Monday, 20 April 2009

St Lawrence’s Ward—Chapter One

St Lawrence’s was one of the wards I transcribed before I got the idea of photographing the schedules. It is the ward where I would most like to go back, film the returns and re-assess many of them. Although short, it was not an easy ward to tackle, and an upcoming trip to Toronto meant I was in a hurry and probably did not give the transciption the time it deserved.

The ward included the eastern waterfront and stretched from Yonge Street to the Don River, going north as far as King Street. It contained St Lawrence Market and many businesses catering for market activity: hotels, restaurants, stables, etc. The courthouse and the Corporation of Toronto offices were also here. It was the location of many lawyers’ chambers. King Street was also the commercial hub of the city and contained many dry goods stores and boot and shoemakers. Surprisingly, there were also a number of photographers’ studios.

To the east of the market Palace Street was a mixture of small shops and dwellings with a cluster of hotels and boarding houses. East again and we find Gooderham’s Distillery, a railway area centering around Don Station, and the Toronto Rolling Mills where steel plate was made. Along the shore of the Bay were a number of commercial wharves. Although the census was taken in January, some people were living right on the wharves. It must have been very cold, uncomfortable and unhealthy.

Because of the nature of the ward, the census included numerous schedules giving the title of the business or the owner’s name, very few personal details, and the words “Personal Census Taken at Residence”. Some of these would, in addition, list young men living at their employer’s place of business. I wasn’t prepared for this presentation and taking notes around it took more time than I would have expected. Recently, in doing St George’s, a ward with many similarities to St Lawrence’s, I have adopted the initials PCAR into my initial transcription of the business owner’s line.

One of the enumerators must have suggested that everyone fill in their forms in pencil. He then wrote over the pencil with a very broad penknib, editing bits he though unnecessary as he went. So much for householders’ individual responses in that area!

Street names were seldom omitted in St Lawrence’s Ward. With the great variety of types of premises, it was just as well.

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