HistoricTO is a new cultural experience that connects Toronto’s communities at Toronto History Museums. HistoricTO brings local Toronto neighborhoods and communities together to start conversations about the city’s past and imagine a new future, together. Explore the history of Toronto through equitable access to local history, heritage and land-based learnings. Time-ticketed interior and exterior site tours must be booked in advance.
Creativity and innovation drove John and Jemima Howard, the original owners of Colborne Lodge, to leave High Park as a legacy that all Torontonians beneﬁt from today. Visit the Lodge to hear intimate family stories of infertility and infidelity, and learn about the human costs of their Victorian taste for tea and sugar. Find out just why the “maid of all work” was a job that no one wanted for long. Discover John’s vision for state-of-the-art mental health care and Jemima’s battle with breast cancer. Uncover how Indigenous territory became a private country retreat for these two English settlers and now lives on as Toronto’s High Park.
The main floor of Colborne Lodge is wheelchair accessible (approximately the first 50% of the tour). The second half of the tour is only accessible by stairs.
Back in its heyday, Sunnyside was the most famous attraction Toronto had to offer. It was dubbed “the Poor Man’s Riviera” because it was supposedly accessible by all – except, it wasn’t. Who was allowed, and who wasn’t? Colborne Lodge’s HistoricTO tour invites you to explore the tales, trepidations and triumphs of Toronto’s Sunnyside shoreline and the south end of High Park. From lakefront to boardwalk, Black Oak Savannah to baseball diamond, discover the rich social and natural history of the area on this roughly 60 minute tour ending at a scenic lookout over Grenadier pond. The perfect start or finish to your day out in the park!
Please note, Saturday walking tours at Colborne Lodge starting September 12 will be led by First Story.
High Park free parking is located adjacent to the front entrance on weekdays. There is no vehicle access to High Park on weekends. High Park accessible washrooms are available.
Visit the Fort York National Historic Site where, in 1813, British soldiers, First Nations warriors, and Upper Canadian militia men stood together against the United States. Be inspired by the military personnel and their families who resided in Fort York and learn about the daily life of a 19th-century garrison community. Feel the past come to life and hear the stories of Black militiamen, including both free and enslaved men. Visit the 1830s in a restored officer’s living quarters and mess establishment, where British officers enjoyed many of the luxuries to which they were accustomed to in the United Kingdom, at the expense of the common soldiers’ canteen.
The War of 1812 in Upper Canada has been covered in detail by a number of historians, but the lives of the ordinary people who were caught up in the conflict, especially Indigenous and persons of colour, have been until recently seldom described in any detail. HistoricTO presents Fort York National Historic Site with an opportunity to share some of the stories of these largely underrepresented groups. Drawing upon primary sources, including military records, letters, memoirs, and oral accounts, we will strive to better understand the experiences of persons from historically disadvantaged communities who served in the defence of York (Toronto) and Upper Canada during the war and the pivotal role they played throughout the conflict.
Come and explore Gibson House Museum, the 1851 home of the Gibson family: immigrants, farmers, land surveyors, reformers, and rebels. This tour will unravel the colonial history of the land and its peoples: David Gibson risked his home and family to make Toronto better for himself and his neighbours, but also used his skills as a surveyor to disrupt Indigenous ways of life that existed for tens of thousands of years. Explore and engage with how the family shaped a community, a city, and the province.
The main floor and washroom level at Gibson House are wheelchair accessible – all key elements of your experience will happen on the main floor; the upper floor is only accessible by stairs. Accessible parking is located adjacent to the front entrance.
Some of Willowdale’s stories are well-known, while others are seldom heard. This hour-long tour introduces some of the heroes, rebels, reformers and storytellers who called Willowdale home, from the 1830s all the way to modern times. Along the way, we’ll explore how stories are told and the ways they change based on who is telling them. Who do we consider heroes, and how do we celebrate them? Join us for an opportunity to stretch your curiosity as well as your legs.
What role did William Lyon Mackenzie, Toronto’s first mayor, play in the history of the city? Mackenzie House explores Victorian Toronto and the stories of a contrary and controversial man who had an extraordinary impact on our city – from journalist to mayor, mayor to exile, exile to politician. Given to Mackenzie by the people of Toronto, both the house and its owner were controversial. Explore the story of Mackenzie and other of mid-19th-century Toronto rebels and learn how their stories fit into the fabric of a growing city, such as publisher Mary Ann Shadd Cary, who challenged the attempts to silence her voice on abolition and other issues. Visitors are invited to take home a copy of Mary Ann Shadd Cary’s newspaper, “The Provincial Freeman”, printed on the 1845 printing press!
Mackenzie House’s print shop is wheelchair accessible (25 per cent of tour). The historic house is not wheelchair accessible and includes three sets of stairs (75 per cent of tour).
William Lyon Mackenzie’s rebellion against a corrupt ruling elite, the struggle of desperate Irish immigrants, the resistance of enslaved People of Colour and the First Nations push back against colonial treaty practices are all part of the story of this city. This tour will explore the ways that systemic power dynamics were articulated and enforced in early Toronto and what people did to push back against this entrenched oppression.
Toronto is home to some of the best mural, street and graffiti artists and art in the world. The ‘StreetARToronto You’ve Changed’ exhibit at Market Gallery showcases the ways these artists and artworks have transformed Toronto’s streets, laneways and parks into a city-wide art gallery. Featuring videos, special displays and photographs that showcase more than 100 StreetARToronto (StART) projects between 2012 and 2019, the exhibit tells the story of how local street artists have taken Toronto street art to a level of international renown.
Please note, this is not a guided tour, visitors tours the exhibit on their own.
Montgomery’s Inn is every bit as lively now as it was in the 1870s. For years, people found shelter, quenched their thirst, and shared stories here. Built around 1830 for Thomas and Margaret Montgomery, the family farmed the land and ran the Inn for the next quarter century, during which time they hired servants and labourers. At least one of their employees, Joshua Glover, escaped his enslavement in the United States and came to Etobicoke via the Underground Railroad. Go behind the scenes and hear the stories of the people who lived and worked at Montgomery’s Inn.
The main floor and lower level of Montgomery’s Inn is wheelchair accessible (including accessible bathroom). The upper floor is only accessible by stairs. Accessible parking is located adjacent to the front entrance.
Inns were at the very centre of their respective communities, providing conviviality and shelter, food and drink, and a safe place to share stories and ideas. Come walk with us where you will meet some of the people who traversed the grounds of Montgomery’s Inn and neighbouring Thomas Riley Park. From first peoples to settlers, and Chinese market gardeners like Willie Chung who was born at the Inn in 1937. Or farm hands like Joshua Glover whose flight to freedom along the underground railway would galvanize the abolitionist movement in the United States and inspire the formation of the Republican Party.
Walk features an exploration of nearby Mimico creek and includes a gentle paved slope and a short walk up a grassy hill.
History and daily life come together in the four historic buildings at Scarborough Museum. Explore this engaging community space that has become the heart of Thomson Memorial Park. Together, we will break down the past and redesign our future. Hear stories, new and old, that have shaped the ever changing community of Scarborough. This hour-long tour will challenge the history of the land originally farmed by Indigenous peoples and settlers, and explore its evolution into a major suburb of North America’s fourth largest city.
Second floor is only accessible by stairs. Guests will have to travel across wood chips to access Hough Carriage Works. Ramps are available to all other buildings.
Take a walk in Thomson Park and discover hidden and untold stories, landmarks and legacies, new and old that shape the ever changing community of Scarborough. Engage in crucial and complex conversations surrounding the diverse histories of Scarborough past, present and future. This hour long outdoor adventure through the park will deconstruct settler colonial history of the land and its peoples.
Explore the opulence and splendor, triumphs and tribulations of 1920s Toronto at the Austin family’s residence, named Spadina from an Annishnaabemowin word ishpadina (“highland” or “ridge”). If the lush gardens, lavish furniture and beautiful decor of Spadina could talk, they would tell you stories of a grand life full of galas and garden parties, juxtaposed by the harsh reality of a servant’s life and the pain of losing a loved one to sickness. They would start conversations that explain how, like today, the 1920s and ’30s were a time of unprecedented change.
All floors of Spadina Museum may be reached via our one-person accessible lift. Public washroom is not fully accessible.
With stops in the neighbourhood around Spadina Museum, this walking tour explores patterns of how people have lived on the lands above and below the Davenport escarpment and how that geography affected what we see today. From Indigenous peoples, to the land grants made to well-connected people, to the Austin family and Henry Pellatt, those who have occupied this area have left their mark on the land. The tour includes descending the Baldwin Steps and climbing the slope of Walmer Road and Austin Terrace.
A cross-section of Toronto history, layered through centuries of industry and art, Todmorden Mills is full of contradictions: At times a beloved natural space and a hotbed of industry, Todmorden has been home to people of all backgrounds: from Indigenous Peoples to nineteenth century industrialists, from wandering brickyard workers to entrepreneurial women forging a new path in male-dominated industries. Get a glimpse into young families living through the changes of the late Victorian era, and a labour camp from the Second World War. Discover Todmorden’s two historic houses and see how people carved out a living in a valley that was often unforgiving.
Helliwell House is not accessible by wheelchair and the 1940s Cottage is accessible through an uneven and inclined terrain. The Papermill Building which houses a gallery and theatre is fully accessible.
On this HistoricTO tour at Todmorden Mills, guests will delve into the unwritten history of the Don Valley, from its origins as a fruitful land used by Indigenous Peoples to hunt, fish and camp, to the struggles of the labourers harnessing the massive power of the Don River to build the young city of York (Toronto) and feed its settlers. As the city grew, the Don Valley came to be seen as a rift dividing Toronto – obstacle to city development, a place only good for rough industry and inhabited by marginalized people with no place else to go. At Todmorden Mills, guests can see the effects of industry on the environment and discover more recent attempts to undo some of the damage caused.