Tag Archives: St. Lawrence Market

The north St. Lawrence Market—demolished 2016


The north building of Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market in  2013. The view gazes toward the northwest corner of Jarvis and Front Streets. In the background, on King Street East, are the St. Lawrence Hall and the spire of St. James Cathedral.

The north building of the St. Lawrence Market was situated on the original site of York’s (Toronto’s) first farmers’ market square. At first, the market square was simply an open field with a water pump, where local farmers sold their produce and livestock. Early, each Saturday morning, farmers arrived from neighbouring townships, having departed their farms long before daybreak, travelling by horse and cart along the muddy roads that led to the town of York. About the year 1815, at the north end of the square, adjacent to King Street, they erected a small wooden shelter, measuring 35’ by 40’. In 1820, the sides of the structure were enclosed to form a brick building. However, in 1831, an impressive quadrangular market complex was constructed, stretching from King Street on the north to Front Street on the south.


The above picture is a photo of a model of the quadrangular market building of 1831.  (City of Toronto Archives)

In the foreground of the above picture is the north facade of the red-brick market building on King Street East. The facade had three archways, each located above an entrance to the building. The complex included a rectangular courtyard for farmers’ carts and wagons. Surrounding the courtyard were sheltered spaces to accommodate stalls for butchers, fish merchants, and vegetable sellers. The covered sections protected vendors and customers from the whims of York’s (Toronto’s) cruel winter weather.

In 1834, the town of York was incorporated as a city and renamed Toronto. Because there was no City Hall, for a decade after its incorporation, city officials met in the red-brick structure on King Street, at the north end of the St. Lawrence Market complex. In 1849, a fire swept along King Street that destroyed the market. When they rebuilt in 1851, the new two-storey market building was a mixture of architectural styles, with windows topped by Roman arches and others that were rectangular. On the north end of the site, a grand hall was added – the St. Lawrence Hall. It became the cultural centre for the city, where citizenry gathered for recitals, concerts, and important speakers.

1898 water colour pictures-r-5181[1]

Painting depicting the north market of the St. Lawrence Market building, in 1898. This is the structure that was erected in 1851. The view gazes from the southeast corner of Front and Jarvis Streets, the cupola on the St. Lawrence Hall and the spire of St. James Cathedral visible in the background. Toronto Public Library, r- 5181.

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Photo taken in 1898, showing the same view as the painting. It is likely this photo was the inspiration for the painting. There were streetcars on Front Street. Toronto Public Library, r- 6039.


View of the east and south sides of the market building erected in 1851. The cattle are being herded east along Front Street. The streetcar tracks are visible, even though the  roadway is unpaved. The photo is undated but is likely c. 1898.

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View of the east side of the market, looking north on Jarvis Street toward King Street East. The sign for W. E. Dobson Cigar Factory on the south wall of the St. Lawrence Hall belonged to a company that operated from 1883-1898. Toronto Public Library, r-6041.

In 1899, the north market buildings was demolished and another structure erected. Construction was completed in 1904, the architect being John W. Siddal. The style of the building matched that of the south market structure on Front Street. I was inside this building many times during the 1950s and 1960s. I remember its architecture as being rather dreary, its interior cavernous, and on cold days it was drafty. Because the windows were built high up in the walls, it was not well lit, especially on winter mornings. The brick walls and cement floors added to its austerity.

However, the colourful activity on Saturday mornings more than compensated for the structure’s dismal appearance. The interior was composed of one main, open space, the overhead beams visible. At the north end there was a stage to allow the building to be employed for political meetings or community events, as well as entertainers. Unlike the south market, where there were permanent kiosks and stalls, merchants sold their goods from folding tables, which were set-up every Saturday morning. The farmers paid a rental fee to acquire a space. This building was demolished in 1968. 

Series 1465, File 415, Item 6

Plans drawn in 1900 that depict the design for the building to replace the north market building erected in 1851. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1465, File 0425, Item 0006.

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Painting showing the north St. Lawrence Market c. 1945. The view is of the west side of the structure, the St. Lawrence Hall visible on its north side. 

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Scene in the north market in 1957, the folding tables visible for displaying goods. Canada Archives, 010955318.

In 1968, a sleek new building was erected. I was in this building on many occasions as well. It was as spacious as its predecessor, the equivalent of two storeys, though not as cavernous. Its walls were composed of light-beige (almost white) bricks. On Saturday mornings, when the farmers’ market was held, the interior was brightly lit. In warm weather, around its exterior there were stalls for farmers who were unable to rent interior spaces. On the north end of the interior there was a stage to accommodate community events. On Sunday mornings, the building was employed as a flea market. During the remainder of the week, the interior space was available for rent.

Overhead view of the rear of St. Lawrence Market, from the King Edward Hotel – July 6, 1974 

Aerial view of the north market building in the 1970s or 1980s, the camera pointed east. On its north side (left-hand side of the photo) is the St. Lawrence Hall, its cupola possessing a green copper roof. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 0016, Item 0003.


View in 2012 of the north market building’s south facade on Front Street, the spire of St. James Cathedral and the cupola of the St. Lawrence Hall in the background.


      Interior of the north market building on a Saturday morning in 2012.


     Interior view, showing the stage at the north end of the space.


   Spaces for farmers’ stalls on Jarvis Street, on the east side of the north market building.

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   Vendors on the east side of the north market building in 2012.


Vendors’ tents on the west side of the building on an autumn Saturday morning.


View from the southeast corner of Jarvis and Front Streets in October 2016, the hoarding around the building to facilitate its demolition.


Artist’s concept of the new structure to replace the former north market building. View looks from the southeast corner of Jarvis and Front Streets.

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Books by the Blog’s Author

Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  


   To place an order for this book, published by History Press: .

Book also available in most book stores such as Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox and AGO Book Shop. It can also be ordered by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)


Another book on theatres, published by Dundurn Press, is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It explores 81 theatres and contains over 125 archival photographs, with interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating histories. Note: an article on this book was published in Toronto Life Magazine, October 2016 issue.

For a link to the article published by |Toronto Life Magazine:…/photos-old-cinemas-dougtaylortoronto-local-movie-theatres-of-y…

The book is available at local book stores throughout Toronto or for a link to order this book:

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. It contains archival and modern photos that allow readers to compare scenes and discover how they have changed over the decades. Note: a review of this book was published in Spacing Magazine, October 2016. For a link to this review:

For further information on ordering this book, follow the link to  here  or contact the publisher directly by the link below:–then-and-now—products-9781910904077.php?page_id=21







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Toronto’s Gooderham (Flatiron) Building on Wellington and Front Streets


The red-brick Gooderham Building at 49 Wellington Street East is located at the confluence of Wellington Street East, Front Street East, and Church Street, in the St. Lawrence Market area. The present-day building is the second structure that has existed on this small triangular piece of land. The original building on the site was constructed in 1845, and was smaller than the one that exists there today, it having only three-storeys. It was a part of the Wellington Hotel on nearby Church Street, and was referred to as the Coffin Block as the land on which it was built was similar to that of a coffin. The odd shape occurred because the streets of the early-day town of York (Toronto) had been laid-out on a grid pattern, but the straight lines were slanted to accommodate the curve of the shoreline of Lake Ontario.

Fonds 1244, Item 7335

This photograph from the City of Toronto Archives (Series 1244, It. 7335-1) was taken in 1883. It shows the original three-storey Coffin Block, built in 1845. There is a three-storey bank across the street from the building, on the right-hand side of the photo. It is the structure with the imposing portico.


This is the building that is presently on the site. The photo from the City of Toronto Archives (Fonds 124, Fl.0124, Id.0065) was likely taken in the early 1970s, since one of the towers of the TD Centre is evident in the background. The top of the Royal York Hotel is on the left-hand side of the picture. There is no CN Tower visible, as it was not completed until 1976.


This photo from the City of Toronto Archives (Fonds 124, Fl.0124, Id.0025) gazes east along Front and Wellington Streets. In the picture, the Gooderham building is isolated. Beside it on its western side, there are only parking lots, and where the condo Market Square now exists, is another large parking lot. The St. Lawrence Hall is in the upper left-hand corner of the picture. The South Market Building of the St. Lawrence Market can be seen on the south side of Front Street. The old North Market Building is also evident, which was demolished in the late-1960s.

The Story of The Gooderham Building

In 1837, William Gooderham and his brother-in-law William Worts founded a distillery. By the 1890s, it was the largest  producer of spirits in Canada. In the early 1890s, George Gooderham, the eldest son of William Gooderham, purchased the Coffin block to construct a new headquarters for the Gooderham and Worts Distillery. He ordered that the building on the old Coffin Block be demolished. He hired David Roberts Junior (1845-90) as his architect, and at a cost of $18,000, instructed that a four-storey building be erected, which was completed in 1892. In the basement, the windows were partially above ground, creating an extra level. The design of Gooderham’s building was the inspiration for the famous Flatiron Building in New York City, built in in 1902.

Toronto’s Gooderham Building is Romanesque in design, with traces of Gothic. The cornice above the fourth floor has a wealth of intricate Romanesque designs. Above the cornice is a steeply-sloped roof that was originally covered with copper, although the copper has since been removed. The roofline is broken by eight peaked gable windows, four on the north side of the building and four on the south. On the east side, the apex of the triangular shape is rounded and topped with a pointed tower, its top still sheathed in copper. The building has several entrances, but the main entrance is on its north side, on Wellington Street. 

Interestingly, a tunnel was built under Front Street that connected the Gooderham Building to the bank across the road on Front Street. It allowed large amounts of cash to be safely transferred between the buildings without being seen from the street. The bank building can be seen in one of the above pictures placed in this post. Also, the first manually-operated Otis elevator was installed in the Gooderham Building.    

The Gooderham Building was the headquarters of Gooderham and Worts Distillery until 1952. In 1975, it was officially declared a Heritage site. The building was restored in the late-1990s, and remains coveted as office space. Its rooms, with their 12-foot ceilings, are ideal for companies that wish to rent space in an historic property.

                     April 2013

View of the Gooderham Building in April of 2013, gazing west along Front Street.

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Views of the apex of the triangular building, the top crowned with a copper-sheathed tower.


The Front Street facade, the iron fire escape attached to the red-brick wall. In the basement, which is partially above ground, there is a pub. (Photo, July 2013).


View of the top of the building, with the ornate cornice and the copper-sheathed pointed tower.


                    The Romanesque ornamentations in the cornice.


Impressive main entrance on Wellington Street, with its Romanesque surround.

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Architectural detailing on the building, with the date of its completion.

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The west facade of the Gooderham Building, containing the mural by Derek Besant, painted in the autumn of 1980. It is a mirror image of the Perkins Building across the street. It creates the illusion that there are windows on the west facade of the Gooderham Building.


                View facing west along Front Street in July 2013.

To view the Home Page for this blog:

To view previous blogs about other movie houses of Toronto—old and new

To view links to other posts placed on this blog about the history of Toronto and its buildings:

Recent publication entitled “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It also relates anecdotes and stories from those who experienced these grand old movie houses.  


   To place an order for this book: .

Theatres Included in the Book:

Chapter One – The Early Years—Nickelodeons and the First Theatres in Toronto

Theatorium (Red Mill) Theatre—Toronto’s First Movie Experience and First Permanent Movie Theatre, Auditorium (Avenue, PIckford), Colonial Theatre (the Bay), thePhotodome, Revue Theatre, Picture Palace (Royal George), Big Nickel (National, Rio), Madison Theatre (Midtown, Capri, Eden, Bloor Cinema, Bloor Street Hot Docs), Theatre Without a Name (Pastime, Prince Edward, Fox)

Chapter Two – The Great Movie Palaces – The End of the Nickelodeons

Loew’s Yonge Street (Elgin/Winter Garden), Shea’s Hippodrome, The Allen (Tivoli), Pantages (Imperial, Imperial Six, Ed Mirvish), Loew’s Uptown

Chapter Three – Smaller Theatres in the pre-1920s and 1920s

 Oakwood, Broadway, Carlton on Parliament Street, Victory on Yonge Street (Embassy, Astor, Showcase, Federal, New Yorker, Panasonic), Allan’s Danforth (Century, Titania, Music Hall), Parkdale, Alhambra (Baronet, Eve), St. Clair, Standard (Strand, Victory, Golden Harvest), Palace, Bedford (Park), Hudson (Mount Pleasant), Belsize (Crest, Regent), Runnymede

Chapter Four – Theatres During the 1930s, the Great Depression

Grant ,Hollywood, Oriole (Cinema, International Cinema), Eglinton, Casino, Radio City, Paramount, Scarboro, Paradise (Eve’s Paradise), State (Bloordale), Colony, Bellevue (Lux, Elektra, Lido), Kingsway, Pylon (Royal, Golden Princess), Metro

Chapter Five – Theatres in the 1940s – The Second World War and the Post-War Years

University, Odeon Fairlawn, Vaughan, Odeon Danforth, Glendale, Odeon Hyland, Nortown, Willow, Downtown, Odeon Carlton, Donlands, Biltmore, Odeon Humber, Town Cinema

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

Cineplex Eaton Centre, Cineplex Odeon Varsity, Scotiabank Cineplex, Dundas Square Cineplex, The Bell Lightbox (TIFF)


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