Toronto’s historic North Market is about to receive another makeover as the single-story farmer’s market is torn down and replaced with a five-story city-owned market. The famous site, located on the corner of Front and Jarvis, has been home to numerous structures over the years, all dedicated to food, making this celebrated spot a monument to Toronto’s foodie tradition.
Thanks to Toronto’s 2004 archeological management plan, construction on the storied site will not be undertaken lightly. In fact, 2.7 million dollars are expected to be spent on demolition and excavation as the site is properly studied prior to building. Right now, the archeological investigation is literally unearthing new evidence to not only support the claim that this site has been dedicated to food for centuries, but also to shed some light on the practices and lifestyles of Toronto’s past residents.
The team, including senior archeologists Peter Popkin and David Robertson, have discovered several long-buried structures, including the foundations of two of the previous buildings, tunnels and cellars used by butchers for draining and storage, and shards of ceramic that likely belonged to pottery used for serving.
The North Market was designated as an area for food serving by the British in 1803. However, historian Bruce Bell theorizes that the spot had significance for food long before that among native Indian tribes that would fish in the area. Bell suggests that the site could have been designated as a food serving and eating area for as long as 5 thousand years.
Regardless, it’s importance was unmistakable for the roughly 9 thousand residents of the colonial outpost that was early Toronto. At that time, this spot was likely the only place to trade for or buy food. It also once contained not only the only marketplace, but also Toronto’s first ever city hall, further emphasizing the significance that such a place had for settlers.
The first structure was built on that spot in 1820 and, since then, there have been four others, all of them serving a similar purpose. The recently demolished farmer’s market has enjoyed the honour since 1968. While many may be sad to see it go, they can rest assured that the new building will honour the overall history of the spot.
After a projected two years of construction and between 60 and 90 million dollars, the new five story building will include panels on the first couple of floors in accordance with the Heritage interpretation plan set in place. These panels will pay homage to the history of the site and the many celebrated structures that came before.
Despite how many may view budding construction projects, the new market is not an affront to Toronto’s history but rather part of a long-standing tradition. Just like its predecessors, the new market sees the old replaced with the new while maintaining the overall integrity and value of a treasured historic locale.