The St. Lawrence neighborhood, located in downtown Toronto, used to be part of the shoreline of Lake Ontario. The site of the present day St. Lawrence neighbourhood was created from a massive landfill project in the early 1800s. It was originally intended to serve as a public promenade with a grand Esplanade along the waterfront. However, the city turned the land over to the railways, which in turn attracted industries to the St. Lawrence area.
Known as the historical heart of Old York, St. Lawrence served as a vital industrial centre until the late 1940s, when Toronto’s industrial base began moving outside of the city. As a result, the St. Lawrence area was neglected and went into a period of decline for 30 years. In the 1970s, then-Mayor David Crombie championed another redevelopment that gave rise to the lively community it is today.
Nowadays, St. Lawrence Market is a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood with a number of financial towers that provide a solid underpinning of employment and enterprise. It is mainly known for its unique and vivid architectural style as well as for its thriving market, which is its main focal point on weekends. In fact, the St. Lawrence Market has turned into a synonym for the neighborhood itself.
Meet Me at the Market!
One of the best ways to spend your Saturday mornings is to stroll through the St. Lawrence Market, sampling fresh local produce. This huge market is quite special: it sits in the area that was designated as the ‘market block’ back in the early 1800s, and it is now one of two major markets flourishing in Toronto—the second one being the Kensington Market. According to Food & Wine Magazine, it is ranked among the 25 best markets in the world, being a very popular destination for shoppers from all over the city.
It is a market with character, where you’ll hear music, vendors calling out to the crowds, and people enjoying themselves. Several programs operate at the complex: the Farmers’ Market, Market Carts, Occasional Use, Special Events, Rental Facilities and Permanent Tenancies. Home to over 120 specialty merchants, the St. Lawrence Market Complex consists of three buildings: St. Lawrence Hall, the South Market and the North Market.
The Market Guide
The South Market is a three-storey brick building in Georgian style. It is known primarily for its fruits, vegetables, meat and cheese since 1901. You’ll find all these fresh food products and some unique non-food items on the two bottom floors that host 50 different specialty vendors. On the third floor, you can marvel at the City of Toronto art and archival collection in the Market Gallery, which used to be the original council chamber of Toronto’s City Hall until 1899.
The North Market is best known for its traditional Saturday Farmers’ Market, always bustling with both locals and visitors. You can choose any fresh seasonal produce brought by the farmers of Southern Ontario. If you are a lover of antiques, wake up at the crack of dawn on Sunday and visit the North Market, when it is filled with over 80 antique dealers displaying their wares from hand-blown glass to antique watches. Admission is free and the market is open until 5 p.m.
Every other day, the 10,000 square feet of modern showroom space in the North Market is available to rent for promotional functions, flea markets, displays, large social gatherings, meetings and exhibitions. The north building is slated for replacement by a four-storey multi-purpose community facility in 2014—exemplifying an “everything old is new again” motif.
The Facelift of the Market
By 2014, St. Lawrence Market’s historic North Building will be transformed into a hulking four-storey structure housing market space on the ground floor, with courtrooms and administrative offices for Toronto Court Services occupying the upper floors. It will also feature a green roof and a parking garage.
The new design features a glass atrium that will provide a clear view of street life on Front and Jarvis Streets, as well as views of the south market and St. Lawrence Hall to the north. It is believed that the airy space will make indoor shoppers feel like they are in a “fresh outdoor market.”
During construction, the Saturday farmers’ market and Sunday antique market has moved to a temporary location at 125 The Esplanade.
St. Lawrence Housing Project
Since the 1990s, the St. Lawrence neighbourhood has become the role model for the design and planning of new urban communities across North America. It all began in the 1960s, when the industrial uses of the area had declined, leaving numerous empty sites and decrepit buildings. As a result, Mayor David Crombie decided to turn the area into a new residential neighbourhood. Alan Littlewood made the plans and Jane Jacobs, an American urban planner, also played a crucial role. The completed neighbourhood contained a mix of commercial and residential areas, with both subsidized and market oriented housing consisting of mostly rowhouse or low-rise apartments.
The St. Lawrence neighborhood offers a wide variety of affordable and architecturally interesting living spaces. It is mainly characterized by red brick exteriors from the Victorian era, but there are also modern high-rise towers. Here you can find a large variety of buildings from modern condominiums to some of the city’s best loft conversions.
If you dream of living in Toronto condos convenient to the financial center, the St. Lawrence Market neighborhood is the ideal area to consider. Situated within walking distance from shopping, fine dining and theatres, St. Lawrence Market condos are definitely in high demand. For the most skeptical of urban Toronto real estate buyers, the old warehouse buildings have been converted to loft dwellings, guaranteed to satisfy those with discerning taste.
Free Time Activities
The St. Lawrence Market is a lively place suitable for urbanites seeking cultural fun and close proximity to all the amenities the city core has to offer. The area boasts a hip night life where friends meet for live theatre, music, entertainment and cinema.
Within the heart of the neighbourhood, there is the SONY Centre for the Performing Arts, a renowned venue in Canada with 3200 seats. Formerly known as the Hummingbird Centre, it is an historical and cultural landmark in Toronto that is operated for the benefit of Torontonians and the continuation of cultural diversity and entertainment excellence in Canada.
Moviegoers also appreciate the Rainbow Cinemas Market Square at 80 Front Street, which shows first run films at very cheap prices.
The David Crombie Park offers a pleasing setting for outdoor pursuits; the street scene is enlivened by flower displays in the summer, and Christmas decorations on the 150 Victorian lampposts during the winter holiday season. Residents and visitors can take in Woofstock for doggies in June and a Hogtown Hoedown in July.
The St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts features some of the city’s best live entertainment including theatre, music, operetta, musicals, dance, spoken word and comedy.
The Bier Markt offering over 100 brands of beer from 24 countries, and C’est What, where notable acts like The Tea Party have performed, are great live entertainment alternatives. Of course, Roy Thomson Hall, Massey Hall and the Lorraine Kisma Theatre for Young People (LKTYP) are all nearby.
Adding to the sights, the local Business Improvement Area supports a summer flower and Christmas decoration program utilizing 150 Victorian lampposts throughout the neighborhood.
Be a Tourist in Your Neighbourhood!
Grab a camera and discover a variety of historical sites, landmarks and present-day tourist destinations. The area just east of the Market is characterized by large, impressive buildings. Popular local attractions include the following:
- The Cathedral Church of St. James, whose bells are heard on the hour
- The Flatiron Building, built in 1892 before its younger (and more famous) brother in Manhattan and known for its distinct narrow wedge shape. It is located at Wellington St. and Front St. If viewed from the east, the wedge can be seen in the foreground with the financial skyscrapers and the CN tower rising in the background.
- The Sculpture Garden on King Street, showcasing contemporary seasonal outdoor artwork
- The Canadian Opera Club
- The Hockey Hall of Fame
- The Police Building
- The Imperial Oil Opera Centre
- The behemoth Toronto Sun headquarters with its half-block wall mural
- Cash is the preferred type of payment and the only one that is accepted by all the vendors in the St. Lawrence Market.
- One building in the market was burnt down during the great fire of 1849 and replaced with the grandiose St. Lawrence Hall and north section of the market, referred to today as the ‘North Market’.
Location & Transportation
The St. Lawrence Market, located west of Jarvis Street, between King Street East and the Esplanade, is owned by the City of Toronto. The neighbourhood is a commuter’s delight, with the frequent service King streetcar, Sherbourne bus, and King subway all within walking distance.
- Total Population (2006): 6,655
- Total Households (2006): 3,874
- Average household income: $57,132.00
- Average age: 40
- Most common religion: Roman Catholic (34.35%)
- Most common ethnicities: English (12.0%), Scottish (9.0%), Irish (8.0%)
- Job types: White collar (51.6%), Grey collar (38.3)%, Blue collar (10.1)%
Interested in living in the neighbourhood? Browse the MLS Listings for the perfect house or condominium available in this area.