Fort York is one of Canada’s most important and earliest historic sites and was in use between the 1790s and 1880s. The military fortifications consisting of stone and wood barracks, powder magazines and officers’ quarters were put in place by the British Army and Canadian militia troops as the primary harbor defense of the city of York, Toronto’s old name and back then the capital of Upper Canada. It guarded the entrance to Toronto Harbour and Fort York saw action three times, the most notable of these battles being the Battle of York in 1813, when the invading U.S. Army destroyed the fort and the retreating British soldiers blew up the powder magazines, killing hundreds. Of course, the British government was not pleased by the defeat and subsequent ransacking of York and this event spurred the much better known British invasion of Washington D.C. a year later, which resulted in the burning of Congress and the White House.
A newly opened visitor center including exhibits, research and community spaces allow visitors to step back in time and explore this rich history. Staff are dressed in period costumes and you can explore the barracks, the quarters and the ramparts. Fort York is now a designated a National Historic Site, and apart from the museum and guided tours offers plenty of special ceremonies, activities and demonstrations, such as artillery firing, squad drills and battle tactics performances.
Fort York can be found just a few blocks west of the CN Tower between the Gardiner Expressway and the train lines. As Fort York is only a short walk away from downtown Toronto, you can easily get there on foot. You can also reach the site by using public transport, for example by taking tram number 511 or bus number 310 to Bathurst Station. The historic site opens daily from 10am to 4pm on weekdays and from 10am to 5pm on weekends, but is closed on some holidays due to special events.