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We are introducing a brand new series of Photo Essays! Have a look at amazing Photo Sets all shot by talented photographers. Explore the vibe of the city, its hidden treasures, meet the Torontonians! This time, let’s have a look at Toronto through the lens of Roland Shainidze!
We have a great tip for you — something you would probably not expect to find in the heart of Toronto, Canada’s largest collection of original military fortifications that have seen the Battle of York! If you’re visiting during the summer, you can go to one of the many events held onsite that turn back the wheel of time. Exhibits come alive with period settings, people in costumes, and the bright red colours of the Fort York Guard.
The History of the Site
These well preserved buildings date back to the late 18th century and were built by the British Army and Canadian troops to serve as fortifications protecting Toronto from attacks after the United States had declared independence in 1776. The location was chosen by Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe, who considered it to be the ideal position for the Capital of Upper Canada, near Lake Ontario and at safe distance from the United States. The first garrison was sent here in 1797 (although their original barracks were destroyed in the Battle of York in 1813). Fort York troops were guarding the western entrance to the bay.
In 1812, the United States declared war and invaded Canada. During the War of 1812, the U.S. army of 2,700 men on fourteen ships attacked the settlement of York (which was to become today’s Toronto), sailing across Lake Ontario on April 27, 1813. They stormed Fort York and blew up the powder magazine. It’s said that the devastating explosion was heard from a long distance. Much of the site burnt to the ground and many lives were lost in the battle. After the summer of raids, the British garrison rebuilt Fort York, and many of these newer buildings are still standing today. Stronger than before, the fort managed to survive further attacks and continued to serve the military during World Wars I and II.
The Fort York Site Now
The buildings are among the oldest in Toronto today, and with the goal of preserving this heritage, Fort York opened as a historic museum on Victoria Day in 1934. While the first buildings were made of wood and have been burnt down, the current structures are a mix of brick and wood. When visiting the site, you can have a look inside most of them, including the North and South Soldier Barracks, Officer’s Quarters, many blockhouses, and the Stone Powder Magazine. Unfortunately, the Lieutenant Governor’s Residence was destroyed in 1813. The grounds of the fort include part of the original 1813 battlefield and two military cemeteries.
Explore the museum’s exhibitions and fully furnished rooms of the barracks. During the summer, Fort York Guard and volunteers perform a variety of demonstrations, including artillery firing, musical demonstrations, drills, and battle tactics performances. The site is run by the City of Toronto and kept alive with the efforts and enthusiasm of The Friends of Fort York.
If you haven’t been yet, don’t miss out on the impressive reenactments that allow you to wander into Toronto’s turbulent military past! Have a look at some other heritage sites around Toronto: Osgoode Hall, Black Creek Pioneer Village or Spadina House.
Address: 100 Garrison Road
Contact: (416) 392-6907
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Meet the Photographer
Roland Shainidze is an amateur photographer in Toronto. He is a graduate student in humanities at York University and his photography is focused primarily on architecture, both interiors and exteriors. He has taken photographs in Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City and Ottawa as well as his native Georgia. Roland uses HDR tools to transform the presentation of the imagery of architectural elements. Self-taught, he takes every opportunity to take pictures and experiment with them; playing with lines, patterns, light and selective colour.