The MS Jadran, more commonly known as Captain John's Seafood Restaurant, set sail last Thursday destined for the scrapyard. This week however, a 19th century schooner uncovered at Concord CityPlace is meeting a much different fate. An archaeological assessment conducted by Archaeological Services Inc. (ASI) in the construction pit of Concord Adex's latest projects Forward and Newton revealed a vessel last month that is estimated to be from the 1830s. Originally thought to be impossible, the schooner was successfully lifted, transported and lowered to a temporary resting site steps away from its future home outside the new Fort York Visitor Centre.
As Toronto's shoreline gradually moved south, a man-made process known as infilling, large swaths of the waterfront were buried. But as Toronto's building boom continues unabated, significant discoveries are being made that help shed light into our city's past. Among those discoveries is the schooner alongside Queen's Wharf, a portion of the Toronto harbour six metres below the ground where the 30 and 18-storey condominiums will rise.
While relatively rare, the discovery is similar to other archaeological surprises found beneath our feet. 19th century ships were also discovered at Concord's Block 33, the Rogers Centre site and the Air Canada Centre. Tinning's Wharf at Tridel's Ten York offers another glimpse into Toronto's changing southern landscape. The difference here, fortunately, is that this schooner has been saved. With findings like these, it's no wonder the City of Toronto requires major projects to conduct a thorough archaeological assessment before permits are granted.
Believed to be the oldest ever found in Toronto, only the keel and a portion of the hull on the port side of the 53-foot vessel remain intact. The difficult operation of moving what's left of the ship, without damaging its already fragile state, began at 9:30 AM this morning.
A 19-ton crane was positioned just north of the site, closing the eastbound lanes of Fort York Boulevard from Bathurst Street. Curious onlookers were joined by officials from Ellis Don and the City of Toronto’s Museum and Heritage Services staff as they watched the massive crane delicately hoist the vessel from the depths of the pit. Other artifacts, possibly from the boat or the wharf itself, were also transported.
Weighing several thousand pounds, wooden planks were secured to the boat to ensure a stable transition to a flatbed truck awaiting its historic cargo. Once on the truck, workers strapped in the ship and took it on its first journey in generations.
Moving along Fort York Boulevard and then south on Dan Leckie Way to Lake Shore Boulevard, the short trip was completed quickly and safely. An agreement between Concord Adex and Fort York will provide a permanent space for the schooner underneath the Gardiner Expressway just outside the new Visitor Centre. This site has been chosen for its prominence in front of the historic site, and for the fact that this is where the Lake Ontario shoreline was originally located.
The move to the permanent site will have to wait a bit, however. With landscaping outside the new building to be completed, and rehabilitation work progressing on the underbelly of the Gardiner, the vessel cannot be moved to its future location until those projects are complete.
Upon its arrival to Fort York, the vessel was unstrapped from the truck and the crane once again lifted it into its temporary position on a dirt patch just outside the Fort York Armoury parking lot.
The wooden blocks will remain fastened to the boat until it can be repositioned to its permanent location.
With the difficult part over, the research into the origin of the boat is just beginning. While little is currently known, its prominent location on display at Fort York will foster a better understanding of how Toronto's waterfront history continues to be unraveled.
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