Kensington Market

October 23, 2022

Saturday, October 22 was a beautiful day for late October and a perfect one to explore some of the small shops in the Kensington Market area of the city. George Taylor Dennison had served in the Canadian Militia in the War of 1812 and purchased an estate lot west of the town of York (Toronto). In the 1850s the former Dennison Family estate was divided into several narrow streets and over the next couple of decades was built up with small affordable homes. They were originally occupied by British workers but as this first group of residents prospered and moved out, they were replaced with a wave of Jewish immigrants. The small Victorian homes were converted into businesses by making shops out of the ground floor of the units and for several decades the area became known as the Jewish Market.

Following the Second World War, the area became home to new Canadians from Italy, Portugal, Eastern Europe, the Caribbean and Asia. They each brought some of their culture to the area as they integrated into the fabric of the neighbourhood. Today, the mix of foods and shops reflects the diversity of the people who have called these few streets home. While graffiti can be seen on many of the buildings, there’s also some pretty creative artwork on display.

The Kensington Market Garden Car has been a fixture in the area since 2006. Originally, supporters paid the parking meter to keep it there, but the city soon approved it as a tourist attraction and allowed it to stay, provided that it is insured and also removed every winter to allow for snow clearing. Some consider it to be the smallest park in the city.

The mid-Victorian row houses that formed the community can still be seen behind the store fronts

Dolce Gelato has used some colourful artwork to draw attention to their location in Kensington Market. This is one of three locations they operate in Toronto that serve authentic Italian Gelato.

There is a theory that Kensington Market is one of the most photographed areas in the city and it was designated as a National Historic Site in 2006. With Halloween just around the corner, there’s several buildings which are all decorated for the season.

Bellevue Square Park has a couple of historical plaques and a map of the area. The park was formerly used by Dennison as a parade ground for his volunteer calvary group when the area was still his estate. His volunteer group participated in putting down the Rebellion of 1837. Today there’s a small but vibrant park on the site of the former parade grounds.

Narrow streets, lack of parking and the volume of pedestrians make this an area to avoid driving in. There’s plenty of parking under the Dragon City Mall at Spadina and Dundas which will leave you free to wander around and investigate the area.

There’s a lot of little stores and markets in the Kensington Market area and tons of places to eat a wide variety of foods. It’s also just a short walk away from Chinatown where there’s another whole variety of places to investigate or find something to eat.

Google Maps link: Kensington Market

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