This content is from a series created in partnership with Museum Services of the City of Toronto and Heritage Toronto. We gratefully acknowledge funding from the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, and the Department of Canadian Heritage.
Toronto Feature: First Parliament Buildings
"First Parliament Buildings Torched by Invaders"
You never know what's under your feet. The site of Ontario's first parliament buildings was long known to Torontonians, but that site had since been occupied by a jail, then built over for a Consumer's Gas plant. But when archaeologists looked at the maps, they thought a corner of the foundation of the Parliament Buildings might not have been disturbed. They were right. A few feet below the pavement of a car wash parking lot, they found the charred bricks and remains of burned floorboards of Ontario's first Houses of Parliament. The buildings had been burned during the American occupation of the Town of York (now Toronto) after they had taken the town in a battle in 1813.
Officially opened in 1797, Ontario's first purpose-built parliament buildings stood on the southeast corner of Palace (now Front) and Berkeley streets. They were the first buildings in the fledgling Town of York to be built of brick. Essentially two small buildings, one housed the equivalent of today's House of Commons, the other the Senate. They also housed the courts of justice, and before the first St James Church was built in 1807, the services of that congregation.
The British considered the burning of the Parliament Buildings a major slight. In retaliation for that dishonour, as well as for the American burning of the town of Niagara in the winter of 1813, the British attacked and burned the American Capitol at Washington, DC, in 1814.