Kensington Market is one of the most famous areas of Toronto.
The area is roughly bounded by College St. on the North, Spadina on the East, Dundas to the South, and Bellevue to the West. It is an area with many small and dead-end streets that can be confusing to navigate.
Kensington Market was 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 to more prosperous neighborhoods uptown or in the suburbs. The arrival of new waves of immigrants from Portugal, the Caribbean and East Asia changed the community making it even more diverse as the century wore on.
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 neighbouring Alexandria Park. The election of David Crombie, who was strongly opposed to the massive urban restructuring plans that had been in vogue in previous decades, saw an end to these plans.
Today the neighborhood has become a noted tourist attraction, and is also a centre of Toronto's cultural life as artists and writers moved into the area. Land prices in the area have increased sharply. Despite this, Kensington still remains a predominately working class, immigrant community.
Today the area is filled with a mix of food stores selling an immense variety of meats, fish and produce. It is said that more varieties of fruits and vegetables are for sale in Kensington than in any area of the world, but this has never been independently verified. The area is also home to stores selling a wide variety of cheap and used clothing, as well as a number of discount and surplus stores. It is also home to many restaurants covering a wide variety of styles and ethnicities.
Some area landmarks are the Number 10. Fire Station; Dennison Square Parkwith the Al Waxman statue and St. Stephen's Community House. European Meats is one of the most popular butcher shops in Toronto.
Former Toronto mayor Mel Lastman and actor Al Waxman were born and raised in the Kensington Market neighborhood.