We’re in the final, exciting stages of building the Visitor Centre, which is scheduled to open this fall. (Note 19-20 September on your calendars and stand by for details.) This year marks the centenary of the start of the Great War (1914-18), so the Visitor Centre will open with inaugural exhibits reflecting this important anniversary. Several of the permanent exhibits will be installed next year.

Fort York Visitor Centre

Fort York Visitor Centre under construction this month

We take a moment to express our gratitude to a few of our friends and colleagues for their tremendous support since construction began two years ago. First, however, we would be remiss in not mentioning the fantastic work of Harbridge+Cross and all contractors working on the Visitor Centre, and City of Toronto staff, for their fantastic work in bringing this project close to completion on time and on budget.

The Friends of Fort York and Garrison Common made an initial gift to kick-start the Foundation in 2006. Since then, The Friends has contributed an additional $75,000 to our campaign for the Visitor Centre. For 20 years The Friends have provided the major funding for the Fort York Guard. They have supported the Historic Foodways Program, the Fort York resource centre (to be relocated to the Visitor Centre), and other initiatives. The Friends most recently partnered with Fort York on the exhibit “At Ease: the Military at Play in Nineteenth-century Canada” in the great room in the Blue Barracks. We will be making recommendations to Fort York on how to acknowledge this major support we’ve received from The Friends of Fort York.

Fort York for Simcoe Day

Massed guards on the parade ground at Fort York for Simcoe Day

Members of the extended and historic Denison family, through the support of Marianne Girling and her daughter Karen Girling and son-in-law Bruce MacLellan, have contributed very generously to our capital campaign, following their visit to Fort York last fall to meet City of Toronto Museum Services Chief Curator Wayne Reeves. Denison family ancestors are closely linked to the founding of urban Toronto in the 1790s, several with important roles in building and defending Canada, including at the Battle of York.

Early map showing the future site of Toronto

Early map showing the future site of Toronto (1805; for provenance see http://oldtorontomaps.blogspot.ca/2013/01/1787-1805-toronto-purchase.html

The Daughters of the American Revolution (Upper Canada Chapter) have been very helpful and supportive to the Fort York Foundation. We count Helen Hatton and Maude McCarty – both DAR members, deeply informed about our shared history — as strong allies and advocates for Fort York on both the Canadian and US side of the international border.

discussing Georgian foods

Jeanne Ciok (DAR) discussing Georgian foods with Mya Sangster, volunteer cook, Fort York’s Historic Foodways Programme, October 2013

These individuals represent just a few of our valued supporters who have contributed so importantly to the Fort York Visitor Centre. Their gifts are making a difference to the success of revitalizing the site, particularly the completion of interior spaces for programming. Once completed, the Visitor Centre’s galleries will introduce the story of this unique North American fort; the beginning of urban Toronto in 1793; two centuries of conflict and change in the city; and — in this anniversary year – a Toronto perspective on the Great War (1914-1918).

We still need to fundraise to build the permanent exhibits that have been designed for the Visitor Centre, and which we hope to unveil in 2015. They include the Battle of York immersion experience, the main exhibits gallery that will open with the story of how the War of 1812 shaped modern Canada, and a special exhibit room for treasures and iconic artifacts.

The Vault,

The Vault, one of the planned interior galleries

These spaces will also have the capacity for visiting exhibits, such as Magna Carta, coming to Canada from the UK on its 800th anniversary next year (see Magna Carta Canada for more information). Please contact us to see how you can help.

Floor plan of the Fort York Visitor Centre

Floor plan of the Fort York Visitor Centre with future, planned exhibits

– Andrew Stewart