Advertisement

A look back at Toronto’s history as the city celebrates its 185th birthday

Happy Birthday Toronto
Historian Bruce Bell tells us a few unknown facts about our city on its 185th birthday. Tom Hayes reports.

Wednesday marks 185 years since the Town of York was incorporated as the City of Toronto.

On March 6, 1834, Toronto had a population of just over 9,000 and its main boundaries were Bathurst Street in the west, Dundas in the north and Parliament in the east.

As of 2016, the city had a population of 2.732 million and had grown in size to encompass the former municipalities of Etobicoke, North York, York, East York and Scarborough.

READ MORE: How actor and comedian Bruce Bell became a famous Toronto historian

Toronto is now the fourth-largest city in North America by population and a global destination for tourism, business, arts and a variety of cultures.

There’s a lot this city has to be proud of, and with that in mind, people have been marking its birthday throughout the day and sharing their celebrations on social media.

Story continues below advertisement

Mayor John Tory started the morning by proclaiming Wednesday “City of Toronto Day” on Twitter.

Tory also asked social media users to use the hashtag #TO185 when sharing their birthday wishes online.

The CN Tower, which was built in 1976, and the University of Toronto, which was first established as the King’s College in 1827 when Toronto was still York, were among the Twitter accounts wishing the city a happy birthday.

The Fairmont Royal York, which officially opened in 1929 on Front Street, also wished the city a happy birthday online.

When 28-storey Royal York opened its doors, it wasn’t only the tallest building in Toronto at the time, but also the tallest building in the entire British Commonwealth.

Other landmarks in the city are also celebrating, including St. Lawrence Market.

They shared an old photo of the South Market building, which was built in 1845 and was once home to city hall.

The Blue Jays, Maple Leafs, Raptors and Argos all wished the city a happy birthday, as well, with the Raptors tweeting that Toronto “(doesn’t) look a day over 134.”

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ makes its Toronto debut at Royal Alexandra Theatre

The Toronto sign in Nathan Phillips Square was lit blue Wednesday morning to celebrate, and a two-day festival is planned there for this weekend.

From 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday, Nathan Phillips Square will be filled with live entertainment, food trucks, local vendors and even a beer garden for the Celebrate Toronto event.

PHOTOS: Historical images of Toronto

The Royal York hotel under construction. It opened in 1929, becoming the tallest building in the British Commonwealth.
The Royal York hotel under construction. It opened in 1929, becoming the tallest building in the British Commonwealth. Twitter / @FairmontRYH
The St. Lawrence Market used to house Toronto city hall.
The St. Lawrence Market used to house Toronto city hall. Twitter / @StLawrenceMkt
One of the earliest known photos of Toronto. This photo, taken in either 1856 or 1857, shows Front Street.
One of the earliest known photos of Toronto. This photo, taken in either 1856 or 1857, shows Front Street. City of Toronto Archives
King Street East in either 1856 or 1857.
King Street East in either 1856 or 1857. City of Toronto Archives
Dundas Street and Roncesvalles Avenue, looking south east in 1912.
Dundas Street and Roncesvalles Avenue, looking south east in 1912. City of Toronto Archives
Union Station, 1907.
Union Station, 1907. City of Toronto Archives
Story continues below advertisement
Queen Street subway looking east, 1897.
Queen Street subway looking east, 1897. City of Toronto Archives
A drinking fountain at College Street and Spadina  Avenue in 1899.
A drinking fountain at College Street and Spadina Avenue in 1899. City of Toronto Archives
Yonge Street in North York looking south, near where Yonge and York Mills Road intersect today.
Yonge Street in North York looking south, near where Yonge and York Mills Road intersect today. City of Toronto Archives
A group of people celebrating the end of the Second World War on August 14, 1945 with Union Jacks.
A group of people celebrating the end of the Second World War on August 14, 1945 with Union Jacks. City of Toronto Archives
The CN Tower under construction in 1973.
The CN Tower under construction in 1973. City of Toronto Archives

WATCH: A tour of Toronto’s oldest movie theatres

A tour of Toronto’s oldest movie theatres
A tour of Toronto’s oldest movie theatres