St Lawrence/Corktown

St. Lawrence Market and Corktown are two of the most historic neighborhoods in Toronto, and as such are not really known for their high concentrations of condo developments, even though they are both located downtown. However, with urban gentrification and the demand for real estate still alive and well, it probably won't be much longer before these neighborhoods are as crowded with high rises and modern condominium developments as everywhere else.

For now, though, streets in these areas mostly feature small row houses, especially in the case of Corktown, or no houses at all, as in some areas of St. Lawrence Market. Both neighborhoods also feature vacant industrial warehouses that provide grim cityscape backdrops for television and movie productions.

St. Lawrence, or as it has become more popularly known, St. Lawrence Market was the location of the original downtown core of Toronto in the 1700s and 1800s. St. Lawrence was home to the first parliament buildings in what used to be known as Upper Canada. They were built in 1793 at the intersection of Front and Parliament Streets (from which Parliament Street gets its name). The original buildings were destroyed in the intervening time, but their remains were uncovered during a dig in 2000.

The first city hall used to be located at King Street and East Jarvis Street but was burned down in the great fires of 1849. Today, the old city hall's location is occupied by the enormous columned facade of the St. Lawrence Hall from which the neighborhood takes its name. The farmers market that occurs every Saturday and for which the neighborhood is known started in 1803 and continues unabated today.

St. Lawrence went through a rough period, coinciding with the deindustrialization of the 1960s and 1970s. Many of the industrial lands, factories and warehouses were abandoned, making it a haven for misery and homelessness. A project to gentrify the area into townhouses, apartment buildings and retail storefronts was begun in the late 1970s and finished in the late 1990s to great fanfare and success.

Corktown is located nearby and has a similarly long but less grandiose history. It began in the 1800s as a home to immigrant brick and distillery workers from Ireland, mostly County Cork, from which the neighborhood derives its name. It was the site of Toronto's first free school, which still exists today as a museum, and is home to Toronto's oldest church.

Corktown faced many of the same problems as St. Lawrence following deindustrialization but has not been gentrification to the same extent. Although a portion of the neighborhood was torn down and replaced with highway ramps and overpasses in the 1960s, there are still many vacant industrial buildings. In the future, the continuing real estate crush will necessitate that these old warehouses be torn down or renovated for reuse as apartments and office space, but for now the furthest that the neighborhood has gotten is to restore some of the old British-style row houses that the old workers used to live in.





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Saturday, December 15, 2018