Kensington Market is a distinctive multicultural neighborhood in downtown Toronto, Ontario. The Market is one of the city's oldest and most famous neighborhoods, and in November 2006, it became a National Historic Site. Its approximate borders are College St. on the North, Spadina Ave. on the East, Dundas St. W. to the South, and Bellevue Ave. to the West. Most of the neighborhood's eclectic shops, cafes, and other attractions are located along Augusta Ave. and neighboring Nassau St. and Kensington Ave. The market is best traveled on foot or bicycle, as the narrow one-way streets and numerous dead-ends are difficult to navigate by car.
George Taylor Denison, after serving in the British militia during the War of 1812, purchased an area of land in 1815 from Queen Street West to Bloor Street, roughly between where Augusta and Lippincott Streets now run. Denison used the area now known as Bellevue Square Park as a parade ground for his volunteer cavalry troop, which he commanded during the Upper Canada Rebellion. This troop later became the Governor General's Horse Guards. The Denison estate was subdivided in the 1850s. During the 1880s, houses were built on small plots for Irish and Scottish immigrant laborers coming to Toronto; many of these houses still stand along Wales Avenue and elsewhere, and these inexpensive homes have been inhabited by many waves of immigrants in the decades that followed.
Kensington Market was slowly founded in the early twentieth century by eastern European Jewish immigrants and some Italians, who vacated "The Ward", an overcrowded immigrant-reception area between Yonge Street and University Avenue, in large numbers after around 1910. It became a cluster of densely packed houses, and was one of the poorer areas of the city. It became notable for the open air market, reminiscent of those in Europe, that covered the streets of the area. From the beginning the market sold a great diversity of items imported from the homelands of the various immigrant communities.
Kensington was also known as "the Jewish Market". Jewish merchants operated small shops as tailors, furriers and bakers. Around 60,000 Jews lived in and around Kensington Market during the 1920s and 1930s, worshipping at over 30 local synagogues. After the Second World War, most of the Jewish population moved north to more prosperous neighborhoods uptown or in the suburbs. During the 1950s, a large number of immigrants from the Azores, fleeing political conflict with the regime of António de Oliveira Salazar, moved into the area and further west along Dundas Street. The arrival of new waves of immigrants from the Caribbean and East Asia changed the community, making it even more diverse as the century wore on. The Vietnam War brought a number of American political refugees to the neighborhood, adding a unique utopian flavor to local politics. As Chinatown is located just east of Kensington, the Chinese are now the largest ethnic element. During the 1980s and 1990s, identifiable groups of immigrants came from Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Iran, Vietnam, and other global trouble spots appeared in the Market to make new lives.
In the 1960s there were plans to tear down the densely packed small houses and replace them with large apartment style housing projects, as was done to neighboring Alexandra Park. These plans came to an end with the election of David Crombie as Mayor of Toronto. Crombie was strongly opposed to the massive urban restructuring plans that had been in vogue in previous decades.
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George Brown House
Mansard roof of the Brown House
St. Patrick's church
Van Gogh enthusiast
almost Queen Anne
walkers at Rogers cable
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