Toronto Neighbourhood Exploration : St. Lawrence / Old Town

Hello. As I say whenever I write about one of Toronto’s many neighbourhoods, exploring different parts of your own city is said to make you smarter (based on this list entitled, “25 Daily Habits That Will Make You Smarter“). So, I’m doing what I can for the grey matter while hopefully providing you with something interesting to read!

Considering that one of Toronto’s nicknames is “The City of Neighbourhoods”, and having nearly 100 officially recognized ones downtown, there are plenty of areas to choose from. Today, we’re visiting a part of town known as “St. Lawrence”, aka “Old Town”.

Technically, based on map boundaries, “St. Lawrence” and “Old Town” overlap one another, but the street signs have both names listed simultaneously. It’s confusing and the name changes depending of what you’re reading, so I’ve just joined the two.

↑ My visit began at the historic St. Lawrence Market, located on the south-west corner of Front and Jarvis Streets, where I met up with my friend Meghan on a Tuesday afternoon, for lunch and a walk about.

↑ The St. Lawrence Market was built in two parts — the centre part, which you can see in the middle here, came first, originally built to be Toronto’s first City Hall.

It was first built in 1845 but was partially damaged by a big fire (Toronto’s Great Fire 1849), so was rebuilt in 1850. At that time, there had been a public market area directly across the street (known as “St. Lawrence North”) since 1814.

The (north) market was completely destroyed by the fire, and was rebuilt in 1850, although part of the land, fronting on King Street, was used for “St. Lawrence Hall“, which was a meeting place for public gatherings, concerts and exhibitions. It’s still there and in full use today as an event space and is popular for weddings.

However, the (north) market has been torn down and is currently in the process of a full transformation, described here.

↑ As seen from Front Street, here is the back of “St. Lawrence Hall”, with the empty lot where the north market once was. The grey fencing surrounds the construction site. ↑

↑ Back to today’s “St. Lawrence Market” : the Toronto City Hall offices were moved to what we know as “Old City Hall” located at Bay and Queen West (called “old” but it’s not the oldest, having opened in 1899, 54 years after the “older” one). The original building was incorporated right into the build of the St. Lawrence Market (south), completed in 1902.

So, the St. Lawrence Market as we know it, has been like that for the past 118 years. The City Hall portion is still intact within the building, and is used as an art gallery. You pass through it to get into the market and can see it from within. ↑

↑ There are 50 vendors on the main floor, selling all kinds of food. St. Lawrence was named the world’s best food market by National Geographic in 2012. See the back of the former City Hall there? ↑

↑ There are also vendors on the lower floor, some also selling food, but some selling other things, as well. ↑

↑ A couple of details : The original City Hall door and the market building seen from Market Street which runs north-south along the western side of the market. It is one of Toronto’s oldest roads. ↑

↑ On the other side of Market Street is the former “Armoury Hotel”, which opened in 1858. In an area that had many hotels and rooming houses, it was considered quite swanky, at one point charging $1 a night versus the $.50 most of the other places were charging.

With 30 guest rooms, a smoking parlour, three sitting rooms, a large dining room and a well-stocked bar serving foreign and domestic wines and a wide variety of liquors, ales, beer and cigars, it is thought to be the first place in the city ever to offer a menu, as prior to that one ate whatever was being served that day.

It’s been recently refurbished and is currently home to restaurants, an LCBO (liquor store), and offices.

History buffs will enjoy this article about the place. ↑

From here, we crossed Jarvis to the north-east corner from the market, to have lunch at a pub located in a stretch of some of the oldest buildings still standing in the area.

↑ Diagonally across from The St. Lawrence Market are some of the oldest buildings in the area, built in 1840. ↑

We had a great experience out on the patio at The Jason George and were glad we chose it.

↑ I had a veggie burger ↑

↑ Meg had the Salad of the Moment, featuring roasted duck. ↑

After and nice relaxing lunch and a little chat with the friendly server (who wanted to know what perfume I was wearing — it was this one – Fleur Musc by Narciso Rodriguez), we walked westward along Front Street, wanting to check out the flatiron building and the fountain at Berczy Park.

↑ Looking south down Church Street from in front of the Flatiron building. ↑

↑ Looking back eastward from Front Street East and Church Street. See the vintage style lamps? They’re unique to and set up all over the neighbourhood. They’re all lit up at night, which must look very pretty. ↑

↑ The Gooderham “Flatiron” Building is triangular in shape, with sides along Front and Wellington Streets, and backing towards the park. It was completed in 1882 and was used as the head office of The Gooderham and Worts Distillery until 1952. (I wrote about “The Distillery District” in this post.) ↑

Aside : See the curved building to the left of the Flatiron above? That crane thing has been stuck up there for, literally, years! Read about it here.

↑ On the back of the building, there’s this trompe l’oeil mural created by Canadian artist Derek Michael Besant, which makes the wall appear to have more windows than it does. Something I hadn’t noticed before, was that it’s a painting of the building that’s right across the street to the south, called the “Perkins Building”. ↑

↑ The F & G Perkins Building, at 41 Front Street East, built in 1860. ↑

↑ Looking south-east at The Griffiths Building, 45, 47, 49 Front Street East, built in 1872-1873 . The fronts are remarkably made from cast iron and are believed to be a few of the remaining such building facades. ↑

↑ Looking south-west at The Beardsmore Building, at 35 Front Street East, completed in 1872. ↑

So, the middle one came first, with the two on either side, coming 12 years later.

And now, we’re right beside a most charming of sights. In Bercsy Park, there’s what might be considered the best fountain ever! Revealed a few years ago in 2017, is this two-tiered fountain featuring 27 cast-iron statues of different breeds of dogs and one cat. Water sprouts from the dogs mouths, towards a bone situated at the very top.

I’m sorry I missed this, but the cat is looking towards an extra piece, two small birds perched on the arm of a lamp post located three metres away. Now, I feel I must go back to see that part!

Meghan and I continued our walk from there, seeing quite a few more interesting sights, and stopping for a drink. I’ll be back to tell you where we went in an upcoming post.

Wishing you a happy weekend. It’s a three-day weekend for us! As always, thanks for reading, xo loulou