It’s a milestone year for Heritage Toronto. For 70 years they have preserved, celebrated and commemorated Toronto’s heritage. On April 4, 1949, their predecessor, the Toronto Civic Historical Committee, was established by City Council. Starting as a volunteer group, its early work focused on the preservation of Fort York National Historic Site. Renamed the Toronto Historical Board (THB), the organization became an arm’s length agency of the City and a registered charity in the 1960s.
On October 4, 1969, the first plaque was unveiled, commemorating the volunteer reserve company that later became HMCS York. Fifty years later, Heritage Toronto produces an average of 40 plaques a year, and there are now over 700 plaques located throughout our city, making Toronto’s plaques program the most active of its kind in North America.
In 1974, THB established the Award of Merit to recognize notable contributions in the heritage field. Since then, 566 recipients have been recognized. The first walking tours, in the early 1980s, were organized for schoolchildren visiting THB’s historic site museums like Fort York. Guided walks formally began a decade later in 1994 with 18 tours. The 2019 tours program offers 66 tours exploring the city’s diverse neighbourhoods and subjects as varied as Toronto’s architecture, immigrant history, and natural heritage.
After amalgamation, historic site museums and heritage preservation services became city departments. Renamed Heritage Toronto, the former THB retained responsibility for public programs, including plaques, awards, and tours.
Photo: Mackenzie’s Toronto walking tour led by Patricia McHugh, Metropolitan United Church, October 18, 1987