Fort York

Best known as the site of the Battle of York in 1813, this Toronto attraction is fascinating for visitors and natives alike who would like to learn more about the city’s beginnings and its place in history during the War of 1812. Fort York spans seven acres and features military fortifications that surround the largest collection of War of 1812 buildings in Canada. The extensive collection of artifacts reveals what military life was like in the early 19th century.

The Birthplace of Toronto

Fort York, a National Historic Site, is known as the birthplace of modern Toronto. In 1793, Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe built a garrison on the current site of Fort York in anticipation of going to war with the United States. The community of York developed as people began to settle nearby the fort. Simcoe moved the capital of Upper Canada from Niagara (which as a border town was vulnerable and exposed) to York which had the benefits of a natural harbour. In 1834, York was renamed Toronto.

As the threat of war loomed in the early 1800's, Major-General Isaac Brock added further fortifications to the site; the fort’s circular battery and the west wall still stand today from these defensive preparations.

The Battle of York

The United States declared war against the British Empire in 1812 and on April 27th 1813, 1700 American troops invaded York from Lake Ontario in the only battle Fort York ever saw. Outnumbered, the British, Canadian and native forces retreated, but first blew up the city’s gunpowder supply. During the five day occupation, Fort York and much of the settlement of York was destroyed. Later that year the British rebuilt the fort and successfully warded off another attack in 1814. These fortifications remain to this day.

Fort York continued to protect the city’s harbour throughout the 19th century, and was used a military base during World Wars I and II. In 1934 it was established as a historic site museum.

The Buildings and Ramparts

Each year, thousands visit this attraction to tour the historic War of 1812 buildings and to explore the fortified walls that once defended the city. Some of the eight heritage structures housed at Fort York include the officers' quarters, soldiers’ barracks, a bombproof gunpowder magazine and a munitions supply. These buildings are among the oldest in the city. The interior of some of the buildings have been restored to reveal what life was like on a military post in the 19th century. Fort York also offers museum exhibits detailing important points in Canadian military history.

Fort York Today

Fort York hosts a busy calendar of events and programs year-round which include walking tours, military music, musketry and drill demonstrations, and battle re-enactments and cannon firing. Visitors can even sample cooking from the historic Officers' Mess Kitchen.

Annual events held at the site include the traditional Queen Charlotte's Birthday Ball in January and the Battle of York Commemoration Day in April. Enjoy free admission at the “Doors Open” event each May, with special tours of the historic grounds. The fall “Ghosts of the Garrison” night tour of Fort York is spooky fun for the whole family. Celebrations also take place each year on Victoria Day, Canada Day and Simcoe Day.

Fort York offers parents a unique venue for their children’s next birthday party. In the “Follow the Drum” birthday program, kids will get to dress up in army gear and experience a taste of military life while taking part in lots of interactive activities including a 19th century drill class.

Fort York

The site is open year-round and seasonal guided tours are available. It is accessible by public transportation and free parking is available from Garrison Road. For admission fees, hours of operation and directions, call or visit their website.

Location: 100 Garrison Rd (East of Strachan Ave and West of Bathurst St), Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Phone: 416-392-6907
Email: fortyork@toronto.ca

Click here to visit Fort York official website

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