Infrastructure Ontario (IO) led a complex archaeological dig of the new Toronto courthouse site in 2015. The excavation recovered tens of thousands of artifacts related to the site's history as part of St. John's Ward, or “The Ward.”

The site was inhabited partly by prominent members of Toronto's early African-Canadian community and was home to refugee slaves who escaped via the Underground Railroad in the mid-19th century. Many families of Irish, Chinese and Russian-Jewish descent also settled on this block up until the mid-20th century.  Due to the artifact collection's considerable size, variety, and degree of preservation, the archaeological assessment of the new Toronto courthouse site has provided an unprecedented level of insight into Toronto's early multicultural history.

As part of their work, archaeologists recovered and documented artifacts including: leather shoes, women's hosiery, perfume and nail polish bottles, smoking pipes, children's toys and ceramic kitchenware.  Additionally, the foundations of a British Methodist Episcopal church and several residential buildings and businesses were uncovered.

Recognizing the importance of the site's history, and the vested personal interests of the communities with ties to it, IO struck a Heritage Interpretation Working Group.  The group includes representatives from government and various community groups.  Meetings will provide a forum for information sharing, feedback, guidance and advice regarding appropriate considerations and suggestions for public interpretation themes and approaches.

IO will continue to work with the City of Toronto and other stakeholders to develop short term initiatives to exhibit a portion of the many artifacts found on site, with the goal of establishing long term and permanent solutions for meaningful and appropriate interpretation.  Long term heritage interpretation plans will be incorporated into the design of the new Toronto courthouse.

Media contact:

Cary Mignault
Infrastructure Ontario