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Toronto's buried treasure: Surprising discoveries at St. Lawrence Market, Summerhill LCBO

Last Updated Sep 9, 2015 at 7:20 pm EST

Two surprising discoveries buried underneath the city have Toronto looking back at its past.

At St. Lawrence Market, new construction brought up evidence of three previous markets – the earliest was in 1831.

And at the Summerhill LCBO, crews unearthed a time capsule that was buried on Sept. 9, 1915.

The north building of the St. Lawrence Market is in the midst of a redevelopment project. During the archeological assessment of the site – to determine what the site could and could not support – three previous markets were discovered. “The unearthing of a rich archeological record on the site will increase our understanding of this history and complement the buildout of a new North Market facility that maximizes its uses and its potential as a destination for residents and tourists,” deputy mayor Pam McConnell said in the statement. The first permanent brick market was set up in 1831. This week, the city announced they had discovered foundation piers from the 1831 building, a large arched flagstone sewer relating to either the 1831 or the 1851 development, and the original, pre-development ground surface preserved within the interior courtyard of the 1831 building.

The "New Market" on the west side of Jarvis Street, taken on Nov. 21, 1900. Image via City of Toronto Archives.
The “New Market” on the west side of Jarvis Street, taken on Nov. 21, 1900. Image via City of Toronto Archives.

There was also evidence of the 1851 (built after the 1849 Toronto fire) and 1904 buildings, according to a statement from the city. “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,” McConnell said, and has been a home to market and market activities since at least 1803. The new discoveries mean construction could take longer than expected and the city will focus more efforts on conservation. “The exceedingly important historical value of the property to the development of the City of Toronto makes it likely that further archeological assessment of the property will be required prior to ground disturbance,” lead archeologist Dr. Peter Popkin said. The North Market was briefly used as a town hall as well as a market. Take a look at what it used to look like in the photos below.

King Street East, near St. Lawrence Market, between 1885 and 1895. Image via City of Toronto Archives/F.W. Micklethwaite.
King Street East, near St. Lawrence Market, between 1885 and 1895. Image via City of Toronto Archives/F.W. Micklethwaite.
Fruit and flower stalls at the St. Lawrence Market, circa 1904. Image via City of Toronto Archives/Alexander W. Galbraith fonds.
Fruit and flower stalls at the St. Lawrence Market, circa 1904. Image via City of Toronto Archives/Alexander W. Galbraith fonds.
Fruit and flower stalls at the St. Lawrence Market, circa 1904. Image via City of Toronto Archives/Alexander W. Galbraith fonds.
Fruit and flower stalls at the St. Lawrence Market, circa 1904. Image via City of Toronto Archives/Alexander W. Galbraith fonds.
William Davies stall at the St. Lawrence Market, circa 1911. Image via City of Toronto Archives/William James fonds.
William Davies stall at the St. Lawrence Market, circa 1911. Image via City of Toronto Archives/William James fonds.

Meanwhile, a 100-year-old time capsule was unearthed at the Summerhill LCBO. The building was formerly the site of the North Toronto Railway Station and then-mayor Thomas L. Church laid the cornerstone of the building, tucking the capsule inside.

There were blueprints, coins, newspapers (there were six in Toronto at the time) and stamps were found in the capsule.