Being a local Torontonian, I’ve been meaning to learn more about my city’s history, and recently, I had the opportunity to do so. The stars were all aligned: friends were in town visiting from Sweden, the weather had cooled off from the heat of the summer, and I had the afternoon off. Perfect!
I had stumbled onto Muddy York Walking Tours’ website some time ago and was impressed by the variety of tours – 19th Century Toronto, 20th Century Toronto, the Rebellion of 1837, a chocolate tour, ghost tours, etc. Muddy York offers sixteen different walking tours taking place during the week. My friends and I decided to do the tour about 20th Century Toronto. We were especially happy to see that, because we were a group of four, the price of the two-hour tour would be only $10 each (regularly $20/person). Very reasonable!
We met at the pointy end
We met at the pointy end of the Flatiron Building (a.k.a. the Gooderham Building, named after its original owner of the Gooderham Distillers family). There were eight of us doing the tour, and surprisingly all of us were local with the exception of my Swedish friends. From that location we could see the St. Lawrence Market just a block or so away – it was the site of Toronto’s first city hall.
From there we wound our way counter-clockwise through the neighbourhood, visiting the King Edward Hotel (photo right: Looking at historical photos inside the King Edward Hotel) and various other locations, and ended up outside the Hockey Hall of Fame.
A wealth of information
From there we walked through Brookfield Place, formerly BCE Place (photo above), then past Union Station and into the Royal York Hotel. After that we headed north to the Old and New City Halls.
Inside one of the rooms in the Royal York Hotel >
Detail photo from of the faces at the top of the column at Old City Hall — the one fourth from the right is the sculptor, and the others are the city councillors who objected to this project! (Full photo of Old City Hall is at the start of the article)
Richard, the owner of Muddy York Tours and our tour guide, was an absolute wealth of information. I’ve been on many tours in a variety of cities over the years and there have been very few who’ve come even close to his level of knowledge. We learned about the tunnel that exists between the Flatiron Building and Gooderham’s building on the other side of Wellington Street. We learned about specific scenes in movies that were filmed at the various sites we went to. We heard about some of the actors he’s met and given tours for in the course of his work. We walked through some of the ritzy hotels I could never afford to stay at. For every question we had for him, he had a detailed answer. He even managed to speak about some of our specific interests while doing the tour – lacrosse, for instance to which I am a huge fan. He clearly wasn’t working from a set script!
My friends and I thoroughly enjoyed the tour and I know I’ll be taking more of them in the near future – and I won’t be waiting until I have tourist friends in town!
You can also join the “Muddy York Walking Tour Group” on facebook.
Have you been on any walking tours in your town? We’d love to hear about them…join the discussion
Suzanne Scanlon is based in Toronto, Ontario, and is a huge lacrosse fan. Always in search of a great travel adventure, she loves playing tourist in her own backyard, especially with her 7-year-old nephew.