Early Toronto

The Town of York (now Toronto) expanded rapidly beyond the 10 small blocks laid out by Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe in 1793. The town’s role as the capital of Upper Canada made it a centre of government, law, education and finance. The harbour and roads that had served so well during the War of 1812 became shipping routes for raw and manufactured goods between Toronto and its markets, transforming the town, and then the city, into a commercial centre.

The stories and sites gathered under the theme of “Roots of Urban Toronto” focus on the original town of York and the City of Toronto, which was incorporated in 1834, as well as early sites in the former townships of Etobicoke, North York and Scarborough. Those townships grew into cities in their own right before being amalgamated with Toronto in 1998.

This trail highlights the original core of the old City of Toronto and its predecessor the town of York. It starts at the location of the first purpose-built parliament buildings in York, which were also the first brick buildings in the town. Their destruction during the Battle of York in 1813 was reciprocated by the burning of the White House in 1814.

The Stories