Bank robbers and race riots in the new historic Toronto walking tour app


With COVID-19 restrictions finally easing, many Canadians are eager to explore their own communities (locally and internationally). An interactive history app called On This Spot offers exciting historical tours and gives families the chance to go outside (and practice social distancing at the same time) – all for free.

The app hosts thousands of mapped (and “then and now” historical photos) in 54 parishes in Ontario and seven other provinces. The app allows users to follow in the footsteps of historical photographers to see what they see from exactly the same perspective and make dramatic comparisons between the past and the present.

This week, the app is releasing new content in Ontario in Toronto, King Township and Watson’s Mill in Manotick (projects in Aylmer and Elgin Counties to follow later this summer).

On This Spot has partnered with Toronto’s Little Italy BIA and Chinatown BIA to add to more than 100 “then and now” photo sets across the city.

Walking tours available include Little Italy: History of a Legendary Neighborhood and Toronto’s First Steps: The Peoples and Ideas that shaped Toronto’s first century. The app also has projects in Aurora, Ottawa, Parry Sound, and Sault Ste. Marie, a total of over 500 photo series from then and now and a dozen hiking tours.

The Little Italy portion of the walking tour delves deep into the iconic College Street Strip, touching everything from the bank-robbing Boyd Gang to iconic local landmarks like Cafe Diplomatico, Cohen’s Fish Market, Pylon Theater, and the history of anti-immigration including the riot in Christie Pits.

“This experience is not just for tourists, it is for people who have called these communities home their entire lives,” said Andrew Farris, CEO of On This Spot. “Our mission is to bring high quality local history to the broadest possible audience and to make this story so thrilling and engaging that people can go out and explore their places.”

Ross Hiebert, the company’s chief of business development, pointed out the importance of teaching young people the true story of the gross injustice in Canadian history in the face of the horrific discoveries of mass graves at Kamloops and Marieval.

“Today’s young people don’t want to know any more about the spaghetti story that was written in most local history books 40 or 50 years ago. Museums know this and are working on updating it, and we want to help them pass the baton of historical education on to the next generation, ”said Hiebert.

“I like to say that we are the future of history, and that means teaching the real story and not being afraid of controversy,” he added.

On This Spot began in 2013 and will be launching new content this summer in 35 communities across Canada in partnership with over 40 heritage, tourism, business and government organizations.

For further information, click here. The app is available in the App Store and Google Play.

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