~The Fire of 1904
The settlement of York was incorporated as the City of Toronto on March 6, 1834, 175 years ago, and taking back its original native name. The population was only 9,000, and the first Mayor was William Lyon Mackenzie, who led the unsuccessful Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837 against the British colonial government. The city was severely damaged in The Great Fire of 1904, which explains the lack of XIX Century buildings in most of the city.
I am a Torontonian since 2001. The first thing I did was trying to make my new place of residence my home. In México I knew every story behind every corner of my city, and although I did have a Toronto address, I did not have any knowledge of my surroundings. The first thing I learnt about my new city is that Jarvis Street used to be a lovely, affluent neighbourhood with meridians and trees. This caught me by surprise given the deplorable state of the street nowadays, but then I start looking at the facades and beyond the neon light and I discovered such a beautiful architecture, revealing a proud past now lost but not forgotten.
As the months and years passed by, I learnt more and more stories about corners, buildings, parks of Toronto that made me love the city I live in.
Toronto has somehow an inferiority complex that makes claim of being a “World Class City”. Maybe because Toronto was no much of a town until the 1970s, and maybe because it still would be a medium size Canadian city if Montréal wouldn’t give up being Canada’s Economic and Cultural hub by enacting Bill 101, it would look like we are this teenager city trying to look for its identity.
I laugh when somebody try to compare Toronto with New York or when I heard a fellow Torontonian claiming the World Class City discourse, because I know that Toronto has an identity and a soul that we, somehow, take for granted; Toronto is a Garden City. It is vetted with parks, ravines, little rivers, little corridors of nature that have no comparison in any place I lived before (I am a veteran of half dozen cities). The lush of Sunnybrook Park and the path I can bike with my son to Edward Gardens or the paths from the Humber River at Lake Ontario to the Humbler Marshes Park and Étienne Brûlé Park (and the fact that I know Étienne Brûlé story) made Toronto my home long before I was a Canadian Citizen.
I also know that Toronto is a city of Neighbourhoods, each one with a distinct flavour, personality, and local characters. From Rosedale, Corso Italia, Greek Town, a Lilttle Malta!, Gerrard Street, too many Chinatowns to count, Queen West, to the shops in Bayview Av where I live. Those are my neighbourhoods, those are my people, and those are the reasons I feel home here.