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Toronto History

While people have only lived in Toronto’s urban center since 1793, when British colonials founded the area and dubbed it the Town of York, people have inhabited the area for almost 11,000 years. That’s when the first indigenous people moved here from the south, after the last ice age.

The indigenous tribes first made contact in the 17th century with the Europeans, who crossed the ocean

to what is now known as Canada. During the 18th century, the French built small trading posts along the area. In 1793, the lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada established a settlement called York, where a military post and civilian town slowly grew to defend against American invasions. The War of 1812 crippled York, and it was home to only 720 people by 1814. However, beginning in 1815, the area expanded quickly as it became a trading hotspot. By 1834, the City of Toronto was born and became Upper Canada’s largest community with 9,250 members. But the economy took a downturn and many citizens fell seriously ill and died when cholera and typhus struck in the 1830s and 1840s. Eventually, the economy strengthened and transportation services expanded, becoming more reliable as the railway era began, and helping the city reach a population of 30,775 in 1851. Neighborhoods popped up, with distinct residential and commercial properties, and large public halls and cathedrals—like the St Lawrence Hall and St James’ Cathedral—were erected.

After Toronto joined the Confederation of Canada in 1867, the city grew both culturally and in prosperity. The Royal Ontario Museum came to fruition in 1912 and, exactly ten years later, so too did the Toronto Symphony. Meanwhile, the city’s population grew to 667,500 by 1941, up from 208,000 in 1901. It slowly became more ethnically diverse after the Great Depression ended and became culturally rich after numerous waves of immigrants came to the city following the end of World War II in 1945. Today, the city is Canada’s largest and at the heart of the nation’s commercial, industrial, financial and cultural life. It’s often compared to as the New York City of Canada and features 11 museums that focus solely on the history of Toronto.

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