Compared to cities like Paris, London, and even Montreal, Toronto is a relatively young city. Founded as the Town of York in 1793, Hogtown has grown by leaps and bounds over the past 221 years. Today we’re going to go back to our roots, as we review the oldest buildings in Toronto…
The oldest building in Toronto and the only extant building from the 18th century is a log cabin originally owned by John Scadding. Built in 1794 by the Queen’s York Rangers on what is now a portion of the Don Valley Parkway, the cabin was moved to Exhibition Place in 1879 where it can still be seen. There are two other log cabins – one in Guildwood park and one on Broadview Avenue – that also date to the early 19th century. They aren’t exactly architectural marvels, but constitute an integral part of our history nonetheless.
Gibraltar Point Lighthouse
Keeping ships from crashing into our fair city since 1808, the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse on Toronto Island hearkens back to a time when men were men, boats were boats, and lighthouses were, well, lighthouses. Built in an age before electricity, the lamp was originally lit with sperm oil (that’s sperm whale oil, sicko), then coal, until finally being converted to electricity in the 1910s. If you visit the lighthouse look out for ghosts. The location is said to be haunted by its first lighthouse-keeper – who was murdered by soldiers from nearby Fort York.
Speaking of Fort York, the next oldest buildings in our survey are the various blockhouses, gunpowder magazines, and barracks from the old garrison on Bathurst Street. The current structures were built after the 1813 Battle of York (when American forces may or may not have *ahem* burned down the entire city). Some say you can still hear the sound of cannon fire while touring the grounds… but that might just be the sound of condos being built in the area.
If you’ve ever visited Black Creek Pioneer Village, you’ve seen Daniel Stong’s log cabin and butchery. Built in 1816, the buildings are a testament to the pioneer spirit that built our great nation. They are also a testament to the endurance of our brave elementary school students whose visits to the site have produced some of the finest field trip reports in all of Canadian literature.
The piece de resistance of our look through Toronto’s history is The Grange. A stately Georgian manor, The Grange is part of the Art Gallery of Ontario and is our city’s oldest surviving brick house. And what a house it is: with five sets of front windows set into the red brick facade, and imposing entrance columns, The Grange is a work of art in and of itself. Constructed in 1817 for the family of G. D’Arcy Boulton, this building started as a pastoral country estate and is now in the middle of a dense 21st century metropolis. In conjunction with Frank Gehry’s postmodern facade, the AGO, along with The Grange, represents a link to Toronto’s past as we move into the future as a world-class city.
Stay tuned as we move into the future ourselves with the most exciting buildings to be completed in 2014…