Fort York, Toronto’s birthplace

Did you know that American troops invaded Canada once?

Yes – well done, you history buff you!
No – don’t feel bad, I didn’t know it either.

In 1812, the United States and Great Britain went to war. In April 1813, the US Army and Navy attacked York, as Toronto was called then. The outnumbered defenders retreated to Fort York from the beachhead on Lake Ontario. The Battle of York lasted six hours. The Americans occupied the town of York for six days, looting homes, destroying supplies and burning public buildings.

The Canadians retaliated in 1814 by burning the Capitol and the White House, among other buildings, in Washington.

War ended in December 1814 but news reached the Dominion in February 1815. Both sides claim victory to this day.

Fort York’s history

Fort York started as a garrison built by Lieutenant-Governor John S. Simcoe in 1793 to enable the British to control Lake Ontario.

As is usually the case, civilians settled nearby and gave the community the name of York. Years later, in 1834, the town was renamed Toronto.

The original log buildings deteriorated and were replaced by new barracks by Simcoe’s successors. The British Army continued to sue the fort until 1870, when the Canadian government took on the responsibility for the country’s defense. The army used Fort York until the 1930s.

The city of Toronto restores the fort in the early 1930s and opened it as a museum.

Fort York today –  a visit in pictures

Fort York is located near downtown Toronto on 100 Garrison Road. I took the Red Rocket (TTC’s trolley) to the fort. I had to leg it for a bit to the entrance.

The Red Rocket
The Red Rocket
Fort York has a fantastic view of Toronto's skyline
Fort York has a fantastic view of Toronto’s skyline. What would the soldiers say about the view and the city today?
Welcome. Come in and make yourselves at home
Welcome. Come in and make yourselves at home
First, I visited the 1815 Brick Barracks, which originally housed 100 people each. The soldiers’ wives and children lived here too.
First, I visited the 1815 Brick Barracks, which originally housed 100 people each. The soldiers’ wives and children lived here too.
The 1815 stone magazine stored 900 barrels of gunpowder. Its walls are 2 metre (6 feet) thick. The adjacent well provided clean water. This one is a reconstruction based on old army plans.
The 1815 stone magazine stored 900 barrels of gunpowder. Its walls are 2 metre (6 feet) thick. The adjacent well provided clean water. This one is a reconstruction based on old army plans.
I came across a handful of groups of students. These ones seem to be enjoying the guided visit.
I came across a handful of groups of schoolchildren. These ones seem to be enjoying the guided visit.
Officer's uniform and stove.
Officer’s bedroom.
Officers' mess. Nice and cozy.
Officers’ mess. Nice and cozy.
The 1815 Officers' brick barracks and mess
The 1815 Officers’ brick barracks and mess
Another view of the fort and Toronto in the background that emphasizes  the contrast between historic and modern.
Another view of the fort and Toronto in the background that emphasizes the contrast between historic and modern.
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Casa Loma, a medieval castle in… Toronto!

“What do you mean a medieval castle in Toronto?”- You’re entitled to think someone’s pulling your leg. But no, they are not. In fact, there is such a thing in the Annex North neighbourhood: Casa Loma, a medieval inspired castle built in 1911.

9 Casa Loma

The owner, industrialist and financier Sir Henry Pellatt, had his dream home built on a hill overlooking Toronto. It took 300 men almost three years to complete. The house has fantastic views of Toronto skyline. If you go down Spadina (which I recommend so you can enjoy the peace and quiet of the Annex North), you’ll walk into the Baldwin steps surrounded by a beautiful garden. Go up to find Casa Loma.

Toronto skyline
Toronto skyline

I loved the idea of visiting such a lovely house; however, it didn’t feel like a home. To make matters worse, it was rather warm that day and there were lots of school children visiting. As there is no air conditioning, they placed huge fans everywhere, which recirculated the warm air. Despite all that, I did enjoy the visit.

3 Casa Loma

Sir Henry and Lady Mary, his wife, lived in Casa Loma for about ten years until financial troubles caused by ill-advised investments and the First World War caused them to give it up and move to their farm. The City of Toronto owns the property.

Lady Mary's suite
Lady Mary’s suite

The main floor comprises the medieval-looking Great Hall, the library, the dining room, the conservatory, Sir Henry’s study and the billiards and smoking rooms. The second floor contains guest rooms; and Sir Henry’s and Lady Mary’s suites (hers was my favourite). The servants’ quarters (for 40 people!) are on the third floor.

Lovely sitting room
Lovely sitting room
Garden feature
Garden feature

 

Address: One Austin Terrace, Toronto M5R 1X8

Directions (from Casa Loma website)

Go to Dupont station (located two stops north of St. George station on the Spadina- University line) and walk north two blocks on Spadina Ave. At this point, visitors have the option of climbing the Baldwin Steps (110 steps) at Spadina Ave. and Davenport Road or walking up the hill on the west side of the castle.

Go to Spadina station and take the Davenport 127 bus to Davenport & Spadina. Get off the bus and climb the Baldwin steps (110 steps ), or take the bus one stop further to Davenport and Walmer and walk up the hill on the west side of the castle.

Go to St. Clair West station on the Spadina-University line, walk east on St. Clair to Spadina, turn right (south) and keep walking (approximately 15 minutes) to the castle.

Go to St. Clair station on the Yonge line. Take the St. Clair streetcar (going West) to Spadina Road, get off and walk south on Spadina Road (approximate 10 minute walk) to Casa Loma.

I visited Casa Loma when we were still living in Toronto back in 20101 (when I had short hair!). I didn’t have a blog then so I’m making up for it now!

I love these powder blue sofas
I love these powder blue sofas

CBBH Photo challenge: same subject, different time

Here’s my interpretation of this month’s challenge posed by East of Malaga blog. I chose to show how two urban landscapes, one in Toronto and one in Ottawa, look in different seasons.

A view of St. James Park in Old Town Toronto. In the autumn at left; in the spring at right.
A view of St. James Park in Old Town Toronto. In the autumn at left; in the spring at right.
ottawa
National War Memorial in Ottawa (late spring and in the dead of winter)

Style face-off: Toronto vs. Dallas

A tongue-in-cheek side-by-side comparison of style in two great cities. Have fun!

TORONTO DALLAS

Makeup

Very little, au naturel Lots! Especially this airbrushed effect that looks so artificial. Stepford Wives, anyone?

Hair

What hair? Big Southern hair. Dolly Parton’s wannabes.

Fashion trends

None really stands out, except in shops. Or ski boots and parkas in winter. Or hijabs and saris in certain areas (not really a fashion trend, I know, but that’s what women wear) Women follow trends to a T (whether they should is a different kettle of fish). Some really shouldn’t. Middle aged women do like their Capri pants.

Cosmetic surgery

None Fake boob and Botox central

Nails

Natural Long, fake talons

Colours

Subdued. Black is a favourite, especially in the colder months. Lots of pink

Summer footwear of choice

Teens seem to favour Uggs (beats me why) Flip flops galore (all year round)

Jewellery

Small, discrete (if any) Big and bold

High Tea at the Windsor Arms Hotel

I’ve been meaning to take high tea here in Toronto but never got round to it until today. Here I was, already bored out of my mind by 10 am when a light bulb went off in my head, why not do it now? I did some research online and chose the Windsor Arms Hotel. I made a reservation for 1 pm.

I put on makeup and heels and took off.

Things didn’t go as smoothly as I would have liked. I took the wrong bus, the 77B instead of the 77A (come on, who reads the signs?); it was rather warm and walking in circles trying to find St. Thomas Street made me hot and sweaty and, unsurprisingly, I was late.

One advantage of being by yourself in a restaurant is that you can eavesdrop on your neighbours. And I was in eavesdropper’s heaven.  The four young people next to me talked about everything and anything from the Code of Hammurabi (and I even knew what that is, I saw it in the Louvre) to the Shah of Iran to why women are attracted to tall men (apparently something to do with our ancestors surviving in the savannah… whatever).

I ordered a full tea, which included loose leaf tea of my choice (Breakfast Blend with Ceylon, Nilgiris and Assam), two scones, Devon cream, raspberry preserve, a goat’s cheese and red onion marmalade tartlet, two petit fours, and tiny rolled sandwiches. And a bowl of strawberries and cream to boot. I could hardly move afterwards.

Classical music was playing softly in the background. It was Viennese waltzes, which made me think of weddings.

Now I’m ready for high tea at Windsor Castle!