Fort York, Toronto’s birthplace

Did you know that American troops invaded Canada once?

Yes – well done, you history buff you!
No – don’t feel bad, I didn’t know it either.

In 1812, the United States and Great Britain went to war. In April 1813, the US Army and Navy attacked York, as Toronto was called then. The outnumbered defenders retreated to Fort York from the beachhead on Lake Ontario. The Battle of York lasted six hours. The Americans occupied the town of York for six days, looting homes, destroying supplies and burning public buildings.

The Canadians retaliated in 1814 by burning the Capitol and the White House, among other buildings, in Washington.

War ended in December 1814 but news reached the Dominion in February 1815. Both sides claim victory to this day.

Fort York history

Fort York started as a garrison built by Lieutenant-Governor John S. Simcoe in 1793 to enable the British to control Lake Ontario.

As is usually the case, civilians settled nearby and gave the community the name of York. Years later, in 1834, the town was renamed Toronto.

The original log buildings deteriorated and were replaced by new barracks by Simcoe’s successors. The British Army continued to sue the fort until 1870, when the Canadian government took on the responsibility for the country’s defense. The army used Fort York until the 1930s.

The city of Toronto restores the fort in the early 1930s and opened it as a museum.

Fort York today –  a visit in pictures

Fort York is located near downtown Toronto on 250 Fort York Boulevard. I took the Red Rocket (TTC’s trolley) to the fort. I had to leg it for a bit to the entrance.

The Red Rocket

The Red Rocket

Fort York has a fantastic view of Toronto's skyline

Fort York has a fantastic view of Toronto’s skyline. What would the soldiers say about the view and the city today?

Welcome. Come in and make yourselves at home

Welcome. Come in and make yourselves at home

First, I visited the 1815 Brick Barracks, which originally housed 100 people each. The soldiers’ wives and children lived here too.

First, I visited the 1815 Brick Barracks, which originally housed 100 people each. The soldiers’ wives and children lived here too.

The 1815 stone magazine stored 900 barrels of gunpowder. Its walls are 2 metre (6 feet) thick. The adjacent well provided clean water. This one is a reconstruction based on old army plans.

The 1815 stone magazine stored 900 barrels of gunpowder. Its walls are 2 metre (6 feet) thick. The adjacent well provided clean water. This one is a reconstruction based on old army plans.

I came across a handful of groups of students. These ones seem to be enjoying the guided visit.

I came across a handful of groups of schoolchildren. These ones seem to be enjoying the guided visit.

Officer's uniform and stove.

Officer’s bedroom.

Officers' mess. Nice and cozy.

Officers’ mess. Nice and cozy.

Fort York

The 1815 Officers’ brick barracks and mess

Fort York

Another view of the fort and Toronto in the background that emphasizes the contrast between historic and modern.

About Ana O

Hi, I’m Ana. I’m originally from Argentina but I’m currently living in Dallas (USA) with my British husband. I’d like to share my experiences as an expat and as a traveller.

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