Monthly Archives: January 2023

St. Lawrence Market

Sunday, January 29, 2023

St. Lawrence Market is the oldest continually operating market in the city of Toronto. It was founded 220 years ago in 1803 by order of the Lieutenant Governor, Peter Hunter. It was originally housed in a wooden building which is depicted in the historical sketch below. Notice how all of the surrounding land was still undeveloped as the town of York (later Toronto) was only 10 years old at this time and had a population of less than 1000 people. It was originally known as Market Square and was open on Saturdays for the sale of cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens, produce and other merchandise. A by-law prevented the sale of many of these items anywhere in the city on Saturday between 6am and 4 pm except at the market.

The original building was demolished and replaced in 1831 with a square brick building with an open courtyard in the middle. The market was the primary place for the community to purchase food, including live animals that would be raised in the backyards of the residents homes. It was common for people to have chickens, sheep and pigs in their yards which would be slaughtered to provide meat to feed the family.

The market was developed as two buildings on either side of Front Street. St. Lawrence Market north was replaced several times. A 1968 single story building was demolished in 2015 to make way for a new five story north market. This building is nearing completion and expected to open soon. A future visit may focus on the new north market. The building on the south side of Front Street was rebuilt in 1845 to house Toronto City Hall. It was destroyed in a fire that demolished much of the downtown market core in 1849 and so it was replaced in 1850. This building served as City Hall until 1899 when council moved into the facility on Queen Street which is now known as Old City Hall. The archive picture below shows the 1850 building.

In 1904 both the north and south buildings were replaced. Part of the old city hall was retained and incorporated into the new building. It now forms the main entrance off of Front Street.

The market wasn’t terribly crowded on the Saturday afternoon when we visited and it’s laid out to provide plenty of room to be able to shop in comfort. Local farmers goods are presented in booths that sit next to ones that sell items imported from all around the world.

Several stalls are selling meat including standard cuts of beef, pork and chicken. There’s also some more exotic meats for those who are more adventurous. Buffalo, emu, and kangaroo are all available.

There are plenty of booths selling seafood and you can get almost anything that you can think of here. The market is clean and the food all appears to be fresh and is well presented to make it look very appetizing.

Plenty of fruits and vegetables are available including some of the tastiest strawberries that can be found in the city. National Geographic named St. Lawrence Market as among the world’s top ten best food markets in their September 23, 2011 issue.

A wide range of prepared food can be purchased at St. Lawrence Market. There’s restaurants selling ethnic food from many of the cultures that are represented in Toronto. There’s also plenty of booths selling pastries, sweets and various treats. There’s clothing, jewelry and souvenirs of Toronto and Canada for sale as well.

The market is open from Tuesday to Saturday and entry is free of charge. An antique market used to operate out of St. Lawrence Market but it has recently moved to The Small Arms Building on the former Arsenal Lands site in Mississauga. Watch for a future blog about the antique market.

Related stories: Kensington Market, Small Arms Testing Site, The Arsenal Lands, Long Branch Rifle Range

Google Maps Link: St. Lawrence Market

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LaSalle Park

Sunday, January 22, 2023

LaSalle Park is a 57 acre park on the north shore of Burlington Bay. It is owned by the City of Hamilton but has been developed and operated by the City of Burlington since the 1970s. It is located near where Sieur De La Salle, a French explorer, is thought to have landed in 1669. This would make him the first white person set foot on the shores of the bay. A lot has changed in the years since then. Dundurn Castle was built on the escarpment above the bay and the history of that property dates back to the War of 1812. The picture below shows the Burlington Skyway Bridge and the older lift bridge behind it. We previously covered these in our feature on the Burlington Canal.

Hamilton has long been the site of heavy industry including the manufacturing of steel. Stelco was founded in 1910 through the amalgamation of several smaller companies. These industries, and others, caused the Hamilton Harbour to become quite polluted. The situation was such that by the 1980s it had become an international concern. The International Joint commission identified Hamilton Harbour as one of 43 areas in the Great Lakes that required government and community action to resolve pollution problems. The Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan was put into play to help create new habitat for fish and wildlife. Since then, there have been many projects implemented to help restore spawning grounds and other places that encourage the return of wildlife to the area.

The Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan was developed with a list of 14 areas of use for the harbour that were impaired by the contaminants in the water. These include the loss of fish and wildlife habitat and the findings of tumours and reproductive problems with them. A specific action plan was developed for each of these areas and water quality was measured to determine the effectiveness and progress in each area. The waters off of the park are filled with a wide variety of ducks, geese and swans who choose to spend the winter in its sheltered waters.

Among the species of ducks that were observed during our visit were Mallards, Goldeneyes, American Black Ducks and Buffleheads, like the one seen below.

Pure white ducks are not native to Ontario and are usually farm escapees. This call duck stood out from the crowd because it was the only one in the park.

Trumpeter Swans were nearly extinct in Ontario but through the actions of the Trumpeter Swan Restoration Group Coalition the population has grown to over 1000. Many of these overwinter at LaSalle Park. The park provides ideal shelter from the cold northerly winds and has enough beach for them to rest on. It also has plenty of aquatic plants for them to feed on and the water is shallow enough for them to tip and feed. Swans don’t dive, so they need a certain depth of water to be able to reach their food. The swans are tagged with yellow tags on their wings for identification and tracking purposes.

The Waterfront Trail runs through the park but there’s several other trails to be explored as well. There’s also a short trail that runs east from the marina, along the edge of the lake.

This is the only place that I have ever encountered roots that have been painted orange. This seems like a very strange idea in a park that is associated with lake and wetland restoration. The paint must not be very good for the environment and will eventually find its way into the lake.

The LaSalle Park Pavilion was built in 1917 as a combination dance hall and picnic pavilion. It has an open veranda between two arcaded pavilions that have pilasters and is characteristic of the art deco period of architecture. The pavilion suffered damage in a fire in 1997 but was rebuilt to its original splendor.

LaSalle Park is a great place for bird watching, especially in the summer, with local clubs coming out to see how many species they can count.

Related stories: Dundurn Castle, Burlington Canal

Google Maps Link: LaSalle Park

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Bata Shoe Museum

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Everybody wears shoes but not too many people think much about them. The Bata Shoe Museum on Bloor Street West in Toronto presents 4,500 years worth of shoe history that can take you a step in a new direction. They have about 15,000 items in their collection and have a rotating display of about 1,000 shoes. The museum is based originally on the personal collection of Sonja Bata who spent her life in the shoe industry. She amassed a large collection that went on display in a dedicated building in 1979. The footwear is displayed in a four story building that has a permanent collection of historical footwear on the bottom floor while displays on the other three floors constantly change to provide a different experience every time you visit.

The oldest known shoe was found on a 5300 year old corpse known as the Otzi Man, or Ice Man. He was still wearing one of his shoes when the mummy was found in 1991 and the museum has an exact replica.

In ancient China, among the Han peoples, it was considered that the ideal size for women’s feet was 3 inches. To achieve this the feet were bound to limit their growth.

In the 13th century, socks were often made by combining human hair with vegetable fibre. This sock was made by the ancient Puebloan culture.

Brides in India were often given footwear that was crafted in silver. These shoes were known as mules and have filigree work that incorporates vines and leaves in a motif known as chinar. They were made in the 19th century.

These paduka were unusually high and elegant and were likely worn for an important aristocratic function. The silver plating, gold toe-knobs and extreme height identify these women’s shoes as upper class and would have been worn in India in the 18th century.

These dancing shoes were made in India around 1840 and are known as mojari. The jade beads and brass bells would have created a beautiful tinkling sound as the wearer performed their dance.

Many cultures have a story similar to Cinderella and there are said to be thousands of variants around the world. The earliest version of the tale appears to have been told around the time of Christ. The shoe museum has a few pair of glass slippers that have been made over the centuries to commemorate the heroine.

Some shoes had very specific uses like this pair. These clogs from France with the spikes on the bottom were used to crack the shells of Chestnuts.

Skating became popular in Amsterdam during the Middle Ages as a means of navigating the frozen canals. Some of the earliest skates were made from the long shinbones of deer. The old Dutch word for skate is “schenkel” which means “leg bone”.

North American indigenous peoples had created a range of footwear to suit the various environments in which they lived. The museum represents their footwear with several pieces including this colourful recreation of boots with Metis artwork on them.

Space boots were made of layered, Teflon-coated materials to protect the wearer from UV rays and temperature fluctuations. This boot was made in 1970 for Jim Lovel as a spare for his Apollo space mission.

Mushroom leather is a modern invention that is created using the middle layer of the tinder sponge. This polypore mushroom grows on dead or weak birch and beech trees and can be used to make a material that is suitable for shoemaking. This allows the creation of shoes that look like leather but don’t contain any animal by-products.

Adult admission to the museum is only $14.00 and it makes a very interesting and educational place to spend an afternoon.

Google Maps Link: Bata Shoe Museum

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Castle Killbride

January 8, 2023

Castle Killbride in Baden was built in 1877 for James Livingston. James was born in 1838 in East Killbride, Scotland. After moving to Canada in 1856 with his brother John they took jobs in the flax industry. Eight years later they opened the J & J Livingston Linseed Oil Company and went into business for themselves. By 1867 they had moved the operation to Baden, where his wife Louise had been born, and opened the Baden Linseed Oil Mill.

The ceilings and walls throughout the home are painted with a wide variety of intricate designs. One of the objectives was to showcase the various colours of paint that could be produced using the linseed oil that the family fortune was based on. In the library/home office the ceiling is painted using 38 different colours. The interior of the home was painted in 1878-1879 by Henry Scharstein. Throughout the home many of the paintings on the walls are done in a style known as “Trompe l’oeil” or “fool the eye”. The paintings of tassels along the walls in this room are a good example. They are flat but appear to stand off of the wall because of the shadows which are painted behind them. The shadows are designed to appear to emanate from the central light with the tassle in the middle having no shadow.

Another example of the “three dimensional” paintings in the castle can be found in this image of a vase. The shadows are added to make it look like a vase standing on a small shelf but both of them are part of a flat painting.

The house is decorated for Christmas with different trees set up in several rooms as well as Christmas Dinner staged in the main dining room. This Christmas tree has a small ornament on it that looks like a glass pickle. Legend suggests that the first child to find the glass pickle, which would be hidden on the tree, would get an extra present.

One of the unique features of the home is the window shutters which are on the inside instead being on the exterior of the home. This allowed to windows to be closed more easily to control the lighting and temperature. Three generations of the Livingston family lived in the home until 1988 when it was vacated.

The attic space in the house was generally used for storage. Old furniture and household items that had gone out of fashion were stored up here. In 1988 when the house was sold, eleven truckloads of furniture were removed from the attic and taken to auction to be sold over a four day period. At this time, the attic is home to the seasonal display of a miniature village based mainly on the works of Charles Dickens. The village is put together by Dave Herner and takes over 30 hours to set up. There are 130 major pieces such as homes and churches as well as over 250 minor pieces like people and trees.

When you reach the top of the stairs into the Belvedere you get a nice 360 degree view of the property. In the early years the fields to the north contained the flax that was being grown for processing in the mills that were visible to the south of the home. The front walkway is shaped like a heart. This is a tribute to Livingston’s wife Louise with whom he would have twelve children.

The basement of the house has been converted into a toy museum. Toys are on display from various eras over the past 100 years. It’s possible to find something that you had as a child on display here.

In 1988 the three hundred acre property was sold to a development company who built homes on the former flax fields. The house, however, was left to rot and by 1993 was in a state of disrepair. The building was bought by Wilmot Township and a new wing was added at the back to be used as municipal offices. The home was restored by removing the paint on the outside to expose the original brick as well as replacing many of the wooden features on the exterior. Inside, the walls were stripped of several layers of wallpaper to reveal the earliest paint schemes. The wall and ceiling paintings were carefully cleaned to remove layers of soot that had built up from the four fireplaces. By 1995 the restoration had been completed and much of the original furnishings were either donated or bought back. The house has been opened as a museum and given a designation as a National Historical Monument.

The original privy was located where the new council chambers were built and so it was preserved and moved to the side of the house. Each side of the privy had two seats, one for an adult and one for a child. Unlike most outhouses it wasn’t built over a deep hole but had metal bins underneath which were emptied daily by the butlers or maids. Most outdoor washrooms were built of wood and could be moved when the pits were filled but the brick structure didn’t allow for this.

Most of the linseed oil mills still stand close to the mill pond which originally provided power to the operation. Flax seed was pressed to extract the oil which was then used as a pigment binder in the manufacture of paints or in soap. The building for a similar operation at the Canada Linseed Oil plant in Toronto is in the process of being repurposed to become a community hub in a new park.

One of the other prominent buildings in town is the Livingston Presbyterian Church. It was built in 1894 with funds donated by James Livingston while the stained glass windows were funded by other members of the Livingston family.

Castle Killbride has a small entrance fee and is well worth the visit if you are in the area. Other grand homes that we’ve visited that are known as castles include Casa Loma and Dundurn Castle.

Related stories: Canada Linseed Oil Mills,

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Heart Lake – Treetop Trekking

January 1, 2023

Heart Lake Conservation Park is the largest green space in Brampton. We previously looked at the formation of Heart Lake and the park in our story Brampton’s Kettle Lakes so we won’t cover much of that in this post. Heart Lake Conservation Park opened in 1957 and has been a popular spot for fishing and family outings ever since. We revisited it to check out some of the trails. There are six main trails in the park which are made up of the Esker Trail (3.1 km), Lake Trail (3.7 km), Rayner Trail (0.3 km), Terry Fox Trail (1.0 km) and the Wetland Trail (2.5 km) and there’s also a mountain bike trail. The Esker Trail is part of a longer trail that passes north through Brampton. We started by exploring the Wetland Trail which is featured in the picture below.

We then took the stairs down to the boathouse where we could connect to the Lake Trail.

Although we haven’t had any real extended periods of freezing weather, the lake is fully iced over.

It is interesting to see the foot prints and bicycle tracks passing along the ice just behind the “Danger – Ice Unsafe” sign. Over the years Hiking the GTA has tended to stay off of the ice on rivers and lakes based on the theory that we should do nothing while out hiking that would prevent us from going again next week.

The Lake Trail follows the lake and features this stone retaining wall in the area of the boathouse.

Alder trees have both male and female catkins, often on the same branches. They are pollinated by the wind which blows the pollen from the longer male catkins onto the cone shaped female ones. Although the female catkins resemble pine cones the tree is deciduous and loses its leaves every year. Several Alders are growing along the Lake Trail.

In 2001 the idea of Treetop Trekking was brought to Quebec from Europe and the first adventure park was opened the following year. Trekking came to Ontario in 2006 when a park was opened near Barrie. Port Hope and Huntsville got adventure parks in 2012.

Treetop Trekking came to Heart Lake in 2013 and has skill two levels for participants who meet the height requirements. The trek can also be combined with a zipline experience where you will “fly” across the lake. Bookings need to be made in advance and are for groups of four. Smaller parties will be grouped together so that everyone can participate.

Tree Top Trekking at Heart Lake looks like an activity that I will be trying this year and I have three fellow adventurers lined up to join me. It opens in April and there’s a good chance that a future blog could be shot from the tops of these trees.

Related stories: Brampton’s Kettle Lakes, Esker Trail

Google Maps Link: Heart Lake

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