York, Upper Canada

York, Upper Canada

Infobox Settlement
official_name = Town of York
nickname = Muddy York
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subdivision_type = Country
subdivision_name =
subdivision_type1 = Province
subdivision_name1 = Upper Canada
subdivision_type2 =
subdivision_name2 =
leader_title =
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established_title = Established
established_date = August 27, 1793
established_title2 =
area_magnitude =
unit_pref = Metric
area_magnitude =
area_total_km2 =
area_metro_km2 =
area_urban_km2 =
elevation_m = 76
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population_note =
population_as_of = 1834
population_total = 9,250
population_density_km2 =

York was the name of Toronto, Ontario, between 1793 and 1834 and second capital of Upper Canada.


The town was established in 1793 by Governor John Graves Simcoe, on the site of an existing settlement named Toronto. He believed it would be a superior location for the capital of Upper Canada, which was then at Newark (now Niagara-on-the-Lake), as the new site would be less vulnerable to attack by the Americans. He renamed the location York after Frederick, Duke of York, George III's second son. York became the capital of Upper Canada on February 1, 1796.


York's population prior to the 1830s was primarily British (from Scotland, England, Wales) with a few other European settlers (French, German, Dutch, Irish). African slaves likely were found in the town, although slavery was abolished by Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe. Beyond the town proper, aboriginals dominated the area.


The population figures for York from 1796 to 1834 include people living in the surrounding areas of the town centre:

* 1793 - 3 and unknown number of aboriginals
* 1796 - 200 soldiers and 400 civilians
* 1812 - 1460
* 1813 - 720
* 1825 - 1,600
* 1832 - 5,550
* 1834 - 9,250

Source:Statistics Canada [ [http://www.statcan.ca/english/freepub/98-187-XIE/geo3.htm List of E-STAT Census Tables and number of geographic areas by province Upper Canada / Ontario] ]


See Geography and climate of Toronto

Much of early York was heavily wooded with the town developed along shoreline of Lake Ontario and up Lot Street or modern day Queen Street; from the Don River to Yonge Street. Later expansion of the town moved the boundaries further:

* West: just west of modern day Fleet Street
* North: near Dundas Street

Toronto Islands was still connected to the mainland was wooded with marshes in what is now Ashbridge's Bay.

The climate of York was similar to that of modern Toronto, but a bit cooler given the lack of human influence on the state of the environment.


York was surveyed by the British Army with roads in a box grid format, while others conform to the geography of the town. To the west, north and east the town was surround by forests. The shoreline along Lake Ontario was gravel or clay.


Home District Council was responsible for municipal matters for York. In early years of the town matters was likely directed to the Executive Council of Upper Canada or the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada.

Fire and Police Services

Fire services did not exist in York, so it was likely provided by local residents with buckets of water.

As for policing, there was no official police force. Public order was provided by able bodied male citizens were required to report for night duty as special constables for a fixed number of nights a year on the pain of fine or imprisonment in a system known as "watch and ward." [http://www.russianbooks.org/crime/cph3.htm]


There was a wide variety of building styles in York, but most were of English influence in reflecting the origins of the settlers at the time.


The first buildings in York were built by the British Army and was more or less utilitarian. With ample supply of trees from the surrounding area, they were all made of wood. * Town Block House 1799-1812 * Fort York * York Gaol - wooden log stockade built, circa 1798 * Castle Frank * Naval Shipyards, York (Upper Canada) - destroyed during the war * Government House Battery 2 18 pounders * Gibraltar Point Battery (1798, with two blockhouses) * Blockhouse Battery (two guns) at the Town Blockhouse 1798 * Government House Battery (two guns) * Half-Moon Battery (not armed in 1813) * Western Battery (two guns, with blockhouse) * Ravine Blockhouse 1814 * new blockhouse on Gibraltar Point 1814

First Buildings

Early buildings in town were made of wood and lacked any architectural style. European influence began to impact York's buildings after the War of 1812 and when more permanent structures were built to serve the residents of the town:

* York County Court House - Palladian architecture

A list of some of the structures built in York:

* Home District Gaol 1837-1840; 5 storey limestone building consisted of a central block and two wings; built on site of original parliament buildings; cease in 1865;demolished 1887 by Consumer’s Gas as Station A Gasworks Building; demolished 1960s; became a Fina Gas Station /Dash Car Wash, Dimont T Trucks and Front Truck Servicentre Ltd.; Atlas Auto Leasing and the Addison Chevrolet Olds Ltd; Fuhrman Auto Body (Fuhrman Autocentre)
* Gibratar Light House


Industrial architecture in York began with large wood structures with agricultural influences (barn like). Towards the 1830, brick and stone became the choice of building materials. A list of industrial buildings of this era:

* Freeland's Soap and Candle Factory - foot of Yonge Street
* Sheldon, Dutcheer and Co Foundry
* James Gooderham Windmill
* Enoch Turner Brewery and Home

Places of Worship

The early church architecture varied from various styles of the 19th Century:

* St James Church -Gothic Revival
* St James Rectory - Colonial
* Methodist Church - Greek Revival architecture
* St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church - Greek Revival architecture
* Baptist Church of York
* British Wesleyan Methodist Chapel Georgian
* St. Paul’s Church


* Court of the Quarter Sessions of the Home District


* Market Block
* York's 5th (Toronto's second) Custom House - 1 storey Georgian building
* Coffin Block - Georgian
* Ontario House Hotel - Georgian
* Jesse Ketchum Tannery - Colonial
* 1st Engine House
* York Fire Company
* Hook and Ladder Fire Company
* Fish Market
* City Hotel
* Farmers’ Storehouse Company
* Crown Inn and Mirror Printing Office
* William Henderson’s Grocery Store
* William Proudfoot Wines and Spirits
* Bank of Upper Canada Georgian
* Daniel Brooke Building
* Canada Land Company
* York 3rd Post Office
* Duke St Post Office


Children in York whom could afford an education likely went to grammar schools. Public education was not available until the 1840s. The first post-secondary institution, King's College opened in 1827.

* Home District Grammar School - Blue School
* Upper Canada Central School -founded as Andrew Bell Monitorial School Colonialdn


Most of the more elegant homes in Toronto were built for the wealthy and powerful elite of the town.

* Widmer House
* Berkeley House
* Maryville Lodge
* St George's House - later as Baldwin House Georgian
* Ketchum Family Home - Colonial
* Joseph Cawthra Home
* Russel Abbey - Colonial
* John Sleigh House
* Ridout Home Georgian
* Arnold House Georgian
* McGill Cottage
* Hazelburn
* Moss Park
* Simon Washburn Residence

Source: The Town of York Historical Society [ [http://www.townofyork.com/1837model.html Toronto: 1837 Model City] ]


The economy of the town was limited to servicing the needs of the residents of York. Some shops and business did exists after 1800. The town likely was involved in trade of resources like wood and fur. Food was produced locally, but some had to be shipped in from outside of York. Light industries also began to appear in the town:

* Freeland's Soap and Candle Factory - foot of Yonge Street
* Jesse Ketchum Tannery
* Sheldon, Dutcheer and Co Foundry
* William Proudfoot Wines and Spirits
* Enoch Turner Brewery and Home
* Gooderham Distillery James Gooderham Windmill


York was attacked by American forces during the War of 1812, pillaged, and partially burned down on April 27, 1813. (For details, please see Battle of York.)




The most important and reliable form transportation in York was by water.

Wharfs were built along the shore to service boats carrying goods and people to and from the town:

* Cooper
* Feighan
* Maitland


Transport to nearby towns and village was by horse and carriage or sleighs during the winter period. Few roads were built in the town and fewer leading out of the town. Most were very poor and was not preferred by travellers.

With the town a number of roads were built along the grid pattern in which York was laid out. For the most part unpaved as transportation was by horse and carriage. There were planked roads from the city built in the latter years.

Most of York's roads went as far east as the Don River and west to what is today's Dufferin Street, but the key streets were to east of Yonge. The northern boundary was originally Lot Street, until Dundas Street and Bloor Street were built. The southern boundary was Palace Street (Front Street).

Most of York's street still exists today, a number have been renamed since:

Public transportation in York was in the form of horse drawn stagecoaches.

A few operaters during the period were:

* Samuel D. Purdy 1816 - founder of first stagecoach line in Upper Canada from York to Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake)
* William Weller 1832 - from Coffin Block to Kingston, Ontario and also operated services in Cobourg, Port Hope, Peterborough, Kingston-Prescott; mayor of Cobourg, Ontario
* John Playter 1828-1832 from York to Newmarket


Prior to 1829 there was not formal hospital in York. Doctors were available, but more comprehensive medical care was limited. The only medical facility was at St. James’ Church or the military services at For York. Plans for a general hospital began in 1817, but it was not until 1829 did the town have hospital (York General Hospital).

Water Supply and Sewage

Prior the mid-19th Century, Toronto's water supply came via wells, not Lake Ontario. It was not until after the founding of the City of Toronto did residence have an option for water from the lake and a fully public water system until 1872.

As for sewage and waste, they were likely disposed of into the lake or landfills.


Little is known what entertainment or cultural events were available to the residents of York.

There were no music or theatres in those days as the population was small. Church-based events, lectures, concerts, travelling performers and other visiting personalities were likely the only source of culture outside of the home. Unofficially taverns, gambling, and racing was available to residents. Public hangings at the Gaol likely a crude form of entertainment.


There was no professional sports events or clubs in York.

Sporting activities were amateur and seasonal (mostly winter):

* skating
* sleighing
* ice-boating
* curling

Public Library

The Mechanics' Institutes opened in 1830 and was the town's first library.


York boast many newspapers, but most folded in a few years of operation [ [http://www.edunetconnect.com/cat/oldnewspap/pap1.html Early Toronto Newspapers II] ] :

* The Upper Canada Gazette, or American Oracle 1798-1807
* York Gazette 1807-1816
** Upper Canada Gazette 1821-1826
** York Weekly Post 1821-1822, then Weekly Register 1822-1826
** United Empire Loyalist 1826-1828
** Upper Canada Gazette 1841-1849

* The Observer 1820-?

* The Colonial Advocate 1824-1833
** Advocate 1833-1834
** merged with Canadian Correspondent to for Correspondent and Advocate 1834

* The Canadian Freeman 1825-1834

* Patriot and Farmer's Monitor 1832-1854
** merged with Leader 1854

* Toronto Daily Express
** merged to form Toronto Family Patriot and Express 1850
** Patriot bought leader and continue to publish until 1855
** as Patriot 1834, then Toronto Patriot 1839
** cease publication 1878

* Courier of Upper Canada 1829-1837
** bought by Paladium of British North America

* Christian Guardian 1829-1925
** absorbed by Guardian 1925

* Sapper and Miner 1832-1833

* Canadian Correspondent 1832-1834
** merged with Colonial Advocate 1834
** bought out by Paladium of British North America 1838

* U.C. Land, Mercantile, and General Advertiser 1834-1835

* Toronto Recorder and General Mercantile Advertiser 1834-1835

* Examiner 1830-1855

End of York

On March 6, 1834, York was incorporated as the City of Toronto. The first mayor of Toronto was William Lyon Mackenzie. However, Toronto was part of the regional division of York County from the late 18th century until the establishment of Metro Toronto in 1954. After 1954, York County was the area north of Steeles Avenue and later renamed York Region in 1971.

Legacy of the name "York"

The York name continues in Toronto. Several neighborhoods or larger districts of the City of Toronto still use the names of former municipalities all named directly or indirectly after the original Town of York:

* The Township, then Borough, then City of North York
* The Township, then Borough, then City of York
* The Township, then Borough of East York
* The Village of Yorkville

And in addition to a host of minor businesses and street names, these "York" names are well known:

* York University, in North York
* The Fairmont Royal York Hotel, downtown
* "Muddy York", a nickname for the city
* Royal York Road and subway station, in Etobicoke
* York Mills Road and subway station, in North York
* Yorkdale shopping mall and subway station, in North York
* North York Centre subway station, in North York
* York Street, downtown
* Old Fort York, the former garrison of the city, now a historic site

Outside of Toronto, major roads and highways in neighboring communities that lead to Toronto still bear the name 'York,' such as Highway 7 in Guelph, called York Road within the city limits

ee also

*York United Kingdom


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