“At least” five separate market buildings — constructed successively in 1820, 1831, 1851, 1904 and 1968 — have occupied the property, once abutting the Lake Ontario shoreline before landfill stretched the city farther south.
What was here before is not even in the public records. We might assist to a intentional demolition of history on these lands.
The artifacts found range in size from a large stone sewer pipe that's about 10 metres long, to items as small as everyday eating utensils.
To date, the crew has exposed the massive foundations of three earlier market buildings as well as cellars used by butchers to store their produce, plus a range of artifacts, including sheep and cattle bones bearing saw marks, shards of pottery, meat hooks, clay pipes and a glass bottle produced for J.J. McLaughlin, the Toronto pharmacist who invented Canada Dry ginger ale in the 1890s.In the construction trailer that serves as the project office, Robertson shows off a triangular shard of earthenware with a pale blue design found earlier this week — in all likelihood, a piece from a bowl or plate.
For decades, Toronto was notorious for demolishing heritage structures and allowing recognized archeological sites, such as the original parliament, to languish. That changed after council approved an ambitious archeological management plan in 2004. Since then, downtown projects have included the Georgian row house Bishop’s Block, on Wellington St., next to the Shangri-La Hotel; Toronto’s first General Hospital, on the site of what is now the TIFF Bell Lightbox; and the Stanley Barracks, next to the new hotel rising on the Canadian National Exhibition Grounds.
Last year, under a parking lot next to city hall slated to become home to a new $500-million provincial courthouse, a crew led by archeologist Holly Martelle found hundreds of thousands of artifacts from what would have been a dense immigrant enclave. Those discoveries included the foundations of a black church established in the 1840s by African Americans who fled slavery.
As with other excavations, the archeologists overseeing the dig will have to store the vast majority of the artifacts that aren’t exhibited. While city council last year adopted a policy to have archeological discoveries found in the city stored or displayed here, the bulk will remain under lock and key, as is the case with some 150,000 historical objects in two city warehouses. The continuing accumulation of such materials has prompted numerous calls for the establishment of a Toronto museum.