Walking the downtown core today, it’s hard to imagine that anything but 50-storey skyscrapers lined the streets of Toronto. Waterworks is a testament to the city’s past showcasing that there is a rich history of community before “The 6” we know today.
It all started in 1837, when the Dominion Government donated the block of land on which Waterworks currently sits. Initially an open air market, the city knew it needed to create a permanent neighbourhood fixture to meet the growing demands of the city. Enlisting the help of one of Canada’s first professionally trained architects, Thomas Young, the 1850’s witnessed the birth of Toronto’s third public market, St. Andrew’s – essentially the little brother of the renowned St. Lawrence Market in the east end.
Although the building’s life was cut short by a fire only 10 years after its completion, it was quickly rebuilt in 1873 to be used as a market, library, new police station, and public space used by the local community.
In the years following 1889, the building saw a huge decline in patronage stemming from changes in urban land use and municipal government regulations. Despite closing its doors for a number of years, the building was again given a new life in 1932 as it was demolished and rebuilt as the water treatment facility we now know today. The original legacy of that land lives on through St. Andrew’s Playground still situated directly behind Waterworks building just off Adelaide St W.