Toronto’s original 19th-century City Hall council chamber now houses the City's fine art collection as the Market Gallery.
The Market Gallery animates the second floor of the South St. Lawrence Market which encloses all that remains of Toronto’s original 19th-century Front Street City Hall council chamber, operating from 1845-1899. The historic site presents a variety of changing exhibits related to the art, culture and history of Toronto. The gallery's signature fan windows, which once overlooked Toronto’s harbour, today overlook the main floor of the market featuring various food vendors.
The Market Gallery includes: 1,955 square-feet of display space on the second floor; and 1,700 square-feet of office, workroom and storage space on the third floor for a total of 3,655 square-feet.
Visitors can explore the sights and sounds of the historic market with a visit to the Market Gallery, which offers a treasure chest of collections, exhibits and educational programs. For current and upcoming exhibit information, please click on the Exhibitions and Events link below.
Free of charge
Hours of Operation
Tuesday to Friday: 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Closed Sundays, Mondays and holidays
Please note: The Market Gallery will be CLOSED for exhibit installation from Tuesday, July 18 to Friday, July 21.
2nd floor, St. Lawrence Market, 95 Front Street East
From the East or West: Exit the Gardiner Expressway at Jarvis St. Turn north onto Jarvis St. Turn west onto Front St. Enter the South St. Lawrence Market through the main double doors on Front St. From the lobby take the elevator or stairs to the second floor.
From the North: Travel southbound on Jarvis St. to Front St. Turn west onto Front St. Enter the South St. Lawrence Market through the main double doors on Front St. From the lobby take the elevator or stairs to the second floor.
Parking: Metered street parking is available on Market Street south of Front Street. Paid parking garages can be found on Jarvis Street just south of Front Street and on Market Street south of The Esplanade (also accessible from Church Street and Yonge Street).
From the King Subway (Yonge and King) take the streetcar or walk east to Jarvis St. Walk one block south to the South St. Lawrence Market (Jarvis and Front). As an alternate, take the subway to Union station (Bay/Front) and walk east along Front St. to the South St. Lawrence Market (Jarvis and Front). Enter the building through the main double doors on Front St. From the lobby take the elevator or stairs to the second floor. For specific TTC route and schedule information call 416-393-4636 (INFO) or visit the TTC website.
When the south market was renovated in the 1970s and its second floor was rediscovered, Toronto City Council decided to convert it into a display space featuring art and artifacts from Toronto’s collection.
The main display area of the Market Gallery is located on the second floor of all that remains from Toronto’s original 19th-century City Hall (1845-1899) that stood on this site on Front Street East. The first City Hall room had been boarded up and forgotten for almost 75 years after City Hall vacated this building in 1899 for ‘Old City Hall’ at Queen and Bay streets; the south market ‘barn-style’ building we see today was built in 1902. The council chamber was the only room of the 19th century City Hall saved from demolition in 1902. The original exterior brick walls and fan windows of the council chamber were enclosed by the new market building and overlook the main floor of the market whereas once they overlooked Lake Ontario.
The Market Gallery is located in the historic St. Lawrence Neighbourhood which includes the original ten blocks of the Town of York established in 1793. This is where the City of Toronto as we know it today began. This community boasts some of the finest examples of 19th century architecture in the City. Nearby are such noted and historically significant structures as the St. Lawrence Hall (1851), St. James Cathedral (1839) and the distinctive wedge-shaped Gooderham flat iron building (1892).
Fine Art Collection
The City of Toronto has an extensive art collection held in the public interest under the stewardship of curatorial staff in Museum & Heritage Services. Today, more than 2,000 moveable works of art, including paintings, sculptures, water colours, prints and drawings form the basis of this cultural legacy. For more information visit the Fine Art Database.
A large majority of these art works are permanently displayed at City Hall, Metro Hall and other civic buildings. The City continues to acquire notable historical pieces (often at auction), and contemporary interpretations of the City by new and established artists.
History of the Fine Art Collection
1847 - 1900
- 1847: The City begins process of collecting and exhibiting art
- 1850s: Toronto City Council purchases its first art work in the 1850s and commissions Toronto artist William Armstrong (1822-1914) to make accurate paintings of the city
- Civic portraits featuring mayors become important and historical part of the collection
- City Council purchases many works of art throughout the 19th century; private donors also provide many of the collection’s finest pieces
- 1855: Mayor George W. Allen presents the City with a life-size portrait of Queen Victoria by George Berthon (1806-1892), one of Toronto’s foremost portrait painters. This painting graces the council chambers of the Front Street City Hall (1845-1899) and Old City Hall (1899-1965) for more than a century
1900 - 1965
- Turn of the 20th century: The City’s fine art collection includes 18 major paintings. The collection is transferred to the new municipal offices, where the paintings are hung in the Council chamber and corridor
- The need to decorate Toronto’s large municipal building leads to the addition of several large canvases
- Panoramic views, including three paintings of Canada’s Rocky Mountains by William Brymner (1855-1925) and The Reaper’s Joy by Paul Peel (1860-1892) are welcome additions to the collection
1965 - 1980
- 1965: City Hall moves to its new building and the fine art collection is left behind in Old City Hall. Paintings not on display are stored in the attic and basement, or loaned to various Toronto institutions
- 1965 to 1970: The art collection is neglected, resulting in the accelerated deterioration of many paintings due to vandalism and improper storage
- 1969: City Council establishes an Art Advisory Committee, whose duties include the acquisition and installation of contemporary Canadian art. Thirty works are purchased under the committee’s auspices including Aboriginal myths, abstract paintings and prints
- 1970s: City Council hires a curator to compile an inventory and to assess the condition of the paintings as a first step to preserving the collection
- After thorough evaluation, Council approves a report recommending a policy to guide the conservation and future development of the collection. The acquisition of art is to be based primarily on its merit to document the historical, cultural, social or physical development of Toronto
- With the restoration and development of the fine art collection, it becomes clear that a permanent storage and exhibition facility is necessary to preserve and share this cultural asset with City’s residents and visitors
- 1979: City Council establishes the Market Gallery located in the South St. Lawrence Market on the site of Toronto’s original City Hall. The main exhibition space is the former council chamber, the very room in which council began Toronto’s art collection, close to 175 years ago
1980 - Present
- To date, over 130 exhibitions on the art, culture and history of Toronto have been presented in the main gallery
- Third floor offices, workroom, and climate-controlled vault provide professional and state-of-the-art accommodations for the care and maintenance of the City’s art collection to ensure its preservation and exhibition for future generations
- The City’s art collection is enhanced each year through on going purchases and donations thus continuing one of Toronto’s longest-standing civic traditions