|Location||Toronto, Ontario, Canada.|
|Official name||Fort York National Historic Site of Canada|
|Official name||Fort York Heritage Conservation District|
|Type||Heritage conservation district|
Fort York is a historic site of military fortifications and related buildings on the west side of downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The fort was built by the British Army and Canadian militia troops in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, to defend the settlement and the new capital of the Upper Canada region from the threat of a military attack, principally from the newly independent United States. It was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1923. The City of Toronto designated the site, along with the nearby Fort York Armoury, as a Heritage Conservation District in 1985.
In 1793, Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe authorized a garrison on the present site of Fort York, just west of the mouth of Garrison Creek on the north western shore of Lake Ontario. Simcoe recognized Toronto was an ideal site for settlement and defence because of its natural harbour and relative longer distance from the United States. Fort York guards the western (at the time of construction, the only) entrance to the bay. Simcoe had decided to make Toronto (which he renamed York) the capital of Upper Canada, and the government, the first parliament buildings and the town were established one and a half miles east of the fort (near the foot of the present Parliament Street).
In 1797 a garrison was built east of modern-day Bathurst Street, on the east bank of Garrison Creek. This fort was destroyed in the Battle of York, 1813 (see below). Today's Fort York was largely built by Royal Engineers immediately after the War of 1812. The rebuilt Fort York is located on the original fort site west of Bathurst, at the time on the west bank of Garrison Creek. Fort York's buildings are among the oldest buildings in Toronto today. The original fort buildings were all wood, whereas the current structures are a mix of brick and wood.
A list of current structures at the fort:
- Stone Powder Magazine
- North and South Soldier Barracks
- Blockhouses 1 and 2
- Officer's Quarters
- Blue Barracks
- Brick Powder Magazine
- Lieutenant Governor's Residence c. 1800 and destroyed 1813
Additional buildings located outside the fort were mainly star shaped blockhouses or magazines:
- Spadina Blockhouse 1838/1839-1860s — near College Street and Spadina Avenue (at present day Knox College)
- Sherbourne Blockhouse 1838/1839-1865 - Sherborne Avenue and Bloor Street
- Yonge Blockhouse or Yorkville Blockhouse at Belmont Street (near Budd Sugarman Park) 1838/1839-1860s
- Western Battery - located along the shoreline west of Fort York and later New Fort
- Garrison Creek-Queen Street Blockhouse - near Queen Street west of Bathurst Street
- Ravine Blockhouse - located near military hospital
- Gibraltar Point Blockhouse - originally a battery and near what is now Hanlan's Point Ferry terminal
- Don Blockhouse - Gooderham & Worts and now Distillery District
The War of 1812 and after
During the War of 1812, on April 27, 1813, U.S. army and naval forces attacked York from Lake Ontario, overrunning the garrison (see Battle of York). As the British abandoned the fort, they set the powder magazine to blow up, killing or wounding several hundred U.S. soldiers (including General Zebulon Pike, for whom Pikes Peak is named). The explosion was heard as far away as Fort George, rivalled only by an explosion of black powder the British set off when they were unable to bring with them said powder in their retreat from Corunna under Moore around the same time in the Napoleonic campaign in Europe. The U.S. destroyed what was left of the garrison and burned much of the settlement of York, including the Parliament Buildings during their five-day occupation. They had defeated outnumbered British, Canadian, and First Nations forces, but with the loss of many more men. Following several more U.S. raids over the summer, the British garrison returned to York and rebuilt the fortifications, most of which are still standing today. The rebuilt fort was sufficient to repel a further attempted invasion in 1814.
In the 1830s Rev. Joseph Hudson scorned the commanding officers of the fort for having the soldiers walk two miles from the barracks to St. James’ Church, especially in seasons with unfavourable weather. This long hike to the church meant that soldiers often missed church, sometimes up to four weeks in a row. Rev. Hudson advocated for a church to be erected east of Bathurst near the burial ground for soldiers for their convenience. This was rejected and a subsequent proposal asked for a church be built on the barracks. This was also rejected, but instead St. James' Church was given one thousand pounds on condition that accommodation for the troops be permanently provided.
The British Army occupied Fort York from 1793 to the 1850s and transferred it to the Canadas (which would become part of the Dominion of Canada in 1867), which used it until 1932. However, the City of Toronto owned Fort York from 1903 onwards.
Fort York was defended by cannons on the west, north and south:
- 2 ~ 12 pounders — north side
- 1 ~ 14 pounder — west side
- 9 ~ 12 pounders — south side
Fort York National Historic Site
Fort York National Historic Site houses Canada's largest collection of original War of 1812 period buildings. The fort, operated as a museum of the City of Toronto, offers casual visitors and booked groups a number of exciting services year round. During the summer months, the site comes alive with the colour and the pageantry of the Fort York Guard and is complimented with tours by professional historical interpreters. In the off-season months, the fort is busy providing educational programs for booked tour groups including school, scout, guide, and day care groups.
In the 1950s Fort York was almost torn down to make way for the Gardiner Expressway, but Highway planners eventually rerouted the elevated highway to the south of the grounds.
The reclaimed lands to the south of the fort are in the process of being developed, with new condo towers eventually limiting any possible reconnection with Lake Ontario. The cemetery for the fort was located west of the garrison and overgrown with grass and thistles, no effort was made to keep it in good condition. By the late 19th century twenty eight stones or wooden crosses marked graves, but there were hundreds of mounds. The cemetery continued to fall into disrepair and is not part of the present Fort York.
From 1995 to 2008, Fort York hosted Toronto's annual Festival of Beer.
On 28 June 1985 Canada Post issued 'Fort York, Ont, circa 1816.', one of the 20 stamps in the "Forts Across Canada Series" (1983 & 1985).
Fort York Armoury
Southwest of Fort York is the Fort York Armoury, a two-storey structure built in 1933 with private funds. Designed by Toronto architects Marani, Lawson and Morris, it has the largest lattice wood arched roof in Canada.
It is occupied by the Canadian Forces Primary Reserve, the Queen's York Rangers, the Royal Regiment of Canada, and the 32 Signals Regiment (formerly 709 (Toronto) Communication Regiment). It used to be the home of 2 Field Engineer Regiment, the Toronto Scottish Regiment (Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother's Own), the 48th Highlanders of Canada, and the 1st Battalion Irish Regiment. In addition to being the headquarters of the three active units of the Army Reserve, the armoury is also home to several thriving cadet organizations.
There are two bridges at the fort:
- small footbridge from Bathurst Street which is off limits, and protected by an iron gate
- Garrison Road Bridge, which carries vehicular traffic under the Gardiner Expressway to Fleet Street. This bridge is being demolished and replaced in 2015-2016
Fort York Pedestrian and Cycle Bridge
A two span pedestrian and bicycle bridge is being built to connect Fort York with Stanley Park. Completion of the bridge is planned for 2017. It will be built with stainless steel by Dufferin Construction Company.
- New Fort York
- Fort York Armoury
- Trinity Bellwoods Park
- Fort Rouillé - The first fort to be established in Toronto (about 1 km West of Fort York)
- List of oldest buildings and structures in Toronto
- Chronology of the War of 1812
- War of 1812 Campaigns
- War of 1812
- Upper Canada
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Fort York.|
- Historic Fort York 1793-1993 by Carl Benn, National Heritage and National History Incorporated 1993
- Fort Yprk National Historic Site of Canada. Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved 7 May 2014.
- Fort York Heritage Conservation District. Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved 7 May 2014.
- Peppiatt, Liam. "Chapter 22: Harper’s Queen Street House". Robertson's Landmarks of Toronto Revisited.
- Peppiatt, Liam. "Chapter 30: The Military Cemeteries". Robertson's Landmarks of Toronto Revisited.
- http://data4.collectionscanada.ca/netacgi/nph-brs?s1=1009&l=20&d=POST&p=1&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.collectionscanada.ca%2Farchivianet%2F020117%2F020117030306_e.html&r=1&f=G&SECT3=POST Canada Post issued 'Fort York, Ont, circa 1816.'