Journey through Toronto’s historic sites, museums, and landscapes, bringing the city’s colourful history to life.
No city’s history is black and white, right? Within these pages, Daniel Rotsztain’s ode to Toronto’s historic sites awaits your dashes of colour and inspiration. Rotsztain, aka the Urban Geographer, renders the historic sites, museums, and landscapes of each historical community — every former village, farm hamlet, and town — that joined together to form today’s megacity.
Explore the history of Toronto through its heritage architecture — opulent castles and gritty factories, beloved inns and humble cabins, and some unique artifacts (and wallpaper!) — with nothing but your own pencil crayons or markers. A Colourful History Toronto is a whimsical survey of the buildings left behind by the people whose hard work created today’s modern metropolis, and a celebration of the living community hubs that they’ve become.
About the author
Daniel Rotsztain is The Urban Geographer, an artist, writer and cartographer whose work explores our relationship to the places we inhabit. The author and illustrator of All the Libraries Toronto, Daniel’s work has also appeared in Spacing Magazine and the Globe and Mail.
Excerpt: A Colourful History Toronto (by (author) Daniel Rotsztain)
Fort York (first established 1793)
How could a fort located at the centre of a city possibly defend it? Enveloped as it is today by the modern metropolis, it’s difficult to imagine that Fort York was once strategically located at the entrance to Toronto’s protected bay on a rise of land that afforded sweeping views of the fledgling town and the great lake beyond. The War of 1812’s Battle of York saw British, Upper Canadian, and First Nations combatants engaging American troops who ransacked York — then the capital of Upper Canada — before eventually being defeated. Since that important 1813 battle, Fort York has spent most of its life as a peacetime garrison. The only real threat to its walls has been urban development!
The arrival of railways isolated the fort from the city, and track-widening destroyed its northern bastions. A proposal for a streetcar line to be run directly through the garrison was rejected, and the line was rerouted to spare the fort’s remaining structures. After the army moved out in 1933, Fort York was opened to the public as a historic site, but heritage status didn’t protect it completely. In 1958, Frederick Gardiner proposed dismantling Fort York and moving it south to make way for his elevated expressway. Taking a cue from soldiers defending the fort in the past, historical societies petitioned the city to change the plan. They were successful, and today the Gardiner Expressway narrowly misses the fort, rising extra high at that point to maintain access for visitors. Though shoreline extensions have marooned Fort York inland, views of Lake Ontario can still be had through gaps between the high-rises that have sprung up in recent years around the garrison.
Beyond welcoming visitors, school groups, and summer camps, Fort York is now the site for several large public events, including the Nuit Blanche arts festival, concerts, and the annual Na-Me-Res traditional outdoor powwow that celebrates Native history with traditional dancing, arts, drumming, and feasts.