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JUNE 27

Toronto Travel Guide

Toronto History



Situated on the slab of land separating Lake Ontario and Georgian Bay, Toronto was on one of the three early portage routes to the northwest, its name taken from the Huron for "place of meeting". The first European to visit the district was the French explorer Étienne Brûlé in 1615, but it wasn't until the middle of the eighteenth century that the French made a serious effort to control the area with the development of a simple settlement and stockade, Fort Rouillé . The British pushed the French from the northern shore of Lake Ontario in 1759, but then chose to ignore the site for almost forty years until the arrival of hundreds of Loyalist settlers in the aftermath of the American Revolution.

Specifically the town, then known as York, was built inland from the Toronto Islands, a chain of small islands leading into a marsh(long since drained away) at their eastern end, with an opening at the western end. In 1813, as part of the War of 1812, York was attacked and partially burned. It was in retaliation for this that British forces attacked Washington, DC, the next year. Fort York was lightly manned at the time, and realizing that a defence was impossible, the troops retreated and set fire to the magazine. It exploded as the US forces were entering the fort, leaving a big crater in the ground (that no longer exists), and many US soldiers were killed in the explosion. After the US forces left a new and much stronger fort was constructed several hundred yards to the west of the original position. Another American attack in 1814 was defeated with ease, the landing force never being able to approach the shoreline.

By the end of the nineteenth century Toronto had become a major manufacturing centre dominated by a conservative mercantile elite who were exceedingly loyal to British interests and maintained a strong Protestant tradition. This elite was sustained by the working-class Orange Lodges , whose reactionary influence was a key feature of municipal politics - no wonder Charles Dickens had been offended by the city's "rabid Toryism". That said, these same Protestants were enthusiastic about public education, just like the Methodist-leaning middle classes, who also spearheaded social reform movements, principally Suffrage and Temperance.

According to a United Nations report, Toronto has the second-highest proportion of immigrants in the world, after Miami, Florida. Almost half of Toronto's residents were born outside Canada. The resulting cultural diversity is reflected in the numerous ethnic neighbourhoods of the city; and the proliferation of authentic shops and restaurants derived from cultures around the world makes the city one of the most exciting places in the world to visit. Moreover, the relative tranquility that mediates between such diverse populations is a testament to the tolerant character of Canadian society.




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