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History unearthed: 19th-Century schooner being excavated in Toronto

Last Updated Jun 4, 2015 at 1:33 pm EST

Crews getting ready to excavate and move the 19th-Century schooner at the Queen's Wharf. CITYNEWS/Bert Dandy
Summary

Parts of the schooner could date back to the 1830s.


The site was being archeologically assessed for a condo build by developer Concord Adex.


Crews are trying to preserve a piece of Toronto’s past as they attempt to excavate and move a 19th-Century schooner to the Fort York National Historic Site, where it will be preserved and eventually out on public display.

Parts of the schooner, which could date back to the 1830s, were found in May on from Queen’s Wharf in the Fort York Boulevard and Bathurst Street area by an archeological team.

Only the keel, the lowermost portions of the stern and bow and a small section of the bottom of the hull on the port side were found intact.

The site was being archeologically assessed for a condo build by developer Concord Adex.

The developer is working in collaboration with Archaeological Services Inc., Ellis Don and the City of Toronto’s Museum and Heritage Services to make sure the vessel gets moved smoothly to its new home.

The developer and Ellis Don started the excavation on Thursday morning. It’s the first attempted move of such a vessel in Toronto.

“Concord Adex is pleased to play a defining role in recovering a forgotten part of Toronto’s history,” said Michael Hopkins, director of Construction at Concord Adex.

“Vibrant and sustainable communities are grounded in an appreciation of history, and we are honoured to be at the intersection of our city’s past and future.”

 

Crews getting ready to excavate and move the 19th-Century schooner at the Queen's Wharf. CITYNEWS/Bert Dandy
Crews getting ready to excavate and move the 19th-Century schooner at the Queen’s Wharf. CITYNEWS/Bert Dandy

 

If all goes well — and the pieces don’t crumble when they start trying to move them — the recovered parts of the schooner will be hoisted up by a crane, loaded onto a flatbed truck and then driven to Fort York.

This is not the first vessel discovered in Toronto, but it is believed to be the oldest one found in the city.

Some of the other other discoveries include a 1850-1890 vessel at the Rogers Centre and the 1904-1021 Commodore Jarvis at the Air Canada Centre, and a late nineteenth-century harbour scow — a flat-bottomed boat with a blunt bow — at Block 33, a condo in the Dan Leckie Way and Lake Shore Boulevard West area. However, those vessels could not be preserved.

In March, construction workers discovered remains of what’s believed to be a wharf buried under Fort York Boulevard and Bathurst Street.

PortsToronto said the shoreline of Toronto was once as far north as Front Street. The location of the structure is likely where the water would have been.