[URBAN NOTE] “North St. Lawrence Market dig delves deep into Toronto’s foodie history”
In the Toronto Star, John Lorinc describes fascinating archeology being performed at Front and Jarvis Streets beneath the North Market, close to the heart of the early city.
In a muddy trench where the North Market once stood, archeologists Peter Popkin and David Robertson scan for clues about a long-buried structure: shards of ceramic and brick mingled with stone remnants give a hint of an elaborate network of drains built in the early 1830s to serve the butchers who once sold meat on this spot.
This pit — and the rest of this extensive dig at Front and Jarvis Sts., across from St. Lawrence Market — is providing a rare glimpse back in time to the earliest origins of Toronto’s foodie industry, which has grown over two centuries to become the $17-billion-a-year behemoth it is today, encompassing everything from artisanal butcher shops to grocery giants.
The North Market remains the only piece of property in the entire city that has been used continually for a single function — food retailing — since its inception in 1803, notes Robertson, a partner with ASI.
At the beginning of the 19th century, Toronto was a colonial outpost, scarcely more than a garrison, a small commercial district around what today is Parliament and King Sts., with a population of fewer than 9,000 people. The colonial administrators needed a market zone and chose a spot on the harbour.
Since then, “at least” five separate market buildings — constructed successively in 1820, 1831, 1851, 1904 and 1968 — have occupied the property, once abutting the Lake Ontario shoreline before landfill stretched the city farther south.