A tour of the University of Toronto in 2008. Photo by Olena Sullivan, courtesy of Heritage Toronto.
To celebrate its fifteenth anniversary, and Toronto’s 175th birthday, Heritage Toronto is offering ten new tours as part of its free historic walking tours program. Although the walks have been ongoing since April, there are still several new tours to look forward to during the summer schedule, including Union Station and the Railway Lands, Fringe Festival Sites, and Mackenzie’s 1834 Toronto (a tour of the city as it was 175 years ago, during William Lyon Mackenzie’s term as mayor). “We’re trying to increase the number of walks we do across the city,” Peggy Mooney, Heritage Toronto’s executive director, told Torontoist. “We want to make people realize—from one part of the city to the other—that there’s a lot of interesting history there. Since amalgamation, we are responsible for promoting heritage across the entire city. It isn’t just about early nineteenth century buildings…we’re trying to make people think about the city they live in, not just about Victorian Toronto, but about more modern buildings, more modern heritage.”
The average heritage walk is one-and-a-half to two hours, and turnout often averages around a hundred people. The focus of every tour is different; some tours focus on architecture, while others focus on natural heritage, but according to Mooney, at the very least, people can expect the walks to be well-researched and informative and the tour guides to be passionate and knowledgeable. To plan and lead its tours, Heritage Toronto relies on an army of volunteers. “We’re always looking for new walks in neighbourhoods that we haven’t covered before,” said Mooney. “Any opportunity we can use to get people to come forward with their ideas is really helpful…We’d be really happy to have more people approach us and say: ‘I’ve got an idea for a walk.’”
Unfortunately, the city workers’ strike has somewhat derailed Heritage Toronto’s summer plans, and several walks, including the Canada Day Wreath Laying Ceremony at the Chinese Railroad Workers Monument, were cancelled due to permit issues. If the strike continues, Heritage Toronto may have to scuttle more of its tours, including Mackenzie’s 1834 Toronto, which runs out of Mackenzie House. “Any of the walks we were doing out of the city museums will be cancelled as long as the strike is continued,” explained Mooney. “But I really hope that things are settled.” The situation is far from grim. Only a handful of summer tours are affected by the strike; most of the walks will carry on as usual.
For the full schedule of summer walks check out Heritage Toronto’s website.