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CityPlace history lesson: Discovered schooner and artifacts date back to the 1800s

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The back to school season arrived quickly for children, so 416 Mag decided to provide you with a history lesson you may know little about.

CityPlace recently celebrated its 20th year, but the area’s history goes back hundreds of years.

You’re walking on water. Not really, but you’d be underwater if you were walking around CityPlace in the 1800s.

Let’s rewind. During the excavation for a CityPlace condo in 2015, the remains of a schooner were discovered on Queen’s Wharf Road, near Bathurst Street and Fort York Boulevard.

It’s not clear how the schooner ended up in its resting place, but the area had been covered in water back in the 1800s when the city’s shoreline was on Front Street.

A wharf called the Queen’s Wharf was constructed in 1833 and used extensively to move goods to and from Toronto, to stimulate the economy.

Some experts think the schooner may have been in the site before the wharf was even built. Experts theorize the schooner may have been deliberately sunk during the wharf’s construction to provide scaffolding for construction crews.

The wharf later became obsolete as the lake was filled in around the shore, starting at the end of the 19th Century.

Back to 2015. In addition to the schooner, excavators discovered various artifacts.

The City of Toronto’s Fort York National Historic Site says that the ceramics found date back to before 1840, and says a U.S. penny found was from 1829.

Other items discovered include hammers, chisels, and kitchen items such as a tin cup and an iron ladle. Personal items such as a metal sleeve button and fragments of a clay pipe spark stories in one’s imagination of another era where well-dressed men of York smoked pipes while working.

The City of Toronto’s Fort York National Historic Site staff also discovered a broad arrow – which possibly connects the schooner with the Royal Navy.

The schooner’s remains were excavated by professionals by Concord to Fort York National Historic Centre, where it will sit near the entrance to the visitor centre.

Fort York intends to do further research, including looking at the schooner’s timbers themselves for dates and location details, examining the ship’s metal fittings, and re-analyzing the rest of the findings, particularly the ceramics.

CityPlace may be a new community full of shimmering towers and fun restaurants, but it’s fascinating to know it has such a rich history.


Diana Pereira

Diana Pereira is a journalist, a university journalism teacher, a world traveller, a fair-weather kayaker, and a frequent bruncher. She's working on her mermaid status, travelling to as many countries as she can that include a body of water and when she's home in Toronto, you can find her in a kayak on Lake Ontario.