The first European presence was established by French traders at Fort Rouillé in 1750, on the current Exhibition Grounds. The first influx of Europeans was the result of United Empire Loyalists fleeing to unsettled lands north of Lake Ontario during the American Revolutionary War. With its natural protected harbour, the settlement served as a British naval base.
The town was named York by Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe in 1793, when he selected it to replace Newark as the capital of Upper Canada. By 1800, the town was still smaller than Kingston, and consisted of probably not more than fifty families. In 1813, as part of the War of 1812, York was captured and major buildings were burned by American soldiers. The town's surrender was negotiated by John Strachan.
Toronto's Yonge Street in 1903.
The city grew rapidly through the remainder of the 19th century, as a major destination for immigrants to Canada. On March 6, 1834, York reverted to its original Iroquois name of Toronto. By then a bustling steamboat entry port, the city's development was aided by the addition of gaslit street lights and sewers. Toronto's growth further accelerated after it was linked by rail to the Upper Great Lakes in 1854. Industrialization in the 1870s ensured Toronto's place as a major economic centre in the new Canadian Confederation.
By the 1920s, Toronto's population and economic importance in Canada was surpassed only by Montreal, and in 1934 the Toronto Stock Exchange had become the largest in the country. The city experienced an influx of immigrants following the Second World War and sustained immigration after 1970. By the 1980s, Toronto had emerged as Canada's most populous city and the generally-acknowledged economic hub. The city became home to a majority of corporate headquarters in Canada and the largest banking and exchange centre.
The Toronto Docks at the foot of Yonge Street in 1910.
In 1954, the City of Toronto was federated into a regional government known as Metropolitan Toronto. The postwar boom had resulted in rapid suburban development, and it was believed that a coordinated land use strategy and shared services would provide greater efficiency for the region. The metropolitan government began to manage services that crossed municipal boundaries, including highways, water and public transit. In 1967, the seven smallest municipalities of the region were merged into their larger neighbours, resulting in a six-city configuration that included the City of Toronto and the surrounding municipalities of East York, Etobicoke, North York, Scarborough and York.
In 1998, the metropolitan government was dissolved and the six municipalities were amalgamated into a single municipality, creating the current City of Toronto.
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