02/01 – Upper Canada’s New Capital

The American invasion of York in 1813. (Toronto Public Library)

On this day in 1796, the capital of Upper Canada (or, modern-day Ontario) was moved from Old Newark to York. Formerly occupied by the Iroquoian Seneca, York was a small spot at the mouth of the Don River and a waypoint on the Humber Portage trail. For the original inhabitants, the area was a crossroads for trade and seasonal travel; for the British settlers coming on the heels of French traders, it served the same purpose, albeit on a larger scale. Land was rapidly bought up and developed (although payments were fully settled in 2010), and a series of schools, trading posts and military forts were built.

The Toronto skyline in the 21st century. (Flickr)

The town was later renamed Toronto in 1834. In a French interpretation of Huron, the word means “plenty”; the Mohawk word tkaronto means “the place where trees stand on water”. The town was raided by American troops during the War of 1812 (who retreated after the defenders blew up the ammunition dump at Fort York), and soon after the British reinforced the area. The ensuing decades saw a steady growth of the city into the largest city in Canada, and as of 2020, the 4th largest city in North America. Toronto remains the business and cultural centre of Canada, and is consistently ranked among the top 10 most livable cities in the world.

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