Fort York National Historic Site – Toronto’s Founding Landscape

2000's - Fort York in City of Toronto
2000’s – Fort York in City of 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 John Graves Simcoe, ordered a garrison to be built on the site of today’s Fort York. 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 (Toronto Public Library r-2449)
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 which included the soldiers along with 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.

2021 - Fort York National Historic Site in Toronto, looking southwest
2021 – Fort York National Historic Site in Toronto, looking southwest

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. On Fort York grounds and about 400 m to the west is Garrison Common. In this area is the Strachan Avenue Military Burying Ground. Established in 1863, it was Toronto’s third such cemetery and in use until 1911.

Fort York National Historic Site Photos

1885 - Fort York's Eastern Gate (Toronto Public Library r-2841)
1885 – Fort York’s Eastern Gate (Toronto Public Library r-2841)
2021 - Fort York National Historic Site in Toronto, looking southwest
2021 – Fort York National Historic Site in Toronto, looking southwest
2000's - Fort York National Historic Site, looking east towards the downtown Toronto
2000’s – Fort York National Historic Site, looking east towards the downtown Toronto
1934 - Fort York No. 2 Blockhouse (Toronto Public Library r-2449)
1934 – Fort York No. 2 Blockhouse (Toronto Public Library r-2449)
2020 - Fort York No. 2 Blockhouse
2020 – Fort York No. 2 Blockhouse
1934 - Fort York Blockhouse interior (Toronto Public Library r-2451)
1934 – Fort York Blockhouse interior (Toronto Public Library r-2451)
1934 - Inside Fort York, looking west towards Blockhouse No. 1 and Brick Magazine with Blockhouse No. 2 in the distance
1934 – Inside Fort York, looking west towards Blockhouse No. 1 and Brick Magazine with Blockhouse No. 2 in the distance (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 810)
1885 - Fort York Officers Brick Barracks (Toronto Public Library r-2911)
1885 – Fort York Officers Brick Barracks (Toronto Public Library r-2911)
2020 - Fort York Officers Brick Barracks
2020 – Fort York Officers Brick Barracks
2020 - Fort York display
2020 – Fort York display
1926 - Fort York & Tip Top Tailors
1926 – Fort York & Tip Top Tailors
2020 - Fort York cannon
2020 – Fort York cannon
1934 - Fort York Brick Magazine (Toronto Public Library r-2461)
1934 – Fort York Brick Magazine (Toronto Public Library r-2461)
2020 - Fort York Brick Magazine
2020 – Fort York Brick Magazine
1885 - Fort York's Western Gate (Toronto Public Library r-6869)
1885 – Fort York’s Western Gate (Toronto Public Library r-6869)
2020 - Fort York's Western Gate
2020 – Fort York’s Western Gate
1934 - Fort York South Soldiers Barracks (Toronto Public Library r-2442)
1934 – Fort York South Soldiers Barracks (Toronto Public Library r-2442)
2020 - Fort York South Soldiers Barracks
2020 – Fort York South Soldiers Barracks
2020 - Fort York Eastern Gate
2020 – Fort York Eastern Gate
2021 - Landing of American Troops at York heritage plaque on Lake Shore Blvd W, just east of The Boulevard Club
2021 – Landing of American Troops at York heritage plaque on Lake Shore Blvd W, just east of The Boulevard Club
1934 - Fort York, Maple Leaf Stadium & Tip Top Tailors (Toronto Public Library r-6871)
1934 – Fort York, Maple Leaf Stadium & Tip Top Tailors (Toronto Public Library r-6871)

Vintage Photo Source: City of Toronto Archives & Toronto Public Library

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