History in Motion ~ Old Toronto

~ Ontario in Motion ~

The Development of Old Toronto

During the War of 1812 York (Old Toronto) was twice raided and pillaged by US forces (1813), leaving a British-minded populace with keen anti-American memories. After the war, the village was one recipient of the rising wave of British immigration to Upper Canada. By pursuing trade with expanding farming frontiers, York became the province’s banking centre. By 1834, the fast-growing town of over 9,000 inhabitants was incorporated as the city of Toronto, with an elected civic government led by the city’s first mayor, William Lyon Mackenzie. This prominent Reform journalist and politician tried to seize the city by force in the Upper Canada Rebellions of 1837, but his attempt collapsed (more from confusion than bloodshed) and strengthened Old Toronto’s conservative tendencies.

Old Toronto circa 1953

In the 1840s, Old Toronto increased its commercial lead. Gas lighting and sewers on main streets and steamboat port activity marked its urban rise. In the 1850s, railway building connected Toronto to New York and Montréal, the upper lakes at Georgian Bay, and across western Upper Canada to Detroit and Chicago. Toronto was made capital of the new province of Ontario at Confederation in 1867, and by the 1870s it was becoming markedly industrialized. The city’s population grew by five times between 1831 and 1891. In the 1880s Hart Massey’s agricultural machinery firm, clothing factories, publishing plants and metal foundries grew substantially.

Gooderham & Worts in Old Toronto

The Old Toronto’s growth was aided by industrial tariff protection after 1879 and the promotional drive of leaders such as railway builder Casimir Gzowski and department store builder Timothy Eaton.
(excerpt from https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/toronto)

The Historic Distillery District

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