Toronto's Historic Walking Tour (Self Guided), Toronto

Once an Anglo backwater, Toronto represents today the cultural and economic heart of English-speaking Canada. It is not only a beautiful city, but also has a rich history dating back to 1793. This tour invites you to explore, at your own leisure, the heritage of Toronto. Don't miss visiting its most exciting and representative sights, as listed below.
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Toronto's Historic Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Toronto's Historic Walking Tour
Guide Location: Canada » Toronto (See other walking tours in Toronto)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.7 Km or 1.7 Miles
Author: ann
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Canada Life Building
  • Campbell House Museum
  • Osgoode Hall
  • Massey Hall
  • Mackenzie House
  • Gooderham Building
  • St. Lawrence Market
  • St. Lawrence Hall
  • Daniel Brooke Building
Canada Life Building

1) Canada Life Building

Canada Life Building in Toronto is the fourth headquarters of Canada’s largest and oldest insurance company, Canada Life. The 15 storey limestone building is famous for its weather beacon at its pinnacle which was built in 1931 by Sproatt and Rolph. The 285 feet (361feet with the weather beacon) Beaux Arts building was supposed to have more storeys but due to the Great Depression, the construction came to a halt.

The one of a kind weather beacon, was not a part of the initial design and was added in 1951 and built at a cost CAD$25,000. It is famous for providing onlookers with weather conditions at one glance which is reported through colorful and flashing lights. If the weather is cloudy the beacons gives steady red light, if it is expected to snow then a white light flashes, it turns green if the weather is clear and red if it is expected to rain. Lights running up represent a steady rise in temperature and the opposite, i.e. lights running down, a fall in temperature.

Designed by Kuwabara Payne McKenna and completed in 2005, the Canada Life Tower is located to the west of Canada Life Building and is connected via an enclosed elevated walkway.
Campbell House Museum

2) Campbell House Museum

Built by the Sixth Chief Justice of Upper Canada, Sir William Campbell, and his wife in 1822, the Campbell House is the oldest remaining house from the original city of York in Toronto. Lady Campbell inherited this Georgian-style house after the death of William Campbell in 1834. All contents of the house were auctioned after her death and until 1890 it served as a residence for local notables.

Originally, the house was on Adelaide Street East and after 150 years, the 300-ton house was shifted to University Avenue with an assistance from the Toronto Transit Commission. A campaign was launched by the Advocates Society to save the house when its last owners, Coutts-Hallmark Greeting Cards Company, decided to demolish it in 1972. On 1st April 1972, the house was fully restored and opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.

Designed for comfort and entertainment, the House was constructed when the Campbells were socially and economically established. After the Campbells, it was used by a horseshoe nails company and an elevator company as an office and factory respectively. Today, the house operates as a museum that educates both tourists and locals about the lifestyles, trends and tit- bits from the bygone era. Visitors are offered guided tours of the property and can enjoy educational programs like historic baking, Scottish dancing, storytelling, etc. It also serves as a club for the members of Advocates Society.

Opening hours:

October 1 – April 30 (except for the month of January): Tuesday to Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m; Saturday, 12 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The museum is closed for tours the month of January but visitors are still able to book group visits and attend public events.

May 1 – September 30: Tuesday to Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m; Saturday and Sunday, 12 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Osgoode Hall

3) Osgoode Hall

A heritage building spread over six acres in Toronto is the Osgoode Hall. This hall has garnered attention for 170 years for its legal activity. The hall was named Osgoode to honor the first Chief Justice of the province, William Osgoode. Although construction began in 1829, this historic structure was completed after 20 years and under several architects like John Ewart and W.W. Baldwin. The outer facade retains the Italian Renaissance style and the inside of the Hall boasts beautiful stained glass heraldic windows, intricate ceiling and elegant arched pillars. The Hall also has Palladian elements. A myth related to the iron gate is that it was originally designed to keep livestock out of the grounds.

After being troop barracks from 1838 to 1843, the Hall went through several restorations from 1844 to 1891. Until relocation of faculty of York University in 1969, the Osgoode Hall was the home of the Law School of the University, the Osgoode Hall Law School. In honor of Ontario lawyers and law students who died in action during the First World War, a War Memorial was sculpted by Frances Norma Loring in 1928 and was added to the Library of the Hall. In 1979, it was designated a National Historic Site of Canada.

Connected through a tunnel in the north is the courthouse at 361 University Avenue. Currently the Osgoode hall houses the Law Society of Upper Canada, Superior Court of Justice and Ontario Court of Appeal.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Massey Hall

4) Massey Hall

The Massey Hall in Toronto, Ontario is the venue where one can enjoy a variety of art forms, from classical music to jazz to world music to international dance troupe performances. Gifted to the city by the Massey family, this architectural beauty was designed by Sidney Badgley at a cost of $152,390.75. A host to more than 100 events annually, this Hall can seat up to 2,765 people in two balconies and a ground floor.

In 1894, the Hall had its debut concert featuring Handel's Messiah. Artists like Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Mark Knopfler, Buddy Guy, Bob Marley, etc. have performed at this Hall which has mind-blowing acoustics. Neil Young, the famous Canadian song writer released a recording of his performance at this Hall called Live at Massey Hall in 1971. The same year, it became a site of National Historic importance in Canada. In 1975, it was designated as a "Heritage Property" by Toronto City Council under the Ontario Heritage Act. A pre-concert hors d'oeuvre can be enjoyed at the Hall's Victorian-style bar and lounge, Centuries. The walls of Centuries are adorned by all the artists who have performed at the Massey Hall.

The mission of the Corporation of Massey Hall, a non-profit charitable organization, is to stand as a pillar of support for development of talented Canadians, to provide a platform for showcasing international arts and to make the city operationally self-sufficient.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Mackenzie House

5) Mackenzie House

Built in the 1850s, the gas-lit Georgian style row-house located at 82 Bond Street, Toronto is the Mackenzie House. This house is believed to be haunted by the ghost of the first mayor of Toronto, William Lyon Mackenzie. In 1820, Mackenzie emigrated from Scotland and published a political newspaper, Colonial Advocate.

The house functioned as a print shop initially and was used for Mackenzie's publications. Mackenzie lived in the house with his wife Isabel and 13 children, and passed away in the second floor bedroom in 1861. The house was sold in the 1930's and was to be demolished but concerned citizens raised enough money to save it. Later in 1950 it was renovated, restored by the Toronto Historical Board and was made open to the public as a museum which exhibits glimpses of Victorian life. The Cultural Division of Toronto City and Museum and Heritage Services operate the Mackenzie House.

The house was locked for a long period during which several activities were observed which made people believe it was haunted. A man whose description matched Mackenzie’s and a long haired woman were seen even when the house was empty and locked. Some other haunted stories included playing of the antique piano, sounds of operation of the printing press and footsteps. These paranormal activities have been observed and reported but none have been documented. Either for the chill of mystery or the thrill of history, a visit to the Mackenzie House is a must.

Opening hours: Saturday-Sunday: 12 pm – 5 pm.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Gooderham Building

6) Gooderham Building

A city is best experienced when traveling on foot and Toronto is no exception. Filled with its own blend of sights and sounds, the city comes to life with its quirky museums, beautiful churches and unique architecture. The St. Lawrence neighborhood is one place where traveling on foot is very advantageous. One of the many places worth visiting in this locality is the Gooderham Building. Hardly five stories tall, the Gooderham Building is one of the most photographed sights in Toronto.

Set in the brilliant urban landscape of Toronto, this flatiron building stands quaintly on the Wellington Street in the St. Lawrence neighborhood. This vermilion, almost brick red colored building singles out from the chaotic backdrop of skyscrapers. Grown to become one of the architectural symbols of the city featuring in every book and postcard, the Gooderham Building is one of the historical sights of Toronto.

Built in 1892, the Gooderham Building is 10 years older to its more famous kin, the Fuller Building in New York which was completed in 1902. The building was constructed for distiller George Gooderham and served as his office till 1952 after which it was sold. The most fascinating feature of the building remains undoubtedly its unique architecture. Its distinct flatiron shape with tinges of Romanesque styling and the innovative mural it wears on its back wall, are obvious reasons why the Gooderham building gets so much attention.
St. Lawrence Market

7) St. Lawrence Market (must see)

Established on 1803, St. Lawrence Market is owned by the City of Toronto and is the nerve centre for commercial and administrative activity for the city. The market is located between Jarvis, Front, King and Church streets, the former industrial area of the city. It is the largest market in the city and is open five days a week, Tuesday to Saturday.

The South Market houses the daily sale of fresh fruits and vegetables along with dairy and meat products. Freshly baked goods are available here all day and so are non-food items. Since its establishment, on Saturdays the market has been the point of sale for the producers of southern Ontario right from 5 in the morning. Sundays bring antique dealers to the North market from dawn to 5 in the evening. The Market Gallery on the second floor of the South Market has an exhibition area available for rent for cultural purposes of the city. Often, the 10,000 sq. ft. of the North Market houses exhibitions, displays, meetings and social gatherings. St. Lawrence Hall runs retail businesses and is the location of the administrative offices of the City of Toronto.

A small pub just outside the market has something to offer if you are hungry or want to sit down for a drink. The market also holds special and creative events for your pet dog or street performances at selected times of the year. So do check out this fun-filled market on your visit to Toronto.

Why You Should Visit:
The choice of fishmongers, butchers, deli meats & cheese and produce vendors reigns supreme, but vegan options are plentiful as well.
The atmosphere is amazing with so many different cultures of people spending their time with family picking out their food.

Make sure to have a good walk around before you decide on one place – there are lots of good options.
If you're traveling through, try to go early in your week so if you buy something you want to eat later you have time.

Operating Hours:
Tue-Thu: 8am-6pm; Fri: 8am-7pm; Sat: 5am-5pm
St. Lawrence Hall

8) St. Lawrence Hall

Standing elegantly next to the St. Lawrence Market is a building which can put any other structure in the vicinity to shame. Such is the grandeur and immense presence of the St. Lawrence Hall. This spectacular building took shape in the mid-19th century and was the work of the renowned Anglo-Canadian architect William Thomas. Thomas first moved to Canada with his wife and 10 children in 1837, to escape the economic crisis. His career took off no sooner than he stepped foot in Toronto and is now considered one of the most gifted architects of his time.

The St. Lawrence Hall is believed to be one of William Thomas’s best works. Designed in Renaissance Revival style, this colossal building has a fantastic facade that complements the width of the building. An interesting feature is the typical Roman temple that takes center stage atop this building.

After a breath taking view of the edifice of the building, it is less likely that any other element of the building will enchant you more. However, the interiors of St. Lawrence manage to achieve just the opposite. The interiors portray elegance, sophistication and opulence of the society of Toronto. No wonder, the Hall has been the epitome of Toronto’s artists and its audiences.
Daniel Brooke Building

9) Daniel Brooke Building

One of the very few structures that escaped the devastating fire of 1849 is the Daniel Brooke Building. This antique building stands in all its glory and wisdom on Jarvis and King Street. Built in 1833, The Daniel Brooke Building was owned by Daniel Brooke, a wealthy merchant of the city.

Built in an elegant Georgian style, the architecture is quite a rare sight in the city. Throughout the years, the building has served as home to an array of commercial enterprises. In fact, the building was also the place where James Austin and Patrick Foy first opened their grocery store. The former latter went on to become one of the most prominent business figure in 19th century Canada. Through the years, the complex saw many prominent names and the building grew quite popular among local business circuits. However, towards the end of the 19th century the entire neighborhood surrounding the complex went into a spell of extreme poverty leading to the eventual abandonment of the building.

The government recently took it up to renovate and revamp the entire neighborhood as well as give the Daniel Brook Building the much needed facelift. After tireless efforts, the area returned to its former glory and today has become one of the trendiest neighborhoods in town.

Walking Tours in Toronto, Canada

Create Your Own Walk in Toronto

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Religious Heart of Toronto Walking Tour

Religious Heart of Toronto Walking Tour

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Toronto's Waterfront Self-guided Tour

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Cabbagetown Walking Tour

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Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.1 Km or 1.9 Miles
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Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
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Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.4 Km or 3.4 Miles
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Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.4 Km or 2.7 Miles

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