Must-Visit Historical Buildings in Toronto [2022]

If you’re interested in exploring some of the best historical buildings in Toronto, then be sure to check out our list of the best historical buildings in Toronto! 

Many of Toronto’s first buildings have been lost over time. However, there are still buildings from the late 1700s and early 1800s that are still standing and can be seen throughout the city today.

These landmarks have been around for centuries, and they all offer a unique perspective on Toronto history. Whether you want to learn more about the history or simply enjoy looking at gorgeous architecture, visiting one of these sites is definitely worth your time. We selected these top historical buildings based on their popularity with visitors, their importance to Toronto culture/history, and the quality of their construction. 

Summary

What is the oldest building in Toronto?

Scadding Cabin, located on the ground of Exhibition Place, is the oldest surviving building in Toronto. It originally belonged to John Scadding, an assistant to John Graves Simcoe, Upper Canada’s first Lieutenant Governor.

The house was first built on a 250-acre site on the east bank of the Don River near where Queen Street East intersects the Don Valley Parkway today. The historic site was moved to its current location in 1879.

Scadding Cabin was furnished as a pioneer home from the 1830s to early 1840s, although there are artefacts that date back to the 1790s.

The building is open during the CNE, held every year from mid-August to the end of Canada’s Labour Day weekend.

Best historical buildings in Toronto

1. Fort York National Historic Site

Fort York is a historical landmark that preserves the memories of Toronto’s past. The park encompasses 43 acres and features various historic buildings, including the Governor General’s residence, which was used as an army hospital during the War of 1812. The battle that ensued at this location was a dark and dramatic moment in Toronto history. 

Exhibit space in Fort York’s Visitor Centre includes: an ‘immersive experience’ exhibit, which takes visitors through the steps leading up to the Battle of York and the explosion of the fort’s Grand Magazine. Also general admission is free, so take some time to dive into the amazing history of Canada in Fort York National Historic Site

Business Information:

250 Fort York Blvd, Toronto, ON M5V 3K9
toronto.ca/fortyork

Customer Review Highlight:

“Very interesting! Highly recommended! Great tour. Friendly staff. Easy to get to on the streetcar and a short walk under the Gardiner. Visiting Toronto on holidays? You must take a few hours to visit Fort York. And it's free.”

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2. Spadina Museum

The Spadina Museum is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in Toronto history. This museum provides an overview of the city’s past from 1900 to 1930, through the perspective of the affluent Austin family and the people who worked within their home. Visitors can get a glimpse into this era through artifacts such as furniture, artwork, photographs and more. In addition to historical exhibits, the museum also features current exhibitions that explore various aspects of Canadian culture. 

The museum features lush gardens, lavish furniture, and beautiful decor. Also, the influence of new technologies such as gas lighting, central heating, electricity and the telephone can be seen here. Whether you’re looking for insight into Toronto’s past or just want to see some beautiful artistry up close, make sure to visit The Spadina Museum!

Business Information:

285 Spadina Rd, Toronto, ON M5R 2V5
toronto.ca/spadina

Customer Review Highlight:

“I really liked this museum. Excellent preservation of the home with very knowledgeable guides to take you on a tour of each room. There’s also the beautiful, really well-maintained grounds where you can grab a drink, do some reading or just sit and soak in the peace and quiet.”

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3. Black Creek Pioneer Village

Black Creek Pioneer Village is a fun and educational destination that immerses visitors in the 1860s. At the village, visitors explore 40 historic buildings, 70 rare and heritage breed animals, 10 gardens growing flowers and plants from heirloom seeds, as well as exciting programs that engage people of all ages. They meet costumed educators who demonstrate and involve visitors with trades and crafts common in 1860s Ontario such as blacksmithing or baking bread. 

In addition to this engaging traditional activity set-up, guests can also enjoy tapping their toes to music of the era while having fun engaging in hands-on activities throughout the village! They use their collection of 50,000 artifacts, interactive offerings, and monthly events to encourage visitors to explore the past while reflecting on our present. Whether you’re looking for an authentic Canadian experience or just want to relax after a long day at work, Black Creek Pioneer Village is sure to please!

Business Information:

1000 Murray Ross Pkwy, North York, ON M3J 2P3
blackcreek.ca

Customer Review Highlight:

“A great place to learn about life in Toronto's distant past. You can spend about a fun few hours here exploring the various historic buildings and interacting with the staff demonstrations. It's mostly outdoors so a hat is recommended.”

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4. Casa Loma

Casa Loma is a prime example of Toronto’s commitment to its rich history. The castle located in midtown Toronto, is now owned by the City of Toronto and is regarded as a treasured heritage landmark. Today, Casa Loma plays host to over 250 private events annually. As one of Toronto’s top tourist attractions and hospitality venues, each year over 650,000 visitors tour Casa Loma and the estate gardens. 

The unique architecture has also made it a highly desirable location for film, television and photo shoots. Thanks to its historical significance as well as its current popularity among tourists and event organizers alike, Casa Loma will continue to be an important part of Toronto’s cultural landscape for years to come. 

Business Information:

1 Austin Terrace, Toronto, ON M5R 1X8
casaloma.ca

Customer Review Highlight:

“Wonderful experience visiting the castle. Well maintained and decorated. There is a museum inside which has things from the world war, wax museum of celebrity walk, vintage cars. A tunnel/passage which takes you through this section. Thrilling experience going through the escape room series. I would recommend this place for a visit. Takes about 2-3 hrs for a complete tour.”

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5. Gooderham Building

The Gooderham Building is a significant example of Second Empire architecture and was designated by the City of Toronto under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act (By-law 534-75) in 1975. The exterior, excluding the western façade, is protected by an Ontario Heritage Trust conservation easement which ensures its long term preservation.

The exterior of the building exhibits styles characteristic of Romanesque and Gothic Revival designs, however, the building’s most recognizable feature remains its “flatiron” or wedge-like shape. Located in the St. Lawrence Market District, the building is situated amid a number of commercial and retail establishments, in one of Toronto’s most vibrant and historically significant neighbourhoods. The Gooderham Building, which is arguably Toronto’s most photographed historic structure, is also located only a few blocks away from other celebrated heritage sites such as the St. Lawrence Market and the St. James Cathedral.

Business Information:

49 Wellington St E, Toronto, ON M5E 1C9
historicplaces.ca

Customer Review Highlight:

“An iconic and historical building of Toronto that's stood the test of time. Just looking at this place gives you a glimpse into the history of this great city. The red brick construction and the iron stairwell to the southern end remind you of a different era.”

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6. Gibson House Museum

Gibson House Museum is a historical family home that offers visitors an opportunity to explore the property, taste and smell history in a way that few other museums can. The museum features panels which allow guests to expand or collapse various sections of the property according to their needs. This makes it easy for individuals of all ages to enjoy the museum without feeling overwhelmed. With its engaging displays and fascinating history, Gibson House Museum is sure to captivate everyone who visits!

You can have a beautiful experience in the kitchen, having tea (that is warmed by the tea cup and saucer by the fire) and watching the baking process with recipes from cookbooks over a hundred years old, then the tasting, so delicious! In addition, Gibson House Museum also has exhibits on local politics and culture as well as David Gibson’s life story— Scottish immigrant, land surveyor, farmer, politician and rebel—put his mark on a community, a city and the province. Let your senses come alive in this engaging historical family home.

Business Information:

5172 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M2N 5P6
toronto.ca/gibsonhouse

Customer Review Highlight:

“Had a lovely time visiting, getting a tour, a demonstration of cherry pitting to make sour cherry syrup and got to taste their marmalade ice cream which was delicious. Hearing about the history of the house, the Gibson family and the area was very interesting.”

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7. Mackenzie House

Mackenzie House is a museum dedicated to the life and work of Toronto journalist, politician, and exile William Lyon Mackenzie. The Museum explores Victorian Toronto and the contrary and controversial man who had such an impact on the city – from journalist to mayor, mayor to exile, exile to politician. This tiny historic former row house sits surrounded by skyscrapers in downtown Toronto just steps from Canada’s busiest intersection. 

Discover the story of Mackenzie House itself as well as how it has evolved over time; learn about its fascinating past residents through displays exploring their lives both inside and outside of this unique building. Visitors can also explore interactive exhibits that delve into topics like crime and punishment during the Victorian era or popular culture in late 19th century Ontario via special artifacts on display!

Business Information:

82 Bond St, Toronto, ON M5B 1X2
toronto.ca/mackenziehouse

Customer Review Highlight:

“As a house museum aficionado, I can say this house is extremely well preserved. The tour guide was excellent and provided a ton of great tidbits. My favorite parts were the textiles and the working interior gas lights!”

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FAQs

Old historical buildings are often important because they provide a glimpse into the past. Many of these structures have been in use for centuries, and their unique architecture can be seen all around the world.
When a building is included on the heritage List, it means that the structure or its elements are considered to be of cultural, historical and/or architectural significance. This can affect what kind of renovations or changes can take place to ensure that the property remains in good condition.
A heritage building in Ontario is a structure that has been designated by the Government of Canada as being of historic, cultural or architectural significance.
The oldest building in Ontario is Peter Secord House (1782).

Final Thoughts

Toronto has seen many changes over the centuries, but some of its most iconic buildings have remained standing throughout. From grand Victorian homes to towering skyscrapers, these historical buildings are sure to impress any visitor. So if you’re ever in town, be sure to check out some of these incredible places – you won’t regret it!

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