watercolour Toronto 1834

Front Street West, looking northwest from Simcoe Street, in a watercolour painting that once hung in City Hall. Image: Toronto Public Library Archives

Ontario’s capital shed the name of York and officially became the City of Toronto 180 years ago today. As a happy birthday to the city, we’re taking a look back at its early history.

Back then, the northern border of Toronto was Lot Street, which was later re-christened Queen. Toronto was concentrated along the harbour and didn’t go much further than Peter Street to the west and the Don River to the east.

According to the July 1833 census, the booming town was home to between 8,000 and 9,000 inhabitants. In the preface to a commercial directory for 1833-1834, George Walton wrote, “in whatever direction the eye of scrutiny be turned, it luxuriates in the solid evidence of a well directed industry, and from the precocity of enterprise everywhere pre-eminently conspicuous to inspire with life and activity our inexhaustible fund of now inert wealth, mechanically conveys to the mind, anticipation of future consummations calculated to illustrate even the brightest pages of future histories of Commerce.”

In other words, Toronto was all business, even at its start.

Take a look at some early drawings and maps:

King St

Image: City of Toronto Archives

toronto harbour 1834

Image: City of Toronto Archives

toronto 1834

Image: Toronto Public Library Archives

King Street East, northside between Toronto and Church Streets. This is a proposal for Guild Hall (which was never built). The Jail is situated at the left end, the Court House is at the right end of Guild Hall. Also visible is St. James Anglican Church. The watercolour is by John George Howard and was painted in 1834.

maps-r-137  Image: Toronto Public Library Archives

A map of the city, dating back to 1834.

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