Historic Fort York, 1793-1993

Overview

Fearing an American invasion of Upper Canada, John Graves Simcoe had Fort York built in 1793 as an emergency defensive measure. That act became the first step in the founding of modern Toronto.

Twenty years later, the Fort was the scene of the bloody Battle of York in which the famous American explorer, Zebulon Pike, died leading U.S. forces against the Fort’s outnumbered Canadian, British and Aboriginal defenders. The Americans won this battle – their first major victory in the War of 1812 – and torched the province’s public buildings during a six-day occupation. A year later, British forces retaliated by capturing Washington and burning its government buildings, including the White House.

Rebuilt in time to drive off another American attack in 1814, Fort York was maintained through the 1880s to guard against internal unrest and potential American annexation. Even after its defences became obsolete, Fort York continued to serve as barracks and training grounds for the Toronto garrison until the 1930s, when it reopened as a historic site museum.

In this book, Carl Benn explores the dramatic roles Fort York played in the frontier war of the 1790s, the birth of Toronto, the War of 1812, the Rebellion of 1837 and the defence of Canada during the American Civil War, and describes how Toronto’s most important heritage site came to be preserved as a tangible link to Canada’s turbulent military past.

Reviews

Without question, Fort York is Toronto's most important historic site and now, thanks to Carl Benn, its definitive history has been written in a clear, concise and entertaining style.

The Toronto Sun

Benn's scholarly work ... is a local history of a high and provocative kind, casting a searchlight on a patch of Toronto's historical terrain that has many a surprising nook and dell in it.

The Globe and Mail

About the Authors

Carl Benn

Posted by Dundurn Guest on December 6, 2014

Carl Benn

Carl Benn was born, raised and educated in Toronto. He has worked in the heritage field for about twenty years and presently is the Curator of Military and Marine History for the Toronto Historical Board. He also teaches on a part-time basis at the University of Toronto and has published a large number of historical and museological articles.