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Fort York is a historic site of military fortifications and related buildings on the west side of downtown Torontomarker, Ontariomarker, Canadamarker. The fort was built by the Britishmarker Army and Canadian militia troops in the late 1700s and early 1800s, 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 Statesmarker.

Founding

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 eastern shore of Lake Ontariomarker. 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 docks. Simcoe had decided to make Toronto (at that time called Yorkmarker) 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).

Buildings

Fort York in 1804
Fort York Garden party
Fort York Union Flag
A cannon emplacement at Fort York
Most of the Fort was demolished in the Battle of Yorkmarker, 1813 (see below). This fort was built in 1798 and located to the east of modern day Bathurst Streetmarker. The buildings visible now were largely built by Royal Engineers immediately after the war of 1812. It was located on the original fort site west of Bathurst and built during Simcoe's time. They 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:



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 an Bloor Street
  • Yonge Blockhouse at Belmont Street 1838/1839-1860s


The War of 1812 and after

During the War of 1812, on April 27, 1813 combined U.S. army and naval forces attacked York from Lake Ontariomarker, overrunning Fort York (see Battle of Yorkmarker). As the British abandoned the fort, they set the powder magazine to blow up, killing and wounding several hundred U.S. soldiers (including General Zebulon Pike, for whom Pikes Peakmarker is named). The explosion was heard as far away as Fort Georgemarker, rivaled 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 Corunnamarker under Moore around the same time in the Napoleonic campaign in Europe. The U.S. destroyed Fort York 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.

The British Army occupied Fort York from 1793 to the 1850s and transferred it to Canadamarker, which used it until 1932. However, the City of Toronto owned the Fort from 1903 onwards.

Fort York was used as a military establishment until 1880, and again during the First and Second World Wars.

Artillery

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


Units

British



Canadian Militia

Fort York today

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.

Fort York is also known as a site with a fair amount of paranormal activity, which is presumably attributed to its military history (and the associated deaths which took place there when it was attacked on various occasions by Americanmarker forces during the War of 1812). Visitors have reported peculiar noises on the grounds and in the buildings, as well as sightings of apparitions of soldiers.

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 land to the south of the fort are also in the process of being developed with new condo towers eventually limiting any possible reconnection with Lake Ontario.

Since 1995, Fort York has hosted Toronto's Festival of Beer annually.

Fort York Armoury

Fort York Armoury Entrance


The southwest of Fort York is Fort York Armoury, a two–storey structure occupied by the Canadian Forces Primary Reserve; The Queen's York Rangers, The Royal Regiment of Canada, The Toronto Scottish Regiment (Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother's Own), and the 709 (Toronto) Communication Regiment and formerly 2 Field Engineer Regiment and the 1st Battalion Irish Regiment. The building is a training facility for CF Reservists. In addition to being the headquarters of the four active units of the Army Reserve, the Armoury is also home to several thriving Cadet organizations.

The Armoury was built in 1933 with private funds and boasts the largest lattice wood arched roof in Canadamarker. It was designed by Toronto architects Marani, Lawson and Morris.

There are three small regimental museums within the Armoury. Overlooking Lake Ontario there are a series of regimental Officers' Messes. These are excellent examples of the traditional British form. The exceptional architectural feature of Fort York Armoury is a parabolic Lamella roof. It provides an uninterrupted span of nearly 125 feet, roofing for parades, military vehicles and the training of soldiers. The main entrance to the Armoury has pilasters of rusticated masonry with a large carved coat-of-arms. This is the coat-of-arms of the Dominion of Canada. It appears above the flat keyed arch of the entrance. The cap badges of each original regiment are carved in stone set in the parapet over doorways opening to ornamental iron balconies.

See also



Fort York Redoubt is a cannon battery built by the Royal Navy to protect Halifax, Nova Scotiamarker.

Related links



Affiliations

The Museum is affiliated with: CMAmarker, CHIN, and Virtual Museum of Canada.

References

  • Historic Fort York 1793-1993 by Carl Benn, National Heritage and National History Incorporated 1993



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