The St Lawrence neighbourhood is getting a ‘Residential Rebirth’ as per Toronto Waterfront Magazine, and that means excavators will soon be cracking through the asphalt and digging deep holes down through the history of the city to make the necessary underground parking garages. And that gets Dumpdiggers excited.
When historic property changes hands, City administrators often hire professional archeologists to poke about and recover artifacts in the hopes of making a ‘Toronto Museum’ someday. Below is a picture I snapped on 16 Jan 2017 of the archeological dig happening on the site of the St Lawrence Market’s north building. For years this was the site of a vegetable produce market on Saturdays, and I believe there was an antiques market on Sundays. Or was it the other way around? I forget exactly, but I do know that I shopped for antique bottles in this building, and there’s a blog post about visiting the spot with Abel DaSilva somewhere in the archives here on Dumpdiggers.
You can see in the photo above I’ve deliberately shown the portable toilet solution on site today as I enjoy the juxtaposition of seeing space age privies on a property which more than likely once boasted the crudest of latrines. That’s where the best stuff is buried… but the book schooled archeologists are instead combing the foundations for clues to culturally relevant stories, and various historical mysteries and they’re not ‘relic hunting’ for collectibles as we would do, although they have found some bottles and coins as per a January 7th 2017 Toronto Star article about the archeological dig at St Lawrence Market by John Lorinc
This dig is happening before construction starts on a mega mall vendor complex which some experts, John Lorinc included, have pegged at costing just over ninety million dollars. That seems cheap – look at this thing!
This complex, plus construction on the north side of the Distillery District plus the two new condo towers at Esplanade and Yonge are pushing developer interest in the St Lawrence neighborhood.
Extreme property development in Toronto is commonplace as dozens of skyscrapers are erected all across the GTA every year. But the two futuristic-looking monoliths described next are special. These giant concrete condo towers, both scheduled to begin construction on Front St E this summer, are situated on two of the oldest lots in town, and even appear on the very first maps. Click the pictures – they expand.
The picture to the right shows John Graves Simcoe’s famous 1797 sketch of the Settlement of York with the present location of Time and Space condos clearly marked. You can see it’s located right on the shoreline of the original grid. This graphic is borrowed courtesy of the Time and Space condos website’s Time Traveler story from which I’ve re-purposed some other images and observations for this blog. I’m writing this post on Dumpdiggers as a community alert for shovel ready relic hunters and more refined collectors who prefer to deal directly with backhoe operators and excavation company owners (to buy dug bottles and bits at best prices). Lastly this is a story about the evolution of Front St E and what amazing things might be lurking under ten feet of top soil, buried a few hundred years under the rest of Toronto’s history.
Anyone comparing the two map excerpts will notice that Front St E was originally called ‘Palace St’ and was a waterfront expressway toward the site of the first Upper Canada Parliament Buildings. It was called ‘Palace St’ because it was the way toward the ‘Palace of Government’.
In a recent article about the past, present and future of Front and Sherboune appears in Toronto Guardian 21 Jan 2017 and the author states that anyone walking south down Jarvis, George, Frederick, Sherbourne and even Princess will notice a pronounced dip down right after Front St.
You can see the sudden ‘dip’ downwards in this image below that I
snapped on 16 Jan 2017 of the south west corner of Front and Sherbourne
as it appears today. There was an Acura car dealership and Sobey’s grocer
store here not too long ago. See that smoke stack? Keep an eye on it.
Go back forty years… Newsome and Gilbert Ltd. printing plant was located at 177 Front St E
in 1972. The old smoke stack is visible back then, but does not appear
to be connected to the building. Newsome and Gilbert made high quality
legal stationary for law firms across Canada and this facility probably
employed a hundred people in the area. It was a modern printing plant
and didn’t use steam power but rather it required hydro electric power
as evidenced by the many spars on the pole outside the building and only
three spars on the pole at the corner in the foreground.
Go back farther – here is a sketch from 1893.
Now on the 1880 Goad Fire Insurance Map, you can see the center of the complex is being used by Lyman Bros Chemical Works.
Lyman was listed in the 1851 Canada Business Directory – LYMAN, BROTHERS & Co., wholesale druggists, manufacturers and dealers in dye stuffs and clothiers’ materials-also in paints, colours, linseed oil, putty,
&c., and importers of perfumery and chemicals, St. Lawrence
buildings, King st., east. (the location of the retail store).
An environmental study for 177 Front St E Toronto dated November 20th 1989 by Trow, Dames & Moore For Arnon Development Corporation reports the findings of a soil quality assessment study in which seven (7) boreholes were advanced to various depths across the site. They found “..an upper fill layer approximately 4 m thick on the west portion of the site and 3 m thick fill layer was identified on the eastern portion of the property. The fill generally consisted of sand and silty sand with brick fragments, cinders and wood fragments. At some locations the fill was observed to have a black colour and hydrocarbon odours. Shale bedrock was encountered approximately 7 m – 7.5 m below ground surface. “
Given the industry on the property to date, its not surprising the soil quality assessment report revealed evidence of potential environmental contamination. They referenced the printing operation where chemicals were present in the buildings on site between 1950 to 1980. The report mentions the former oil storage and chemical supply company (Lyman Bros) that was located within the central portion of the property from 1880 to 1940. The document pinpoints the positions of four different USTs (Underground Storage Tanks) located on and near the site from approximately 1960 to 1990. Most of the soil will have to be removed to make way for what’s coming…
Here’s what’s coming to the site in 2017. Time and Space Condos at 177 Front St E.
The other property that Dumpdiggers should be aware of is directly across the street, on opposite corner at 158 Front St E., the development is called St Lawrence Condos.
The St Lawrence Condos at 158 Front St E has an advanced design with a ‘staggered blocks’ style appearance that’s certain to turn heads.
This is what the future looks like today.
A photographer standing in this spot five years ago would have seen
the Greyhound Bus Station that was just here. Demolished in 2011, that
structure was built in the mid 1960s and for fifty years it was a prime
conduit through which many people arrived in the city for the first
Close to the same spot, facing the same direction seventy years ago,
an unknown photographer captured this street scene below.
Roy F. Day was a locksmith – The B/A sign is the mark of the British American Petroleum company.
Behold there was a gas station / automotive service station on both the
northeast and northwest corners of Front and Sherbourne back in 1958. (there is still an Esso on the NE.E. corner today) Scaller’s Service Station
started in the 1930s with some connection to the nearby British American oil company. The business would have removed or greatly disturbed the archeological record of the site when they dug their fuel
tanks. I can only imagine what they unearthed.
Let’s remember this old section of Toronto is where dozens of good bottles (highly collectible) are being filled with original contents in the 1880s. King St E is thick with druggist and apothecaries including Dr. Chase and Lyman Bros etc. Do you collect soda or mineral water bottles? The original bottlers are all around this property in the 1890 Industries of Canada book.
If the diggers find a privy pit it would be fascinating to do an archeological investigation of that and count the soda bottles and see which brand of local soda pop was the most popular (or least recycled) at the time in Toronto as dated by other relics found in the privy.
the property was surrounded by retail chemists, druggists, perfumers,
soda pop manufacturers, breweries and distilleries back then and for a
hudred years prior.
PDF – There’s a report done by Archeological Services Inc on behalf of the city of Toronto for 154 Front St. E and the information inside is solid gold. The document recalls the original Toronto Purchase and lists the payment terms and treaty irregularities. It lists the population of the city at various ties throughout the 1800s and also there’s a complete list of owners for 154 Front St E from 1833 – present day.
1833 Back when the road was still called Palace Street, a famous gentleman named Thomas Mercer Jones Esq., who was one of the Commissioners of the Canada Company lived at a house on the lot.
Ten years later, in 1846 a man named Lawrence Coffee, who was a flour dealer, and Abraham Koplik, jeweler were on the site.
Ten years later, in the middle 1850s, Boyd and Armstrong started a hotel at what is now 154 Front St E and called it the Grand Trunk Hotel which I suspect rented rooms on long term basis as the census records are thick with occupants’ names from this point forward. The residents are middle aged blacksmiths, flour dealers, and pork packers who probably worked across the street at Wlliam Davies pork packing plant on Frederick St – that building still stands today too.
The Grand Trunk Hotel is called Ontario House in early 1870s and then becomes William Lennox’s Hotel in 1875. Where there was a lodging house there usually a deep privy and so I’ve no doubt the property is loaded with little pockets of antique glass bottles today.
In 1895 we see the first mention of William S. Mahaffy as a blacksmith. A few years later he’s listed as ‘carriage manufacturer’.
Same as H.A. Wickett Co. Ltd., general contractors in 1930. Wicket specialized in demolition afterwards – the Wicket Demotion company appears after 1940, along with Roy F. Day, locksmith.
In 1957 The Dominion Linseed Oil Co. Ltd. had some facet of their operations here at 154 Front St. You can read all about their historic buildings on the other side of town. The Dominion Linseed Oil Co. Ltd on Wabash (at Sorauren).
In 1965 the Hart Battery Co. Ltd. was here along with Precision Air Conditioning Ltd., sheet metal contractors and the Scaller Service Station which was part of the British American Oil distribution network.
In 1975 the Greyhound bus building was here (Gray Coach Lines)
And we all know what’s coming. In the summer of 2017 I will be there interviewing excavators, taking pictures, and maybe even buying bottles and relics from the excavators at the gate.