York, Upper Canada

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York was the permanent capital chosen for Upper Canada, by its first Lieutenant Governor, John Graves Simcoe. The communities now known as Kingston, Ontario and Niagara on the Lake served as temporary capitals, but Simcoe chose to build a new city in Toronto Bay, on the north shore of Lake Ontario, because it was farther from the border with the United States, making it safer in the event hostilities broke out.

At the time the bay possessed an anchorage protected by a long sandspit. Simcoe directed a fort to be built, at a creek that was later known as Garrison Creek, which was across from the western end of the sandspit, where it curled closest to short. A battery of cannon, in Fort York, could impede the entry of hostile vessels.

The town site lay several kilometres east of the fort, between what are now Yonge Street and Parliament Street. Its northern boundary was Queen Street, Toronto. Front Street ran close to the low bluffs that formed the southern boundary of the city.

During the War of 1812 York was raided by American forces. The American troops were carried to York by ship. The Americans outnumbered the British and Canadian defenders, and the city was occupied with little resistance. An explosion in Fort York's magazine killed the American commander, Brigadier general Zebulon Pike.

Following Pike's death Americans burned parts of the city, including Upper Canada's legislature. In retaliation the British raided Washington DC, and burned some of its public buildings, including America's executive mansion, The White House.