37 must-read milestones from Toronto’s first 186 years

Mar 4 2020, 3:00 pm

On March 6, Toronto turns the ripe old age of 186.

And the city has never looked better.

This month, the city is throwing a massive two-day party on March 7 and 8 at Nathan Phillips Square, where Torontonians can celebrate the past, present and future of their favourite city.

And while there are so many monumental moments that have shaped Toronto into the amazing city it is today, we wanted to share 36 of the more notable milestones with you.

coolest downtowns


March 6, 1834: Toronto is Born
On this day, 185 years ago, the former town of York was renamed to Toronto to distinguish itself from New York. The original city boundaries included Bathurst Street to the west, Lot Street (now Queen Street) to the north, and Parliament Street to the east. The population at the time was 9,252.

March 27, 1834: Toronto Elects Its First Mayor
The city of Toronto hosted its first municipal election, and William Lyon Mackenzie, who was a journalist and politician, became Toronto’s first mayor.

December 19, 1846: First Telegraph
The Toronto, Hamilton and Niagara Electro-Magnetic Telegraph Co. is formed and the very first telegraph message sent in Canada travels from Toronto to Hamilton.

April 7, 1849: The First Great Fire of Toronto
Also known as the Cathedral Fire, this was the first major fire to occur in Toronto and it destroyed much of the city’s business core.

University of Toronto

University of Toronto

May 30, 1849: The University of Toronto is Formed
Former King’s College becomes the University of Toronto, which will become one of the most prestigious universities in Canada and the world.

1849: Toronto’s First Public Transit System is Formed
Founded by H. Williams, the William Omnibus Line opened, becoming the first public transit system in the city. The company was later acquired by the Toronto Street Railway company 1862.

October 27, 1856: Rail from Toronto to Montreal Available
The Toronto-Montreal section of the Grand Trunk Railway opens. The first trip takes 14 hours. The trip now takes just over five hours.

1858: First Union Station Opens
Running west along York and Front Street, the first Union Station was opened by the Grand Trunk Railway (GTR).

hanlan's point

Before two storms created a channel, the Toronto Islands as we know them today were a peninsula connected to the mainland.

April 14, 1858: Toronto Islands Form
The Toronto Islands were formed following a massive storm that disconnected the land mass from the mainland.

September 11, 1861: Toronto Streetcar Service Begins
Toronto’s first streetcar route starts operation. Streetcars are pulled by horses and operate from the Yorkville Town Hall to St. Lawrence Market, and eventually added a second line along Queen Street.

October 25, 1861: Toronto Stock Exchange Opens
The Toronto Stock Exchange is formed and is now one of the largest stock exchanges in the world.

July 1, 1867: Canadian Confederation
The British colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick came together to form the Dominion of Canada. The old province of Canada was then split into four provinces Ontario and Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

1869: Eaton’s Department Store Opens
Founded by Timothy Eaton, the original small store was located on Yonge Street and eventually grew into one of the biggest shopping centres in Canada, and one of the most-visited tourist attractions in the city.

184 Anniversary milestones

CNE 1890, The Ex Media Centre

September 1, 1879: First Canadian National Exhibition
The first Canadian National Exhibition — then called the Toronto Industrial Exhibition — is held on what will become the CNE grounds. The initial event proves to be a monumental success. Today, the CNE is currently one of the 10 largest fairs in North America.

1883:  Toronto Public Library Officially Opens
Following the approval of the “Free Library By-Law”, Toronto became one of the first municipalities in Ontario to open a free public library.

September 18, 1899: City Hall Opens
Toronto City Hall opens as one of the largest buildings in the city. It will hold city council until 1966 when a new city hall building will be built.

April 19, 1904: Second Great Fire of Toronto
This is the second largest fire to cause significant damage. This fire destroyed over 100 buildings in downtown Toronto.

184 Anniversary

Toronto Blueshirts, 1914, Hockey Gods

March 11, 1914: Toronto Blue Shirts Win Stanley Cup
The Toronto Blueshirts, who were founded in 1911, won the first Stanley Cup of Toronto. The Blue Shirts will later be replaced by the Toronto Hockey Club, which will evolve into the Toronto Maple Leafs.

September 1, 1921: The Toronto Transportation Commission is Established
The Toronto Transportation Commission (TTC) takes over all transit in the city, amalgamating all existing systems. In 2016, the TTC set an all-time rider record, with 538.1 million rides in the year.

184 Anniversary

Union Station, 1927: Image courtesy of the Toronto Public Library

August 6, 1927: New Union Station Opens
The new Union Station opened and the old station was dismantled over the next year. Today, more than a quarter-million people use Union Station daily.

November 12, 1931: Maple Leaf Gardens Opens
The downtown hockey arena located on Carlton Street opens with an Original Six matchup between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Chicago Blackhawks.

February 4, 1939: Toronto Island Airport Opens
On this day, the first plane landed at the Toronto Island Airport. Today, the airport is recognized as being one of the best in North America in the 2-5 million passenger category.

March 30, 1954: Toronto’s First Subway Line Opens
On this date, the TTC’s first subway, which was also the first subway line in Canada, opened between Eglinton and Union Station.

GO train

GO Transit / Shutterstock

May 23, 1967: GO Transit is Established
Ontario’s first inter-regional rail transit system opens for business, connecting the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, with trains running from Hamilton to Pickering. Today, the annual ridership amasses 70.8 million.

June 26, 1976: CN Tower opens 
The CN Tower opens as the tallest freestanding structure in the world. The tower was built so members of the Canadian National Railway could observe the entire railway switching yard.

October 1976: The Original Toronto International Film Festival Begins
Originally called Festival of Festivals (later Toronto International Film Festival), the film fest took place at the Windsor Arms Hotel and didn’t attract the same calibre of actors it does today. Now, TIFF attracts the biggest names in Hollywood and is one of the largest and most influential stops on the festival circuit.

March 6, 1980: Toronto Gay Freedom Rally Held
Following Toronto Police raiding a series of bathhouses and arresting hundreds of gay men, “A Gay Freedom Rally” was held, which effectively became Toronto’s first Pride event. Today, Toronto hosts one of the largest Pride festivals in North America.

184 Anniversary milestones

Skydome, 1989: Image courtesy of the Toronto Public Library

June 5, 1989: Toronto Skydome Opens
The Skydome (later Rogers Centre) officially opens, marking the completion of the world’s first fully retractable roof.

October 24, 1992: Toronto Blue Jays Win First World Series
The Jays beat the Atlanta Braves in the sixth game of the World Series to win the championship. It was the first time a Canadian team had ever won the trophy. The Jays would follow up this incredible season with another World Series championship the following year.

June 26, 2010: G20 Summit is Held
At the G20 Summit, leaders discuss global financial systems and the world economy. This prompted massive protests and the mass detention of peaceful demonstrators by police.

184 Anniversary


June 20 to 29, 2014: Toronto Hosts World Pride
World Pride attracted thousands to the streets of Toronto in celebration of equality and LGTBQ rights.

October 27, 2014: John Tory Becomes Mayor
Following Toronto Mayor Rob Ford admitting to smoking crack cocaine after months of speculation, John Tory is elected as the 65th mayor of Toronto, defeating the incumbent mayor’s brother, Doug Ford, and former councillor Olivia Chow.

July 10 to 26, 2015: Toronto Hosts Pan-Am Games
Toronto hosts 6,132 athletes as part of the major sporting event. This was the third Pan Am-Games hosted by Canada and the first in the province of Ontario.


Image: Invictus Games Toronto / Facebook

September 2017: Invictus Games
The third-ever Invictus Games, created by Prince Harry, took place in Canada for the first time. The games hosted 17 nations representing wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel and veterans. The event attracted over 75,000 people, including former President Barack Obama.

October 2017: Google Confirms Sidewalk Project on Toronto’s Harbourfront
Sidewalk Toronto will transform Toronto’s waterfront into a thriving hub for innovation and a community for tens of thousands of people to live, work, and play.

October 22, 2018: John Tory re-elected 
Incumbent John Tory was re-elected by voters as the Mayor of Toronto, winning with over 63.49% of the votes. Tory defeated former chief city planner Jennifer Keesmaat and 33 other mayoral contenders in a whirlwind election campaign.

June 14, 2019: Toronto Raptors win first-ever NBA Championship

The Toronto Raptors won their first NBA Championship in franchise history, beating the Golden State Warriors 114-110 in a thrilling Game 6. Tens of thousands gathered on the streets to celebrate the Raptors’ victory, with Yonge-Dundas Square and its surrounding roads acting as the epicentre of after-partying.

With files from Ainsley Smith.

DH Toronto StaffDH Toronto Staff

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