Urban Toronto: Excavation Uncovers Remnants of Historical Wharf
New condo construction provides glimpse of 19th-century Toronto.
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It seems that nearly every time a new building is under construction in the area south of the Gardiner Expressway, another reminder of Lake Ontario’s former size pops up. The excavation for Tridel‘s condominium tower at Ten York is proving no different, as the wooden crib for the end of a wharf that once stood at the base of York Street has been uncovered.
The crib would have been for one of two wharves that stood by the old end of York Street. While Lake Ontario’s waves originally lapped up against the shore just south of Front Street, the water was too shallow to bring boats close to land there. Railways also needed land on the southern edge of the growing city to build stations and yards to connect the waterborne transportation with the iron horse.
Tinning’s Wharf was one of several which ran into Toronto Harbour from an already partially filled-in lake in the latter part of the 19th century. The process of extending land south had already moved the shoreline south at least once before Tinning’s Wharf was built, to handle boats with deeper drafts. In the 1870s, steamers ran across the lake to Niagara or Lewiston from Tinning’s Wharf, taking passengers from Toronto or from the Canada Southern Railway station for day outings. Those steamers died out, though, once railways ran all the way around the lake to Niagara, while the port continued to expand south to cope with the larger ships used to transport goods back and forth across the Great Lakes and on to Montreal.
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