My Secret Life: York master’s student turns something old into something new

My Secret Life FEATURED

Did you know the Scadding Cabin, built in 1794 and located on the grounds of the Exhibition Place, is Toronto’s oldest surviving building? Or from 1897 to 1967, Toronto’s high-level minor league baseball club was named the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Morgan Cameron Ross
Morgan Cameron Ross

Morgan Cameron Ross, a history graduate from York University, who is currently completing a master’s degree in history, is also the founder and host of the Old Toronto Series. A popular history-focused storytelling platform, it has more than 10 million monthly impressions across the platforms and more than 500,000 followers.  

While you may have seen Ross while scrolling through social media, he is also a mainstay and regular on CityTV and Breakfast Television. Ross is also recognized by many notable names across Toronto for unravelling the city’s history through photos, maps and video series highlighting neighbourhoods, famous city landmarks and buildings. Since launching the series in 2017, he says his audience is “incredibly diverse” and the best part about producing history in an exciting, consumable way, is sharing Toronto’s story with an audience who might not pay attention to the city’s past otherwise.  

“We have people from old Italian grandmas – mostly because their grandkids or kids show them – to everyone from Drake, Malcolm Gladwell to Peter Mansbridge and a large following from young people,” said Ross.  

Ross spoke to YFile while walking the streets of his neighbourhood, just like he did when he first came up with the idea to start the Old Toronto Series. After moving to Toronto from Vancouver in 2005, Ross fell in love with the city and is embracing the people and places that shape Toronto.  

“I love that about the city, its people from everywhere, these diasporas, ethnic enclaves everywhere, I find those interesting,” he said. “One thing I like telling people is they can do the same research if they know where to look. It is accessible to everybody. The coolest thing that I find is the number of people that live or grew up here that didn’t know things about their neighbourhood and lived here 30, 40 or 50 years and somehow didn’t know why a building is like that.”  

The 2021 Heritage Toronto People’s Choice Award winner, Ross has successful partnerships with Bosley Real Estate, Architectural Conservatory Toronto, Business Improvement Area’s (BIA) across the city and various local and national brands. 

Last year, Ross teamed up with Canadian rapper and producer Kardinal Offishall to highlight the history of Toronto’s Little Jamiaca neighbourhood and the struggles it is facing due to the Eglington Crosstown LRT construction.  

“I try to incorporate pop culture into these things…presenting history in a consumable manner that is hip and cool, that’s kind of our goal and it seems to be working – making history less boring and more exciting,” he said.

Ross is also the founder of the newly launched Old Ontario Series and Old Canada Series that will further his reach with an ever-growing and engaged fan base. What started as a hobby has turned into a full-time gig for Ross, who said the series has grown exponentially in the last year and a half. Two books are also in the works – a history book and a book all about maps. Old Canada is also currently being pursued as a television series.  

Embracing the best of Toronto, its people and community involvement, Ross is no stranger to supporting citizens who call Toronto home. Aside from producing a wide range of video content exploring the history of places like Woodbine Racetrack, Kensington Market and Liberty Village, Ross is also giving back to his community through a 2022 Old Toronto and Old Canadian calendar, which are now available on the Old Toronto website for purchase. For every calendar sold, $5 is donated to the Daily Bread Food Bank. 

“We just wrapped up a campaign for the Daily Bread Food Bank. In the last 13 months we have fundraised more than $29,000 for the food bank through Instagram alone,” said Ross. “In addition, we have made efforts to try to get attention to other social issues and problems in the city.”   

The Old Toronto Series can be found on InstagramTwitterFacebook and YouTube

By Alysia Burdi, YFile communications officer

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