Manager’s Report (summer 2015)

by David O’Hara, Site Manager

2015 will be remembered as the season that never ended. We moved from a busy June with Field Trip, the Indigenous Arts Festival, and the Na-Me-Res Traditional Pow Wow to Taste of Toronto and the Pan Am Games in July.

Pan Am programming included the Aboriginal Pavilion on Garrison Common and the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation Cultural Village in the dry moat. Both of these components were very well organized and we record a huge thank you to the organizers, artists, musicians, vendors, and others involved.

Our annual Simcoe Day/Emancipation Day programming was well attended in early August, as was the TD Irie Music Festival held on Garrison Common on August 1 and 2. We were pleased to again work with the Ontario Black History Society on much of this programming and to bring an exhibit on Blacks in the Military to Fort York for the month of August. Other events included the Vegan Food Festival, Toronto Independent Music Experience, Lolë White Yoga, and Mad Decent Block Party. We were very pleased to be able to host The First World War Comes to Life, Canada's largest private operational collection of First World War vehicles, on August 8 and 9, and we hope to work with them again in the near future.

Other events included the Vegan Food Festival, Toronto Independent Music Experience, Lolë White Yoga, and Mad Decent Block Party. We were very pleased to be able to host The First World War Comes to Life, Canada's largest private operational collection of First World War vehicles, on August 8 and 9, and we hope to work with them again in the near future.

While things were busy on site at Fort York, the Fort York Guard were off in Niagara for the Fort George Fife and Drum Muster and Soldiers' Field Day. Our squad, who looked very impressive all season long, narrowly won the annual drill competition at Fort George. Congratulations all around. September continued to be active with Toronto Urban Roots Festival, TIFF in the Park on September 25, and our own Small World On Common Ground Festival of Music Arts and Community held on September 26 and 27 in partnership with Small World Music Festival (

The month winds down with a buildup for Magna Carta: Law, Liberty & Legacy. This exhibit opens in the Fort York Visitor Centre on October 4 and runs until November 7. Tickets can be purchased online at

We really hope everyone comes out to see this exhibit and to support Fort York. Please spread the word. Fort York continues to be surrounded by major construction. Between now and through most of 2016 work will continue on the Gardiner Expressway. As the entire deck of the expressway is being demolished and replaced, the area underneath and in front of the Visitor Centre is fenced off and parking severely limited.

We apologize for the inconvenience and hope that you're patient with us as we get through this work. We do hope to continue our own site improvements as well. By the end of 2016, and certainly in early 2017, much of the major work around the Visitor Centre will be complete and circulation routes for vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists will be significantly improved. Construction on the Fort York Pedestrian Bridge is also expected to be underway in 2016; an announcement of the winning design is expected in the coming weeks.

On a positive note, we're pleased to report that the Fort York Visitor Centre won an Award of Excellence for 'Public Buildings in Context' at the 2015 Toronto Urban Design Awards. The Jury commented on the building as: A skillful insertion on a sensitive site, the centre adds necessary new space while allowing the fort itself, and the adjacent parade ground, to be undisturbed. The building itself does a lot with very little: Its front façade successfully evokes both a rampart and the original shoreline of Lake Ontario, gesturing toward two aspects of the city's history. The Visitors' Centre, however, is best seen as the beginning of a successful master plan; the jury strongly urges support to complete the architectural vision and also establish the planned landscape under the Gardiner Expressway. In the long term, this site will form an important link in a network of parks through the western downtown which could, and should, become crucial community assets.

"On The Job with a Military Animator" The Canadian Press interviews Fort York guardsman Cpl. Pat Jenish.

Cpl. Pat Jenish of The Fort York GuardCpl. Pat Jenish says wearing the uniform of a War of 1812 infantryman is a "fantastic honour”. The military animator at Toronto’s Fort York Historic Site describes a typical day on the job.

Click on the following link to view this enlightening video interview.

Donate or join The Friends of Fort York to support the The Fort York Guard and Fife & Drums.

First World War Comes To Life exhibit visits Fort York

Vintage 1917 Triumph Model H Motorcycle at Fort York. Photo by Claudia GabouryFirst World War medical aid station exhibit with 1917 Dodge Red Cross Sedan. Photo by Claudia Gaboury







First World War Comes to Life brought their travelling exhibit of Great War service vehicles to Fort York on Aug. 8 & 9. This is the largest private collection of operational First World War vehicles in Canada, focusing on how mechanization and transportation changed the nature of war.

Visitors to the exhibit were greeted by service vehicle and military interpreters from both Fort York and First World War Comes to Life. They enthusiastically answered myriads of technical and human interest questions and helped bring to life the men and women who used these vehicles and the roles they played in the war effort. Unlike many static museum displays, all of the First World WarFriends of Fort York guardsman Pierce Cosgrove (left) and Fort York Program Development Officer Kevin Hebib (right), are seen on the 1917 Douglas with sidecar. Beautifully restored in the royal blue colour of The Royal Flying Corps. Photo by Ted Smolak Comes to Life vehicles are in working order and a number of trucks, sedans and motorcycles were driven around the Fort York parade ground during the two day exhibit. Seeing a 1917 Dodge sedan hand cranked and hearing the engine sputter to life, was a delightful experience that few visitors had witnessed before. Each exhibit vehicle is now approximately 100 years old and has its own unique story of service and survival. For instance, the rare and recently restored 1917 portable field kitchen was found after languishing for many years on an Alberta ranch. Motorcycle enthusiasts were particularly interested to see working examples of the Trusty Triumph, Douglas and Harley motorcycles. They are rare survivors from a time when motorcycle design was in its infancy. Women, as interpreted in the field ambulance exhibit, made significant social gains through their work overseas as medics, ambulance drivers and motorcycle dispatch riders. When the war was over, few wanted to return to their former Edwardian-era society roles. Saturday’s event also included a unique flypast above Fort York by four aircraft from the The Great War Flying Museum including the Fokker Dr.I Triplane, Nieuport 28, Sopwith 1½ Strutter, and Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5a. The flight display further demonstrated how quickly mechanization had conquered land, sea and air.

For more information about both organizations and upcoming events, check the First World War Comes to Life website and The Great War Flying Museum

Heritage Magazine reviews the Fort York Visitor Centre

Heritage Magazine Fort York Visitor Centre Article
Read Heritage Magazine's feature article on the Fort York Visitor Centre. Click on the magazine cover to download the full article in pdf format.