Fort York National Historic Site
Fort York is a 43-acre national historic site located in the heart of downtown Toronto. Referred to as Toronto’s founding landscape, Fort York National Historic Site is also a Heritage Conservation District, a registered archaeological site, and home to Canada’s largest collection of original War of 1812 buildings.
As a cornerstone that has witnessed over 200 years of change that saw the Town of York evolve into one of the most multicultural and liveable cities in the world, Fort York also reveals Toronto’s topographic history, industrial development and rail history. The Fort was built as a defence against invasion, became the focus of a significant battle during the War of 1812, and acted as a deterrent against both internal and external threats.
The site offers ongoing programming throughout the year. During the summer months the site comes alive with the colour and pageantry of the Fort York Guard. Discover Fort York’s history, join a tour, take in one of our spectacular events or exhibits, enjoy kids’ and school programs, or rent the facility for your next celebration.
Seniors (65 +): $10
Youth (13-18 years): $8
Children (6-12 years): $6
Families (Max 2 adults, 3 children): $35
Children 5 and under are free; special events and pre-registered activities are priced separately.
Hours of Operation
September to May
Monday to Friday: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Weekends: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
June to August
Daily: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Closed Christmas Eve (December 24), Christmas Day (December 25), Boxing Day (December 26), and New Year’s Day (January 1), and Good Friday (March 30).
From Gardiner Expressway eastbound: Take the Jameson exit off the Gardiner Expressway to Lakeshore Boulevard. Continue eastbound on Lakeshore Boulevard, past Exhibition Place, turning left on Strachan Avenue. North on Strachan Avenue past Fleet Street. The parking lot is on the north-east corner of Fleet St. and Strachan Avenue. Walk east on Fleet Street and north on Fort York Boulevard to the Visitor Centre.
From Gardiner Expressway westbound: Take the Spadina exit off the Gardiner Expressway and continue westbound on Lakeshore Boulevard. Turn right at Strachan Avenue and continue north past Fleet Street. The parking lot is on the north-east corner of Fleet Street and Strachan Avenue. Walk east on Fleet Street and north on Fort York Boulevard to the Visitor Centre.
There is limited accessible and public parking in front of the Fort York Visitor Centre at 250 Fort York Blvd. Additional Green P parking is available at the corner of Fleet Street and Strachan Avenue. Access this Green P lot via the westbound lane of Fleet Street and turn right onto Garrison Road (Garrison Road is marked by the ‘Old Fort York’ archway). This parking lot can also be accessed from Strachan Avenue. Once parked, visitors can walk along Fleet Street to Fort York Boulevard to the Visitor Centre entrance.
From Bathurst Station: On Line 2, take the Bathurst 511 “Exhibition” streetcar southbound. Exit at Fleet Street and Fort York Boulevard stop. Walk north to the Visitor Centre. (Effective September 3, 2017 – Buses will be used instead of streetcars due to a shortage of streetcars.)
From Union Station: Take the 509 Harbourfront streetcar westbound towards the CNE Exhibition grounds on Fleet Street. Exit streetcar at Fleet Street and Fort York Boulevard stop. Walk north to the Visitor Centre.
At street level, from the north-east corner of Front St. W. and Bay St.: take the 121 Fort York-Esplanade bus westbound towards the CNE Exhibition grounds, exit at Fort York Boulevard and Fleet street and walk north to the Visitor Centre
From Eglinton West Station: Board the 63 Ossington Bus Southbound. Proceed southbound to Strachan Avenue, south of King Street. Exit the bus at Strachan Avenue and East Liberty Street and walk south towards the Strachan stairs at the west end of Fort York.
For specific TTC route and schedule information call 416-393-4636 (INFO) or visit the TTC website.
From Exhibition GO Station: Take the 509 Harbourfront OR 511 Bathurst streetcar and exit streetcar at Fleet Street and Fort York Boulevard stop. Walk north on the west side of Fort York Blvd to the Fort York Visitor Centre. For specific GO train schedule information visit the GO Transit website.
Bike parking as well as a Bike Share Toronto station are located outside the Visitor Centre.
From King and Bathurst ride south on Bathurst Street towards Lake Ontario. Cross the Bathurst (Sir Isaac Brock) Bridge and turn right onto Fort York Boulevard. Follow the Fort York Boulevard bike lane to the Visitor Centre.
From King and Strachan from King Street ride south on Strachan Avenue towards the lake. Turn left at Fleet Street and follow to Fort York Boulevard. Turn left on Fort York Boulevard and ride north to the Visitor Centre.
From the Martin Goodman Trail at Lakeshore Boulevard and Strachan Avenue exit the trail and ride north on Strachan to Fleet Street. Turn left at Fleet Street and follow to Fort York Boulevard. Turn right on Fort York Boulevard and ride north to the Visitor Centre.
Bicycle Parking at Special Events: Many large-scale events (concerts, festivals) will have additional bike parking. Please check with the event for more information on special event bike parking.
The Visitor Centre acts as a hub for the interpretation of the entire 43-acre (17.4-hectare) site, containing permanent and changing exhibits, a Battle of York immersion experience, and facilities for education, research, staff and community use. It opened in the fall of 2014 for the 100th Anniversary Commemoration of the Great War.
The new building is Fort York’s front door, welcoming and orienting visitors, and is located below and just north of the Gardiner Expressway at the entrance to the National Historic Site. Conforming to the Toronto Green Standard, the building provides Fort York’s first secure exhibit space and enables the display of artifacts from the City’s collection that illustrate the history of the city’s founding site.
Exhibit space in Fort York’s Visitor Centre includes:
- A 2900 square foot Exhibit Gallery
- An ‘immersive experience’ exhibit, which takes visitors through the steps leading up to the Battle of York and the explosion of the fort’s Grand Magazine
- A 480 square foot vault, or treasury designed to display iconic and light-sensitive artifacts
- An Orientation Theatre, with a new orientation film
The Vault, Exhibit Gallery and Orientation Theatre have been designed as Class A museum space, which maximizes our ability to display artifacts from our own collection and to borrow exhibits and artifacts from other institutions.
The Visitor Centre was designed by Patkau Architects Inc., Vancouver, with Kearns Mancini Architects Inc., Toronto. The building’s architecture received a Canadian Architect magazine Award of Excellence in 2011.
Is Fort York accessible?
Fort York is committed to providing access for visitors to as many areas of the site as possible. All walkways within the 7-acre walled site are asphalt surfaced and are wheelchair accessible. Some exhibits require walking up or down stairs. The Stone Magazine and the Brick Magazine are not wheelchair accessible. The pathway in the Strachan Ave. cemetery is a packed gravel surface and of limited use for wheelchairs while access to the restored fortification features such as walls, ditches, and dry moats are not wheelchair accessible.
We will provide portable ramps for any edges that need to be negotiated through doorways and assist special needs guests with ramp placement. In cases where a guest cannot access a space, we will provide an interpretive overview upon request (person to person).
Guide dogs and hearing dogs are welcome. Seating can be found in a number of exhibits, outside many of the structures, and in the picnic table area. All washrooms are special needs accessible. Public access washrooms are located in the Visitor Centre, South Soldiers’ Barracks, on the lower floor of the Blue Barracks. The Blue Barracks washroom is accessible via an elevator. Water fountains are located outside and only available seasonally.
Please call 416-392-6907 or email Fort York at email@example.com or specific accessibility questions.
How much walking will I have to do? Are there places to sit?
Visiting Fort York requires easy walking over fairly even terrain. Some structures and exhibits require walking up or down stairs. There are benches on the walkways outside the Canteen Museum Store and adjacent to buildings off pathways. There are also picnic tables on site.
Can I bring a stroller?
Yes, strollers are welcome at Fort York and are easy to navigate throughout most of the site.
Does the museum accept credit cards?
Yes, we accept AMEX, MasterCard, Visa, and debit cards.
What should I wear and how long does it take to visit?
Fort York is mainly an outdoor site with walking required between locations. Seasonal attire is recommended. Guests should allow at least 2 hours for their visit to Fort York.
Can I film, photograph, or record my visit when on-site?
Yes. We encourage you to take photographs or use video cameras for your own use. Due to safety, security, and privacy issues, guests are asked to notify interpretive staff of their intent to film or record interpretive and animation experiences. Commercial filming, photography, and recording are granted by permission only and must be approved in advance of visit. Staff can connect interested parties with the City’s Film Liaison Office.
Is there a shop at Fort York?
Yes, the Canteen Museum Store presents a wide selection of gifts and educational materials. Shopping with us will provide you with some unique and desirable items while supporting the museum. Proceeds from sales help fund our educational programmes and museum exhibits.
The Fort York National Historic Site was built in 1793 and is the birthplace of urban Toronto. It is best known as the location where the Battle of York came to its violent climax in 1813 during the War of 1812. The Fort served as the city’s primary harbour defence between the 1790s and the 1880s, and was the home of a military garrison until the 1930s.
Today, its defensive walls enclose Canada’s largest collection of original War of 1812 buildings. Every year, thousands of people visit the site to explore its fascinating history and enjoy its public programs. Fort York was designated as a National Historic Site of Canada in 1923.
Primary Source Documents
The following primary source documents are available in PDF format by request.
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Description of Historic Place
Located in downtown Toronto, Ontario, near Lake Ontario, Fort York is a green open space in the midst of high-rise urban development, containing seven original War of 1812 buildings. The fort’s grounds and neighbouring environment encompass the birthplace of the city, remnants of the late eighteenth-century landscape, part of a 1813 battlefield, military cemeteries, and vast archaeological resources. Today the fort serves as a museum of the largest collection of War of 1812 buildings in Canada. The designation refers to a complex of eight buildings within an 3.24 ha. area enclosed by a restored, bastioned, stone-lined earthwork, the open mustering ground to the west, a military cemetery at Strachan Avenue, and other lands cut off from the main area by elevated roads.
Fort York was designated a national historic sites of Canada in 1923 because:
- Fort York constituted the primary defensive position of early York (Toronto); and
- the seven buildings erected between 1813 and 1815 are important surviving examples of British military architecture.
The heritage value of this site resides in directly related resources, including War of 1812 seven buildings within the restored, bastioned earthwork, the open mustering ground to the west, a military cemetery at Strahan Avenue, and other related lands currently cut of the main area by elevated roads.
Fort York, the birthplace of the modern city of Toronto, was established in the late eighteenth century by the Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada John Graves Simcoe to house a garrison of British soldiers, creating a secure location which would attract permanent settlers. During the War of 1812, the fort was burned by invading Americans and subsequently rebuilt by the British who continued to garrison the fort. In 1870, they were replaced by Canadian forces who used the fort until the 1930s. Between 1932 and 1934, the City of Toronto restored the fort as a historic site. Further work was carried out in 1949.
Now separated from the fort by roads and a railway corridor, the military burial ground that forms part of Victoria Memorial Square was opened in 1794 for the internment of soldiers and their families. It was in use until 1863 by which time it had reached its capacity of 500 burials. Almost immediately the public moved to preserve it, both as a cemetery, and as public park. In 1905, it was renamed Victoria Memorial Square.
Character Defining Elements
Key elements contributing to the heritage value of this site include:
- the strategic location of the fort near the original shore of Lake Ontario;
- the cultural landscape comprising the bastioned fort, Garrison Common, and the cemetery, Victoria Memorial Square, with its natural setting including those portions of the ravine bank on the north and east sides which have not been modified and the western earth work, moat and those portions of other earthworks which align with the original trace and that contain significant amounts of original fabric;
- the complex of original buildings within a bastioned stone-lined earthwork including Blockhouses No.s 1 and 2, a brick powder magazine, a stone powder magazine, two brick soldiers’ barracks, and officers’ barracks and mess in their original spatial arrangement, massing, materials, design, craftsmanship, and finishes;
- associated archaeological sites including the subsurface remains of pre-War of 1812 buildings, remains of ten buildings from 1813-1815 and buildings from 1837and later, the remains of two batteries probably beneath Bathurst Street and the crater created by the explosion of the powder magazine and the glacis buried underneath fill outside the south rampart, and the original earthworks and the footprint of those removed during the 1930s restoration;
- the historic access route to the western entrance to the fort (Garrison Road) with viewscapes along the road from the fort, from the east (Bathurst Street) and north from the foot of the south ramparts;
- the open character of the mustering ground (Garrison Common) to the west of the fort;
- the military cemetery at Strachan Avenue in its original extent and safe remove from the fort proper, with its remaining headstones placed at the base of the monument in the middle of Victoria Memorial Square.