In the young and relentlessly changing city of Toronto, today's architectural heritage rarely stretches back far enough to showcase the rows of centuries-old, historic buildings for which some other cities are known. Toronto is a new urban space, and it is one where the rate of architectural turnover has been staggering, with new streetscapes seeming to wipe away their predecessors every few decades. While these changes mean that much of the city's architectural past is lost to 21st century eyes, surprisingly deep layers of history often remain buried underground, preserved beneath the city being built above. Such is the case at the construction site of the upcoming Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and Adamson Associates Architects-designed St. Lawrence Market North (below), where evidence of previous markets built in 1831, 1851, and 1904 was recently discovered.

St Lawrence Market North, City of Toronto, Rogers Stirk Harbour + PartnersRendering of the new St. Lawrence Market North, courtesy of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

In a press conference at City Hall this morning, Deputy Mayor Pam McConnell (below) announced that foundation piers from the 1831 market building, as well as a large arched sewer dating from either the 1831 or 1851 building, were discovered. Standing alongside the redevelopment site's lead archaeologist, Dr. Peter Popkin, McConnell explained that the findings provide a link between contemporary Toronto and a site that had been home to a market—and, during parts of the 19th century, the City Hall chambers—since at least 1803.   

St Lawrence Market North, City of TorontoDeputy Mayor Pam McConnell (Ward 28), announces the findings, image by Stefan Novakovic

According to McConnell, "the St. Lawrence North Market revitalization is grounded on the historic importance of this precinct as an economic focal point and gathering place for Torontonians." Dr. Popkin added that much of the findings "likely date from the 1831 market," which was subsequently (mostly) destroyed in a fire in 1849. Popkin stressed that the historical significance of the site makes the archaeological evidence a significant revelation for the City of Toronto, but that "further archaeological assessment of the property will be required" in order to get a better grasp of the findings.

Following these preliminary findings, the archaeological study of the site will continue, with plans to mitigate the impact of future construction on the 19th century foundations now underway. Councillor McConnell explained that, since the "redevelopment plan took into account the possibility of archaeological findings," the timeline for the new market's construction will not be significantly impacted. 

St Lawrence Market North, City of TorontoThe archaeological site is inside the old market building, image by Stefan Novakovic

We will keep you updated on the findings as the archaeological work progresses inside the current, soon-to-be-demolished, market building (above). According to City officials, high-res pictures of the site will be available within the next two weeks, with the first tour of the site expected within the same time period. Keep in touch with UrbanToronto for the latest photos and news. For more information and renderings of St. Lawrence Market North, click on our dataBase file, linked below. Want to talk about the project? Click on the Forum thread link, or leave a comment in the space provided on this page.