Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Kensington Market

The History of Kensington

In 2006, Parks Canada declared Kensington Market a National Historic site. Kensington, the modest, artsy, hip square in the middle of town? Why’s that?
Well, you see, almost two hundred years ago in 1815, a man named George Taylor Denison bought an area of land from Queen West to Bloor Street, now mostly what we know as Kensington. He was a Canadian soldier, and used our very own Bellevue Square Park as a parade ground.
The area slowly developed over time into a Jewish community. Over 80% of the Jewish and Italian immigrants at the time moved into Kensington market area. They were driven out of Russia by persecution, and found Kensington a welcoming home for over 45,000 by 1931. There are still many synagogues around today in Kensington.
Soon after, a Portuguese community started to develop. The Jewish community had a tradition of opening stores on the first floor of their house, which they continued (and still continues in that area today!). They also added their taste for warm, bright colours, vegetable gardens, and beautiful grapevines. 
In the 1960’s, Kensington was almost replaced with large apartment buildings- but the mayor at the time opposed, seeing the value of the culture.
In the late 1980’s, at the original Portuguese store owners started to age, a new wave of Latin-American immigrants started to move in, opening up new stores. Many seedy customers scared away the yuppies in this area, despite the fact that it seemed to be the hippest spot in town. A Nike store even tried to open, but the community shut it down by piling dozens of running shoes splattered with red paint outside their doors.
Eventually, both the “too seedy” and “too mainstream” shops moved out, leaving Kensington the wonderful, cultural place it is today.

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