Thursday Doors At Fort York

Last week on Thursday Doors I introduced you to Fort York, built in the late 1700s to defend what is now Toronto from a potential invasion – which was ultimately proved to be a wise decision.

Lady Simcoe has been credited with making many sketches of early York (now Toronto) and I’ve always puzzled over the image of the settlement sitting on a high cliff overlooking the shores of Lake Ontario.

This sketch of the settlement in 1804 never made much sense to me. Image from Wikipedia

The image is simply out of synch with the current landscape of the city and Fort York’s location within it.

The south cannons of Fort York are now trained on … the Gardiner Expressway?

Fort York now sits on a gently sloping hill about a kilometre (2/3 of a mile) away from the shoreline. The Gardiner Expressway is currently located where the shore would have been.

I knew that a considerable amount of downtown Toronto had been built on manmade land, but until now I never had an appreciation for exactly how much landfill that really meant!!

Meanwhile, back at the Fort, I continued my solitary exploration of the site.

The original buildings are plain in appearance and had in fact been wooden structures, however today, they are a combination of wood and brick.

My favourite building had to be the officers’ quarters. They certainly lived with a much higher standard of living than the regular soldiers – although to be fair, they paid for those amenities themselves.

In the mid-1800s, the large original fireplaces in the officers’ quarters were blocked off and replaced with more efficient wooden stoves.

I like that there is a door on the fireplace so that it can still be accessed rather than simply boarded up. hmmm – I wonder if they are using it for storage?

The original kitchen was located under the officers’ dining room, but was relocated to an addition onto the building in the mid-1800s. Apparently the officers didn’t like the noise coming from the kitchens below while they enjoyed their evening meal.

The door leading to the original basement kitchen

I didn’t particularly want to venture down the steep and narrow stairs to the original kitchen, but what kind of intrepid explorer would I be if I didn’t?

The basement is currently in a state of disrepair – not sure if it’s being restored or not – as it was largely blocked off from venturing too far from the stairs. Just as well in my opinion. Again – I’ve seen too many horror stories to be comfortable poking around a dark basement.

My vote for the creepiest place in the Fort

So although my tour of Fort York didn’t include any of the demonstrations that normally occur during high season with people in period costumes, I found my visit to be fascinating.


The gates are open and visitors are welcome!

This post was inspired by Thursday Doors – a weekly photo feature hosted by Norm 2.0.

54 comments

  1. Beautiful old place. Where I live, we also have similar places like that. Some of those places have abandoned armed tanks, fighter jets and canons used in second world war. I always love that kinda places when the surroundings are calm.

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  2. Years ago, when I was a pre-teen, my dad β€œmade” us take a tour at Fort York, when I remember all my sister and I wanted to do was roam downtown neighborhoods. I don’t recall that expressway at all, but it’s obviously pretty dominant! Someday I need to go back (sorry or thanks, Dad. Whichever is more appropriate πŸ™„). – Marty

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    • When I was young I had zero appreciation for history and old buildings. I remember mind-numbing boredom on school trips because we didn’t do anything ‘cool’. Funny how our appreciation for things changes with age πŸ™‚

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  3. I’m sure it’s more ‘entertaining’ with people in costumes and all that. However, I like that you’re experiencing the space of the place and I appreciate you taking us with you. These places are like time travel.

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  4. I do love that fireplace door and the last one had me puzzled for a bit before I realized it’s one of the entrance gates – I assume.
    It’s surprising how a number of major North American cities waterfront areas are at least partially built on landfill. Chicago, Toronto, Boston, NYC, even parts of the old port of Montreal were filled in and built-over.
    And thanks for the continued in-depth tour of the Fort. It is definitely moving up on my list of priorities for my next trip to Toronto.

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    • You’re right, Norm. The last photo is the front gate, although the back gate I posted last week is the same style of door.

      Although I knew the harbour area had been built up, I didn’t know that Fort York used to be stilling on a 10-metre high cliff overlooking the water. What I don’t understand is why. I suspect loading and unloading of ships had a lot to do with it.

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  5. Aren’t the old forts wonderful? Blockhouse No.1—I love everything about that door. Can you imagine lugging dishes up and down those kitchen/basement stairs?! What the officers heard was probably the staff cussing them out!!

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    • I agree with you about the shoreline changes. On one hand, it is a marvel of engineering, but I’m also increasingly sensitive to man’s tendency to manipulate nature for his own purpose … and not all of it good.

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  6. I am officially adding this to my “must see” list of I make it back to Toronto. Maybe I’ll try to avoid that expressway with my CT license plates. I wouldn’t want to attract cannon fire. I love the green door and the door within the gate.

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  7. Wow. The landscape has changed quite a bit. It’s not even recognizable. And the old kitchen looks like a catacomb! Ha ha. I can understand why you didn’t poke around. But the hinged latch covering the stairs is pretty cool. Thanks for sharing your adventure, Joanne. πŸ™‚ Happy Travels.

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    • Catacomb is a great word to describe it … although the first word that came to mind for me was ‘crypt’. By this point, my imagination as running wild.

      The door over the stairs really creeped me out. I had visions of being locked down there.

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  8. Hi Joanne. I really liked the Blockhouse 1 door.
    This is a fascinating place. Your photos are fantastic. I get what you mean about the sketch — or rather how that feels. I hate when something just feels off. It wiggles into the brain and sticks around tenaciously. With me, I usually can’t get any confirmation, and often can’t even pinpoint exactly what it is — except that it’s just wrong somehow.
    But nothing wrong with it being Friday. TGIF hugs!

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  9. Hi Joanne,
    Boston is like Toronto, apparently, in the respect that it is largely built on fill. In colonial days it was almost an island connected by a narrow neck. In fact, in the 1800s a big hill in my hometown of Needham about 10 miles outside of the city was razed and hauled into Boston to make more land. So those old drawings are disorienting for a reason.
    I love exploring historic sites…

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    • I didn’t know that about Boston. I suspect that many old North American cities can say the same thing.
      I am rather disturbed by the idea of man destroying hills / mountains for his own purpose πŸ˜• There are many rivers and streams that were buried or rerouted around Toronto to accommodate the growing city. In fact, a few years ago I learned that my house was built on one of them πŸ˜•

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  10. Beautiful images Joanne πŸ™‚ You’re description of Toronto sounds a lot like how the land mass of Manhattan was extended by using ground oyster shells.

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  11. Wonderful, Joanne! When I was young, my dad loved to take the family to old forts – I think we visited every one in Ontario. Your photos bring back those memories.
    I was bored by the marching and the other demonstrations (e.g. firing of canons and such), but this is probably where I first came to love old, historic buildings.

    Deb

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