St. Lawrence Market marks 220 years in Toronto, new building set to open by end of 2023

St. Lawrence Market has been in the same downtown area for 220 years. As City of Toronto staff work to ensure the existing building thrives, the new north market building is set to open later in 2023. Nick Westoll has more.

Stroll down any of the aisles of the historic St. Lawrence Market and there is an abundance of food to be had: Bins overflowing with produce, fresh meat, seafood, cakes and pastries, hot prepared lunches and various other delicious finds.

But look northwest at Jarvis Street and Front Street East and you’ve likely noticed work has been underway to make sure the market will thrive for decades to come.

The new north market building, which has been under construction over the past few years, replaces the old temporary structure that was erected after the original building was gutted by a fire.

Once it is finished, visiting farmers and artisans (who have been based out of a temporary structure at Lower Jarvis Street and The Esplanade) will be relocated to the first floor of the new building.

Samantha Wiles, a supervisor with St. Lawrence Market, said construction is on track to be finished by the end of 2023.

RELATED: Plaque outside St. Lawrence Market shares taste of hundreds of years of Indigenous history

“It’s going to be a really amazing place for the community,” she told CityNews during a tour of the property on Friday.

“The garage door-style doors open up and it’ll feel like an open-air market. It’ll go into Market Lane Park, which will also be under redevelopment and the next little while.”

The second floor will have community spaces and all the floors above will be municipal court services (this is where people will be able to go to do things like contesting parking tickets).

It’s the latest evolution of the market, which is well into its third century of existence. While it has modern touches, there are nods to the past.

“If you look at it, it’s sort of got a similar shape and definitely a different look and feel — much more open with the glass, no brick, but the glass will actually reflect the brick,” Wiles said.

“If you’re on the north side of this building, you can actually see the reflection of the St. Lawrence Hall brick all along the glass, so it’s actually really beautiful.”

St. Lawrence Market celebrates 220 years of market operations in same downtown area

The market first started in the area in 1803 and predated Canada’s confederation by more than six decades.

One of the exterior walls from Toronto’s first city hall are located within the south market building close to the Front Street East doors.

In the early years, vendors were mostly outdoors. The south market building that many people shop at was enclosed about 120 years ago.

“What you see today, with a few improvements, is generally what was there. There are concrete floors now. There would have been dirt floors before,” Wiles said.

There’s also food history found within the heritage walls. Peameal bacon was invented at the St. Lawrence Market and the sandwiches, often piled high with bacon on fresh buns are among the must-try items.

“At the time, there was a meat shortage over in the U.K. and so they’d actually process the pork in Toronto and then send it on a boat over to the U.K. and so they needed to find a way to preserve it for that trip,” Wiles explained.

“They brined the pork and then they rolled it in yellow peas, and so what they were finding is that the peas were spoiling on the way over and so they then made a correction and started rolling it in cornmeal.”

Meanwhile, residents and tourists alike will continue to enjoy the market for all it offers as they have in the decades of operation. It’s open all days except for Monday.

“It’s pretty rare. Like there are not many things that last that long anymore, so I think Toronto has got a real gem here that that we should really treasure and continue to for another 200 years,” Wiles added.

With files from Meredith Bond

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