A Short History – Toronto, ON

The view of the Toronto skyline from Lake Ontario. By chensiyuan (chensiyuan) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

With a rich history, friendly people, and plenty of interesting events, Toronto, Ontario is an amazing city to visit or call home. Looking back at the city’s beginnings, it is quite obvious that Toronto is a unique place that has made every effort to preserve its history, while also ushering in modern times.

Toronto Before it Became a City

Around 8,000 years ago, prehistoric humans roamed the dense woods of the Atlantic shore in search of bears and elk. This area would later become known as Toronto, but not before going through numerous changes. Much later, the Iroquois Indians chose to settle the area and create almost 200 villages. Before long, they were joined by various other tribes, including the Huron, the Mississauga, and the Seneca. (In the Huron language, the word Toronto means “meeting place.”)

Urban centres meet dense forests in Toronto, Ontario

Etienne Brule, a French explorer, became the first European to settle on the land during the early 17th century. Soon after, more French followed to settle the land. Due to hostilities between the French and English, the British took over Toronto’s rule in 1760, causing the French to leave the area in droves.

Becoming a City

In 1793, Toronto was officially named a city under the rule of Upper Canada’s governor, John Graves Simcoe, though it was first known as Fort York in honor of the Duke of York because the French had defended it. Soon afterward, it became Upper Canada’s capital. In 1796, Yonge Street was named in honor of Sir George Yonge, the British Secretary of War. Measuring 1,900 km, Yonge St. is the world’s longest street. The small harbor town would remain Fort York until 1834 when it was renamed Toronto. Boasting a population of around 9,000, the city soon began to thrive.

Industrial Toronto

In the mid-19th century, Toronto began a growing business metropolitan area. Due to the building of railways and steamboat ports, there was a rapid increase in urbanization in the 1840s and 1850s.

In 1867, Toronto was named Ontario’s capital. By 1891, more than 150,000 people called the city home. Throughout the late 19th and early 20th century, the city remained a hot spot for industrialization, primarily due to its steamboats, railroads, forests, and mines. In the 1930s, the city did feel some effects of the Great Depression, though not to the extent of other Canadian cities.

During World Wars I and II Toronto suffered war casualties, but also saw growth in the field of investments and manufacturing. Following World War II, the city experienced tremendous growth as Europe renewed its material stock.

By 1951, the city’s population exceeded 1 million. Within the next few years, the subway system and Metropolitan government were created, and suburbs were established. After 40 months of construction, the CN Tower was opened to the public in 1976. Standing at 533.33 meters (1,815 feet and 5 inches) tall, it held the record for being the tallest free-standing structure on land for more than three decades until it was surpassed by Burj Khalifa in 2007.

In 1998, Toronto, with a population of 2.4 million, was officially named a “megacity.” It is currently North America’s fourth largest city following Mexico City, New York, and Los Angeles.


“A Short History – Toronto, Ontario” is a part of the series on the city of Toronto by Coronation Internet Marketing – SEO Toronto for education purposes. See Also: Toronto’s climate