The energy when you enter St. Lawrence Market is contagious with over 120 merchants to discover and interact with. There has been activity at this block bordered by Jarvis, King, Front and Wellington since 1803 when the market block was designated by Governor Peter Hunter as the city's first farmer's market.
At that time, people had farms within what is now Toronto's city limits. Framers brought fresh vegetables, fruits in season, animals and fish to markets stalls for sale or barter.
The South St. Lawrence Market building still serves as the farmer's market selling delicious organic foods, fresh seafood and meats, coffee, flowers and offering famous classics such as peameal bacon sandwiches and montreal bagels.
This vibrant market was designated the top Farmers Market in the world by National Geographic Traveler in 2012 and and after a few minutes walking around taking it all in and chatting with the friendly merchants you will know why. Pop in on a busy Saturday when the north market is open with the local farmers market and you will feel like the entire city has descended on this special spot.
Part of Toronto's history
The original St. Lawrence Market building that opened in 1803 was a wooden structure with stalls to protect sellers from the cold, wet weather. The building was also used for local government offices.The wood building was replaced by a brick structure in 1831. By 1834, the City Council was meeting in the building and the basement of the structure served as a jail. The building was open in the center for vendors. But the Great Fire of 1849 destroyed most of the city, including the brick building that housed the market.
The St. Lawrence Market was rebuilt within a year and another building, the Great Hall, was added for concerts and major events. The new buildings were designed by William Hall. A separate building opened in 1851 at the north section of the market block at Front and Jarvis streets.
A new City Hall opened in another location in 1903 and the old market was demolished in 1904. It was replaced by a more modern structure that continued to serve as a market place for six decades.
The south building was facing demolition in 1971 but it was saved with renovations financed by the Federal Winter Capital Projects Fund, the result of a proposal by Toronto citizens determined to keep the historic building.
The Great Hall on the third floor of the St. Lawrence Hall was restored to the elegant 19th Century style in 1967 as part of Toronto Centennial Project. A visit to the Gallery on the second floor of the south building gives a glimpse of what the neighbourhood used to like with tons of old photos and paintings of the city. This is the room that once served as City Council chambers.
New North Market
The north building in the market was demolished in 1978 and rebuilt but it is being replaced with a four story structure scheduled to begin construction in 2014. The new structure will include a glass atrium area for the farmer's market.
Antique Market and Gallery
The north market building is the site of the Sunday Antique Market. This market is open to everyone but buyers come early. Interior designers looking for a special lamp or table mingle with shoppers just looking for a piece of vintage furniture at a good price. The selection of antiques and collectibles changes each week.
Market events and classes
The south St. Lawrence Market building offers a variety of events including classes in knife skills and my favourites cheese saavy entertaining and Which Cheese? Which Wine?
The South St. Lawrence Market is open Tuesday through Thursday from 8am to 6pm. It closes at 7pm on Fridays and it's open from dawn to 5pm on Saturdays.
I hope you enjoy your next visit to the market and feel as lucky to have it a part of the neighbourhood as I do.