Once abandoned and ‘ramschackle’ now Church and Front thrives

In 1810, Church St. south of Front St. E. was open land with a sharp 20-foot drop to the beach below.

Long before the colossal landfill operations that were to begin in the 1850’s, the south side of Front was home to a few ramshackle wharfs on cedar stilts rising out of the water.

However by the 1850’s the railway came to Toronto followed by a huge influx of manufacturing, banking and people. By the turn of the 20th century Front and Church becomes the new centre of this new burgeoning metropolis filled with warehouses, stores, banks and hotels.

After falling on hard times—as the city was spreading westward—Church and Front was all but abandoned. Since the late 1970’s, Church St. south of Front has been on a upswing and today is filled with condos, restaurants, stores and is once again a thriving part of Toronto.

— Bruce Bell

About Bruce Bell

Although born and raised in Sudbury Ont, Bruce Bell has carved out quite a niche for himself in Toronto, historically speaking. Bruce has been writing a popular monthly column on the history of Toronto for the Bulletin, Canada’s largest community newspaper since 1999. In 2002 he was named by the city of Toronto the Official Historian of St. Lawrence Hall and St Lawrence Market. In November of 2003 Bruce was asked by the Ontario Heritage Foundation to host the 200 anniversary celebrations of St. Lawrence Market. In May 2004 Bruce was appointed official historian of Toronto’s King Edward Hotel as part of the famed hotel’s centennial celebrations. In October 2004 Bruce was appointed Honourary Historian of the Hockey Hall of Fame Heritage Building. In June 2006 Bruce was appointed Curator in Residence for the spectacular Dominion Bank Building (built in 1914). In October 2006 Bruce was bestowed the title ‘Honourary Historian of the 51 Division Heritage Building’ by Toronto Police Services for his work as a historian in 51 Division. In April 2007 as part of the Fairmont Hotel & Resorts 100 year birthday celebrations, Bruce was named Honourary Historian of the famed Fairmont Royal York Hotel. Bruce is the author of two books Amazing Tales of St. Lawrence Neighbourhood and the just published TORONTO: A Pictorial Celebration. Bruce is also the official tour guide of Toronto’s famed St Lawrence Market where visitors from around the globe are constantly being impressed with his expert knowledge. In addition to his tours at St Lawrence Market, Bruce conducts tours through Old Town Toronto, University of Toronto, Kensington Market, Yorkville and the Historic Distillery District as well as walking tour weekends in New York City. In 2003 Bruce began his History Project a historical plaque program which to date includes marking the site with large bronze markers of Toronto’s First Jail, The Great Fire of 1849, the hanging of the Rebellion of 1837 leaders Lount and Matthews and the birthplace of Canadian Statesman Robert Baldwin. Bruce’s mission is to tell Toronto’s history through his tours, writings and lectures including his sold out shows at Toronto’s famed Winter Garden Theatre, in an informative and entertaining way. Email him at bruce.bell@thebulletin.ca.