A History of Toronto

By Tim Lambert

The Foundation of Toronto

For ten thousand years native people lived on the site of the city of Toronto. The first European to reach the area was a Frenchman named Etienne Brule in 1615. However, the first European settlement was a French trading fort called built in Fort Rouille in about 1750. However, following the Seven Years War (1756-1763) control of Canada passed to Britain.

Then in 1793 the first governor of Upper Canada, John Graves Simcoe founded a new town. He called the new town York in honor of the Duke of York and he made it the capital of Upper Canada.

Toronto in the 19th Century 

In April 1813 during the War of 1812, the Americans captured Toronto and burned several buildings. However, the Americans soon withdrew. After the war ended in 1815 Toronto grew rapidly as many British immigrants arrived. Toronto University was founded in 1827.

However, in 1832 Toronto suffered an outbreak of cholera. Yet the town soon recovered and continued to flourish. Toronto’s first post office opened in 1833. Then in 1834, Toronto was incorporated as a city (its name was changed from York to Toronto).

The town continued to grow rapidly. In 1841 Toronto gained gas street lights. In 1849 Toronto suffered a severe fire but it soon recovered. St Lawrence Hall was built in 1850 and by 1851 Toronto was a flourishing town of 30,000 people. Furthermore, the railway reached Toronto in 1853. From 1861 horse-drawn streetcars ran in the streets of Toronto. They were electrified in 1892.

Meanwhile, In 1867 Toronto was made the capital of Ontario. During the 19th century, the population of Toronto soared as immigrants poured into the city. By 1891 the population of Toronto was over 180,000.

Toronto in the 20th Century

In the 20th century, Toronto continued to flourish. The Art Gallery of Ontario was founded in 1900.

In 1904 Toronto suffered another severe fire. It began on 19 April 1904 and raged through the night but fortunately, nobody was killed. Once again Toronto soon recovered. The Royal Ontario Museum opened in 1914 and Union Station opened in 1927.

However, Toronto suffered badly in the Depression of the 1930s. However, prosperity returned with the Second World War. The population of Toronto continued to boom.

Meanwhile, The first subway line in Toronto opened in 1954. Yorkdale Shopping Centre opened in 1964 and Toronto City Hall opened in 1965.

Ontario Science Centre opened in 1969. CN Tower was built in 1975. In the same year, 1975 Canada Textile Museum opened. Eaton Centre opened in 1977 and Roy Thomson Hall opened in 1982. The Rogers Centre opened in 1989.

In 1998 several municipalities were merged to form a single city sometimes known as the megacity.

Toronto in the 21st Century

Today Toronto is a flourishing city. Toronto is a major financial centre.

Toronto Railway Museum opened in 2010.

In 2021 the population of Toronto was 2.7 million. Toronto is the fifth-largest city in North America and it still growing steadily.

Last revised 2024