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In the 2011 census, Toronto had a population of 2,615,060, making it the fifth largest city in North America. A population estimate from a city report released in 2013 shows the city is now the fourth most populous city in North America, after Mexico City, New York City, and Los Angeles. As an established global city, Toronto is an international centre of business, finance, arts, and culture, and widely recognized as one of the most multicultural and cosmopolitan cities in the world.
Aboriginal peoples have inhabited the area now known as Toronto for thousands of years. The urban history of the city dates back to 1787, when British officials negotiated the Toronto Purchase with the Mississaugas of the New Credit. They established the Town of York, and later designated it as the capital of Upper Canada. During the War of 1812, the town was the site of the Battle of York and suffered heavy damage by U.S. troops. York was renamed and incorporated as the City of Toronto in 1834, and became the capital of the province of Ontario in 1867. The original borders of Toronto were expanded through amalgamation with surrounding municipalities at various times in its history, the results of which can be seen in the 140 independently unique and clearly defined official neighbourhoods that make up the city.
Located in Southern Ontario on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario, Toronto is situated on a broad sloping plateau intersected by an extensive network of rivers, deep ravines, and urban forest. It anchors the Golden Horseshoe, a densely populated region surrounding the western end of Lake Ontario that is home to 8.7 million people, or around 26% of the entire population of Canada. The demographics of Toronto make it one of the world’s most diverse cities, with about 50% of residents having been born in a country other than Canada, and over 200 distinct ethnic origins represented among its inhabitants. The vastly international population of the city reflects its current and historical role as an important destination for immigrants to Canada. While English is the primary language spoken by the majority of Torontonians, there are over 160 different languages spoken in the city.
Toronto is a prominent centre for music, theatre, motion picture production, and television production, and is home to the headquarters of Canada’s major national broadcast networks and media outlets. Its varied cultural institutions, which include numerous museums and galleries, festivals and public events, entertainment districts, national historic sites, and sports activities, are key attractions to the over 25 million tourists that visit the city each year. Toronto is well known for its skyscrapers and high-rise buildings, in particular the tallest free-standing structure in the Western Hemisphere, the CN Tower. As Canada’s commercial capital, the city is home to the Toronto Stock Exchange, the headquarters of Canada’s five largest banks, and the headquarters of many large Canadian and multinational corporations. Its economy is highly diversified with strengths in technology, design, financial services, life sciences, education, arts, fashion, business services, environmental innovation, food services, and tourism.
Lawrence Richards, a member of the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Toronto, has said: “Toronto is a new, brash, rag-tag place—a big mix of periods and styles.” Toronto’s buildings vary in design and age with many structures dating back to the mid-19th-century, while other prominent buildings were just newly built in the first decade of the 21st century. Bay-and-gable houses, mainly found in Old Toronto, are a distinct architectural feature of the city. Defining the Toronto skyline is the CN Tower, a telecommunications and tourism hub. Completed in 1976 at a height of 553.33 metres (1,815 ft 5 in), it was the world’s tallest freestanding structure until 2007 when it was surpassed by Burj Khalifa.
Through the 1960s and 1970s, significant pieces of Toronto’s architectural heritage were demolished to make way for redevelopment or parking. In contrast, since the 2000s, Toronto has experienced a period of architectural revival, with several buildings by world-renowned architects having opened during the late 2000s. Daniel Libeskind’s Royal Ontario Museum addition, Frank Gehry’s remake of the Art Gallery of Ontario, and Will Alsop’s distinctive Ontario College of Art & Design expansion are among the city’s new showpieces. The historic Distillery District, located on the eastern edge of downtown has been redeveloped into a pedestrian-oriented arts, culture and entertainment neighbourhood.
The many residential communities of Toronto express a character distinct from that of the skyscrapers in the commercial core. Victorian and Edwardian-era residential buildings can be found in enclaves such as Rosedale, Cabbagetown, The Annex, and Yorkville. The Wychwood Park neighbourhood, historically significant for the architecture of its homes, and for being one of Toronto’s earliest planned communities, was designated as an Ontario Heritage Conservation district in 1985. The Casa Loma neighbourhood is named after Casa Loma, a castle built in 1911 by Sir Henry Pellat, complete with gardens, turrets, stables, an elevator, secret passages, and a bowling alley. Spadina House is a 19th-century manor that is now a museum.
The City of Toronto encompasses a geographical area formerly administered by six separate municipalities. These municipalities have each developed a distinct history and identity over the years, and their names remain in common use among Torontonians. Throughout the city there exist hundreds of small neighbourhoods and some larger neighbourhoods covering a few square kilometres. Former municipalities include East York, Etobicoke, North York, Old Toronto, Scarborough, and York.
The Old City of Toronto covers the area generally known as downtown, but also older neighbourhoods to the east, west, and north of downtown. It includes the historic core of Toronto and remains the most densely populated part of the city. The Financial District contains the First Canadian Place, Toronto-Dominion Centre, Scotia Plaza, Royal Bank Plaza, Commerce Court and Brookfield Place. This area includes, among others, the neighbourhoods of St. James Town, Garden District, St. Lawrence, Corktown, and Church and Wellesley. From that point, the Toronto skyline extends northward along Yonge Street.
Old Toronto is also home to many historically wealthy residential enclaves, such as Yorkville, Rosedale, The Annex, Forest Hill, Lawrence Park, Lytton Park, Deer Park, Moore Park, and Casa Loma, most stretching away from downtown to the north. East and west of Downtown, neighbourhoods such as Kensington Market, Chinatown, Leslieville, Cabbagetown and Riverdale are home to bustling commercial and cultural areas as well as communities of artists with studio lofts, with many middle- and upper-class professionals. Other neighbourhoods in the central city retain an ethnic identity, including two smaller Chinatowns, the Greektown area, Little Italy, Portugal Village, and Little India, along with others.
The inner suburbs are contained within the former municipalities of York and East York. These are mature and traditionally working-class areas, consisting primarily of post–World War I small, single-family homes and small apartment blocks. Neighbourhoods such as Crescent Town, Thorncliffe Park, Weston, and Oakwood–Vaughan consist mainly of high-rise apartments, which are home to many new immigrant families. During the 2000s, many neighbourhoods have become ethnically diverse and have undergone gentrification as a result of increasing population, and a housing boom during the late 1990s and first two decades of the 21st century. The first neighbourhoods affected were Leaside and North Toronto, gradually progressing into the western neighbourhoods in York. Some of the area’s housing is in the process of being replaced or remodelled.
The outer suburbs comprising the former municipalities of Etobicoke (west), Scarborough (east) and North York (north) largely retain the grid plan laid before post-war development. Sections were long established and quickly growing towns before the suburban housing boom began and the emergence of metropolitan government, existing towns or villages such as Mimico, Islington and New Toronto in Etobicoke; Willowdale, Newtonbrook and Downsview in North York; Agincourt, Wexford and West Hill in Scarborough where suburban development boomed around or between these and other towns beginning in the late 1940s. Upscale neighbourhoods were built such as the Bridle Path in North York, the area surrounding the Scarborough Bluffs in Guildwood, and most of central Etobicoke, such as Humber Valley Village, and The Kingsway. One of largest and earliest “planned communities” was Don Mills, parts of which were first built in the 1950s. Phased development, mixing single-detached housing with higher-density apartment blocks, became more popular as a suburban model of development. Over the late 20th century and early 21st century, North York City Centre, Etobicoke City Centre and Scarborough City Centre have emerged as secondary business districts outside Downtown Toronto. High-rise development in these areas has given the former municipalities distinguishable skylines of their own with high-density transit corridors serving them.
Source: Wikipedia Canada
Image Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/toronto-canada-skyline-architecture-73508/