In the Spotlight: St. Lawrence Market Complex

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In the centre of historic Old Town Toronto, close to the hub of today’s downtown sits the St. Lawrence Market Complex – three buildings that have served as Toronto’s social centre, City Hall and marketplace throughout the city’s history.

The Farmers’ Market

Explore the South Market building with its restaurants, artisans and specialty food vendors offering visitors the unique and lively atmosphere of an authentic farmers market; the Market Galley with changing exhibits dedicated to Toronto’s art, culture and history; and the Market Kitchen with cooking classes for all ages and abilities.

In the North Market building you’ll find the farmers’ market where farmers arrive every Saturday at dawn to sell their meat, cheese and produce – just as they have been doing for more than 200 years. The St. Lawrence Hall, which contains the magnificent Great Hall, continues to be Toronto’s favourite site for social and business functions. Complete your visit with a walking tour of St. Lawrence Market Complex to hear about its 200-year history.

History of the St. Lawrence Market

1803: Lt. Governor Peter Hunter proclaims that all the land north of Front, west of Jarvis, south of King and east of Church Street, would be officially known as the Market Block.

1831: The original wooden Market building is replaced by a brick structure.

1845: City Council moves in to the Council Chambers on the second floor of the Market building.

1849: The Great Fire of Toronto destroys the brick structure and much of the city. Plans are drawn up to rebuild the Market Block to include a new St. Lawrence Hall.

1850: St. Lawrence Hall, designed by William Thomas, is unveiled and quickly becomes the social centre of the city.

1851: A new North Market building is constructed at the south end of St. Lawrence Hall.

1904: The City Hall building is demolished and a new one is built to accommodate Toronto’s growing population.

1967: The third floors of the building are restored as part the City of Toronto’s Centennial project.

1968: The North Market is demolished and replaced with the present day building.

1972: A group of Torontonians propose to the City of Toronto’s Property Department that the historic South Market building be renovated. Originally the planning board had discussed demolishing it.

1974: Renovations begin with funding from a Federal-Provincial Winter Capital Projects Fund.

1977: The City Property Department obtains approval to restore the original City Hall.

1978: Renovations are completed at the South Market. The basement is gutted and made available for retail use.

1979: The Market Gallery opens on March 7th, 1979.

2003: St. Lawrence Market celebrates its 200th anniversary.

The World’s Best Food Market

In 2012, National Geographic spotlighted the world’s best food markets in a special article entitled “Food Journeys of a Lifetime.” St. Lawrence Market outranked New York’s Union Square Greenmarket and St. Lucia’s Castries Market to claim the top spot.

A visit to the Market makes it easy to understand why. Row upon row of locally grown produce, freshly baked goods, gourmet cured meats, specialty cheeses, preserves, soups, sandwiches, and international foods are enough to make anyone’s mouth water. And the friendly vendors will make you feel at home as you take in the sounds, sights, and smells of this cosmopolitan marketplace.

Shopping and Events

St. Lawrence Market may be known primarily for its food, but it’s also a great destination for shopping and activities.

Local craftspeople and artisans come to the Market to set up shop and display their wares. With everything from handcrafted jewellery, to quality natural clothing, to accessories, crafts, and souvenirs, it’s an ideal place to find that perfect one-of-a-kind item.

If you’re feeling inspired by the endless selection of gourmet food, why not drop by for one of the Market’s cooking classes to learn how to prepare culinary masterpieces of your own? With classes on everything from baking to knife skills to cooking with wine, there’s no better place to hone your skills as a chef. Check out the St. Lawrence Market website for upcoming classes and events.