1813
"Loyal residents of York (Toronto) were encouraged by early British victories in the War of 1812, but in 1813 they experienced first-hand the hardships of war. On the morning of April 27, an American fleet appeared offshore and began to send 1,700 soldiers ashore two kilometres west of here. At first only a small force of Ojibwa warriors was in position to resists the landing. After fierce skirmishing the invaders advanced, overcoming defensive stands by outnumbered British and Canadian troops. As they closed in on the main garrison near here, the retreating British ignited a gunpowder storehouse. It exploded, killing 38 Americans and wounding 222 more. Victorious nonetheless, the Americans occupied York for six days. They looted and set buildings ablaze, including the Parliament Buildings."
Ontario Heritage Foundation, Ministry of  Culture, Tourism and Recreation
Located at the entrance to Fort York
2020 – The heritage plaque reads:

The Battle of York 1813

“Loyal residents of York (Toronto) were encouraged by early British victories in the War of 1812, but in 1813 they experienced first-hand the hardships of war. On the morning of April 27, an American fleet appeared offshore and began to send 1,700 soldiers ashore two kilometres west of here. At first only a small force of Ojibwa warriors was in position to resists the landing. After fierce skirmishing the invaders advanced, overcoming defensive stands by outnumbered British and Canadian troops. As they closed in on the main garrison near here, the retreating British ignited a gunpowder storehouse. It exploded, killing 38 Americans and wounding 222 more. Victorious nonetheless, the Americans occupied York for six days. They looted and set buildings ablaze, including the Parliament Buildings.”

Ontario Heritage Foundation, Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Recreation
Located at the entrance to Fort York
2020 – The heritage plaque reads: 

Fort York 

"Fort York constituted the primary defensive position in early York (Toronto). The present buildings, erected between 1813 and 1815 to replace those destroyed during the American occupations of York in 1813, are among the oldest in Toronto and are important surviving examples of British military architecture. At the turn of the 20th century, the fort was threatened with demolition. The fight to save it led to one of the first victories of the Canadian heritage movement. The fort was bought by the city in 1909 and restored between 1932 and 1934 as part of Toronto's centennial celebration."

 Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada 
Government of Canada
2020 – The heritage plaque reads:

Fort York

“Fort York constituted the primary defensive position in early York (Toronto). The present buildings, erected between 1813 and 1815 to replace those destroyed during the American occupations of York in 1813, are among the oldest in Toronto and are important surviving examples of British military architecture. At the turn of the 20th century, the fort was threatened with demolition. The fight to save it led to one of the first victories of the Canadian heritage movement. The fort was bought by the city in 1909 and restored between 1932 and 1934 as part of Toronto’s centennial celebration.”

Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada
Government of Canada
2021 - The heritage plaque reads:
Landing of American Troops at York 
" The Battle of York, an engagement in the War of 1812, commenced in the early morning of April 27, 1813, when about 2,550 American soldiers and seamen began their assault on the Town of York (Toronto), the capital of Upper Canada. They landed in boats near this site. The Americans were met by about 60 Anishinaabeg, under Major James Givens, who fired a deadly volley into the 1st Rifle Regiment, the first company to come ashore. This regiment was reinforced by three other American companies, led by Brigadier General Zebulon Pike, allowing the attackers to regain their composure and force the Anishinaabeg into the woods.
A company of the British 8th Regiment of Foot joined the battle. Although outnumbered three to one, they fired a rifle volley and charged into the enemy ranks, driving them into the lake. However, constant fire from American troops and warships finally sent York's defenders eastward in retreat. The American forces pushed on to capture Fort York – and to victory in the battle."
Heritage Toronto 2013
The plaque is located on Lake Shore Blvd W, just east of The Boulevard Club.
2021 – The heritage plaque reads:

Landing of American Troops at York

” The Battle of York, an engagement in the War of 1812, commenced in the early morning of April 27, 1813, when about 2,550 American soldiers and seamen began their assault on the Town of York (Toronto), the capital of Upper Canada. They landed in boats near this site. The Americans were met by about 60 Anishinaabeg, under Major James Givens, who fired a deadly volley into the 1st Rifle Regiment, the first company to come ashore. This regiment was reinforced by three other American companies, led by Brigadier General Zebulon Pike, allowing the attackers to regain their composure and force the Anishinaabeg into the woods. A company of the British 8th Regiment of Foot joined the battle. Although outnumbered three to one, they fired a rifle volley and charged into the enemy ranks, driving them into the lake. However, constant fire from American troops and warships finally sent York’s defenders eastward in retreat. The American forces pushed on to capture Fort York – and to victory in the battle.”

Heritage Toronto 2013
The plaque is located on Lake Shore Blvd W, just east of The Boulevard Club.
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