In July, Toronto City Council adopted a motion put forward by councillor Pam McConnell (Ward 28 Toronto Centre-Rosedale) to expropriate the lands of the First Parliament Site at the southwest corner of Front Street and Parliament Street. The City of Toronto's intent to take control of the site dates back to pre-amalgamation days, so McConnell's motion concludes more than 15 years of work, appropriately in time for the bicentennial of the War of 1812.

The deal was transacted in a land swap. The private owner received City-owned land on the east side of Parliament Street in exchange for the First Parliament Site. The remainder of the site at the corner of Front and Berkeley is owned by the Province through the Ontario Heritage Trust, which runs the War of 1812 intepretive centre in a former Porsche dealership. A developer had put in an applicaiton to build two towers of 20 and 57 storeys on the land as late as February 2011, before the land swap agreement.

First Parliament Site, City of Toronto, Government of Ontario, HeritageGovernment of Ontario War of 1812 Centre, image by Ontario Heritage Trust

Until the City obtained the land in July, it was used as a car wash and surface parking lot.

First Parliament Site, City of Toronto, Toronto Public LibraryFirst Parliament Site, image by Razz

Below are photos that capture the progress of work being done at the First Parliament Site during the first week of November. Councillor McConnell stated at a recent Corktown resident's meeting that there will only be some archaeological work on the land in the coming years, with nothing substantial happening until after the Pan Am Games.

First Parliament Site on November 3, 2012:

First Parliament Site, City of Toronto, Toronto Public LibraryFirst Parliament Site, image by Razz

November 6, 2012:

First Parliament Site, City of Toronto, Toronto Public LibraryFirst Parliament Site, image by Razz

November 7, 2012:

First Parliament Site, City of Toronto, Toronto Public LibraryFirst Parliament Site, image by Razz

Canada's First Parliament Buildings were located on this site between 1798 and 1813. During the War of 1812, the Americans burned the buildings to the ground. After the attack, they were rebuilt and remained as the site of Parliament until 1824. The land was subsequently used as a jail, for railway purposes, and occupied by a gas plant until the 1960s.

First Parliament Site, City of Toronto, Consumers Gas, Urban Strategies/ERA/PWCConsumers Gas plant in 1950s, image courtesy of Urban Strategies/ERA/Pricewaterhousecoopers

The City intends to relocate the St. Lawrence branch of the Toronto Public Library to the site in the next few years, when it will also serve as a permanent interpretation centre for the First Parliament Site.

These lands could not have been acquired by the City without the years of work by councillor McConnell, Rollo Myers, manager of the Toronto office of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, and the support of Glen Murray, MPP for Toronto Centre.