Stephen Otto

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Stephen Anderson Otto, CM

(1940-02-05)February 5, 1940
Toronto, Canada
DiedApril 22, 2018(2018-04-22) (aged 78)
Toronto, Canada
Alma mater
  • University of Toronto
  • Harvard University
  • Author
  • Heritage professional
  • Philanthropist
AwardsOrder of Canada

Stephen Anderson Otto (born February 5, 1940, Toronto - died April 22, 2018, Toronto), was a noted author, heritage professional, and philanthropist in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He received the Order of Canada in 2018.

Early Life

Otto studied commerce at Trinity College at the University of Toronto, history at Cambridge, and an MBA from Harvard University. In 1972, he was appointed to the Ontario Heritage Foundation which marked the beginning of his heritage work. Otto drafted the Ontario Heritage Act. In the late 1970s, he worked at the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation.[1]

Friends of Fort York and Garrison Common

Otto co-founded the Friends of Fort York and Garrison Common (FoFY). The organization was established in 1994 in response to a proposed development that would have placed thousands of apartments along the north side of Lakeshore Boulevard. Otto and FOFY lobbied Toronto’s City Council to adopt a scaled-down version of the plan with a greater respect for the heritage of Fort York and the value of public space. A modified plan was approved in the spring of 1995.[2][3]


Otto’s book credits include:

  • John Tully (1980)
  • The Cawthra House (1981)
  • C.P. Thomas (1982)
  • Maitland: ‘a very neat village indeed’(1985)
  • The Strachan Avenue Military Burying Ground, Toronto, 1863-1911 (1999)
  • Toronto, No Mean City (Third Edition, 1986)
  • The Don Valley Brick Works: The Company and Its People (1998)
  • Robert Wetherell and Dundurn: An Architect in Early Hamilton (2004).

Otto was the founding and managing editor of Fife & Drum, the newsletter of the Friends of Fort York, from 2003 until 2017. He wrote numerous articles in this capacity. An anthology of Fife & Drum articles was produced under the title of Fort York: Stories From the Birthplace of Toronto (2018) and dedicated in Otto’s memory.

Otto was also a frequent contributor to other writing projects, such as contributing a chapter to The Ward (2015), and various entries to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography.[4]

Awards and Legacy

Otto was inducted as a member of the Order of Canada on February 20, 2018. His citation states that he was an active member of the Canadian history and heritage community for more than 40 years. He worked to improve or restore public spaces such as Toronto's Spadina House and the Distillery District. Otto had been especially active in working to preserve and expand the Fort York National Historic Site.[5]

Otto was a member of The Friends of Fort York in 2016 when it received an award for heritage preservation from Heritage Toronto.


  1. "Stephen Otto was a champion of Toronto's history | The Star". Retrieved 2019-04-29.
  2. "Historical conservationist Stephen Otto mounted a victorious defence of Fort York". Retrieved 2019-04-29.
  3. "Stephen Otto: A tireless advocate for better cities | The Star". Retrieved 2019-04-29.
  4. "Biography – LOBLAW, THEODORE PRINGLE – Volume XVI (1931-1940) – Dictionary of Canadian Biography". Retrieved 2019-04-29.
  5. General, Office of the Secretary to the Governor (2018-02-15). "Presentation of Honours in Toronto". The Governor General of Canada. Retrieved 2019-04-29.

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