Bringing Home More Local Food from St. Lawrence Market

Bringing Home More Local Food from St. Lawrence Market

Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market was recently rated number one in National Geographic’s Top 10 food markets of the world: “This farmer’s market emporium has operated since 1803, when it cohabited with Toronto’s city hall. Redeveloped between the 1970s and 1990s after long neglect, the area’s mix of homes and businesses showcases urban regeneration. More than 120 retailers dispense everything from seafood to coffee”.

St. Lawrence Market is one of two major markets in Toronto (the other being Kensington Market). It is located on the southwest corner of Front and Lower Jarvis Streets. It was established in the early part of the city’s history and was once home to Toronto’s first permanent city hall and jail house from 1845 to 1899. It was designed by English immigrant architect Henry Bowyer Lane, who also designed Little Trinity Church in 1843, Holy Trinity Church in 1847, and expansion of Osgoode Hall in 1844. Lane incorporated his design with Georgian tradition style using white stones and red brick wall. A “cupola” was built on the top front side of the building with a clock. The first floor was formerly Police Station # 1. The south building is located at 92 Front Street East, contained by Market Street, The Esplanade, Lower Jarvis, and Front Street. Currently, it is one of the major markets in Toronto’s downtown core. Over 50 vendors sell fruits, vegetables, meats and cheeses on the lower and first level. The building also has The Market Gallery, operated by City of Toronto, on the second floor and a cooking school (market kitchen) on the mezzanine floor

The illustration below shows “New Market House”, which was the Toronto City Hall from 1845-1899. The yellow brick outline of the centre part of that building can still be seen today in the front facade of the current building.

In 1899, the City of Toronto decided to vacate the facility and move to a new city hall located on Queen and Bay Streets designed by E.J Lennox. However, a municipality and market commissioners decided to renovate the old city hall into a large marketplace. John William Siddall was the selected architect for this project. Siddall decided to demolish the cupola, the pediment and the side wings. The new steel truss roof was proposed to cover the entire building structure, allowing more open space with a high ceiling and more natural light.

Since 1901, the north façade and city council chambers have served as a museum for the city’s archives as well as a north entrance to the South Market. A large steel and glass canopy used to connect the north and south building during the renovations in the early 20th century. This was then taken down in 1954. Renovations were also made in 1978 following public outcry over a proposal to demolish the entire building in 1971.

A newer market, known as the North Market, was built in 1803 under orders of Lieutenant Governor Peter Hunter. Destroyed by fire in 1849, it was rebuilt in 1851, replaced in 1904, and replaced again by the current building in 1968. Today the North Market is different things on different days, but its principal claims to glory are associated with the colourful Farmers’ Market, the largest in Toronto, that takes place on Saturdays starting at 5am and is truly a local institution for Torontonians, and the Sunday Antique Market, open every Sunday from 5am to 5pm.

Today’s South St. Lawrence Market is the result of the last renovation, which took place in 1977. Once the major renovation and changes made to this building were completed, the City of Toronto made an effort to preserve this property as city’s prominent historical piece.

Free Wi-Fi is available throughout the South Market building, provided by Wireless Toronto.

The St. Lawrence Market is one of the two locations in Toronto that house the majority of businesses accepting the Toronto Dollar, a local currency that raises money for fighting poverty

McGuinty Government Consulting on the Good Things that Grow in Ontario. Ontario is looking to encourage more families to ask for, and buy locally grown food. Whether you grow, make, serve, sell or eat Ontario food, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs wants to hear your ideas on how Ontario can encourage more people to ask for – and enjoy – more locally grown food.

With summer in full swing, why not consider some of the ways to promote the good things that grow in Ontario, including:

  • Visiting a local farm market; meet the people who produce your food.
  • Discovering the variety of food products available at your local farmers’ markets.
  • Choosing Ontario wines and craft beer to complement your next meal.
  • Brightening up your table with Ontario potted plants and fresh cut flowers.
  • Any time of year, looking for delicious Ontario foods including meat, dairy, eggs, honey, apples, rhubarb, mushrooms, root vegetables, and greenhouse produce in stores.

A strong agri-food industry is part of the McGuinty government’s plan to create jobs and opportunities that will grow the economy.


  • Food production in Ontario is a multi-billion dollar industry that drives the economy, supports jobs and puts local food on dinner plates.
  • There are about 200 farmers’ markets in Ontario. For every one person you see working at the market, another two are busy at work back on the farm.
  • Ontario’s flower and vegetable greenhouse industry continues to sustain a $3.9-billion total impact on the Ontario economy.
  • Ontario greenhouses produce more than 75 varieties of cut flowers and 120 varieties of indoor potted plants.
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