A Grand Geographic Timeline of Toronto History?

This is just me trying to get down some ideas. It may be rough and unclear, but hopefully something to build on.

As a follower of Toronto’s history, I come across a lot of dates – when something was built, when a town is incorporated, when a park is founded etc.

What’s interesting, though, is I’ve started noticing how certain years come up in different stories across the city.

Take the year 1858 as an example. A storm splits Toronto Peninsula to create the Toronto Islands. 26 km to the northeast John Hill founds a post office in Agincourt which signals the start of that community.

It’s fun to think about what was happening in different parts of the city at the same time. You have communities with no formal connections to each other growing alongside each other. Communities that eventually form the modern City of Toronto.

Wikipedia’s page on the History of Toronto has articles on History of Neighbourhoods, Historic places, Oldest buildings and structures, and Timeline of Toronto History. It would interesting to combine these into a giant timeline of events in Toronto’s history. More than that, because this relies on displaying information tied to places, I’d like to see the information displayed on a map (because really, who doesn’t like looking at maps?). I imagine being able to look at map of a given year and clicking on different nodes placed on that map. Then, being able to explore the map from the following year.

I imagine being able to draw observations about how the city developed, what was settled when, what areas were industrializing/de-industrializing, when and how natural landforms were shaped (think the burial of creeks) etc..

In all, it would be another way to capture the story of Toronto. Just an idea.

A View of York (Toronto) Upper Canada, 1820
Edmund Wyly Grier’s “A View of York (Toronto) Upper Canada, 1820” Credit: Toronto Public Library

5 thoughts on “A Grand Geographic Timeline of Toronto History?

    1. Thanks! Will have to devise a plan and perhaps get a bit more computer-y (or connect with people that are), but I’d really like to follow up with it!

  1. Have you seen this layered historical map of Toronto by Chris Olsen?

    It overlays many historical maps of the city, all scaled to match (a tough task, I imagine) and then lets you transition between the years on a timeline. It doesn’t have nodes or other details related to what happened at the locations, though.

    I’ve had an idea similar to yours for a while and thought about trying to code something up, but the amount of content and data would become overwhelming quite quickly. In particular ‘d love to see many of the historic photos in the Toronto archives plotted to a map, so you could see the evolution of places over time. But text explanations would also be useful, or even quotes from old books about Toronto (like say Henry Scadding’s recollections) located at the spot they describe. Perhaps it could be open to anyone to update, like wikipedia, but then accuracy would be a problem.

    1. I have seen that map, but a while ago. Lost the link, so thanks! Truly an awesome undertaking. There are people with skills I wish I had!

      Images would be great too! Actually what you describes reminds of what David Sky (@seemsArtless) has done with his site. I can’t believe I didn’t remember to mention him:


      He’s plotted points on a Google Map of Toronto and geotagged them with images from the various archival databases in the city, Flickr sites, Youtube, and Wikipedia entries.

      What he’s done is compiled everything on a single map (which is extremely ambitious and amazing!), so there’s not that ability to see the development that I would like to see.

    2. Hey that map is very cool, I’ve not come across it before, thanks for the link. Yes, it’s similar to my idea for sure, oh well, great minds think alike haha. Looks like the data is being queried from a db and returned as JSON, so in theory it could probably be re-rendered out in a timeline format, as well.

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