Toronto schooner recovered from construction site moved to Fort York

A 19th-century schooner discovered at a waterfront condo development was loaded onto a truck and taken to Fort York this morning.

'It’s probably the oldest ship we’ve ever found' in Toronto, city's chief curator says

RAW: Toronto schooner moved from construction site

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Remnants of the schooner discovered during a Toronto waterfront redevelopment 1:33

A 19th-century schooner discovered at a waterfront condo development was loaded onto a truck and taken to Fort York Thursday morning, where it will be preserved and displayed outside the historical site's visitor centre. 

The ship, which was discovered by an archeological firm working at the Queen's Wharf site in early May, is thought to date back to the 1830s.

"A lot of effort went into this," said David Robertson, senior archeologist with Archaeological Services Inc. 

"When we first found it, I wasn't necessarily confident that it would or could be moved."
The incomplete schooner remains were carefully lifted by crane and loaded onto a flatbed truck to be taken to Fort York. (Kira Wakeam/CBC)

The vessel was discovered in an incomplete state, with only the keel, the lowermost portions of the stern and bow and a limited section of the bottom of the hull on the port side intact. Fully whole, the boat was about 16 metres long and weighed over 7,000 kilograms.

Crews attached the remaining portions to a crane, which delicately lifted the ship from the excavation site and loaded it onto a flatbed truck for the short journey to Fort York.

"Days like this are an opportunity to remind people that Toronto has a very long history, and it's a fascinating history, too." Robertson said.

"It's going to remind people that Toronto was a very important and very busy port city."

Developer Concord Adex was behind the big move.

Gravel fill entombed the ship

According to Wayne Reeves, chief curator for the City of Toronto Museums and Heritage Services department, the ship was likely built in the United States and used as a cargo ship. 
The boat was found in an incomplete state, but would have been 16 metres long and weighed over 7,000 kg when it sailed Lake Ontario. (Kira Wakeam/CBC)

"It's probably the oldest ship we've ever found in an archaeological dig anywhere on the Toronto waterfront," he told CBC News. 

Reeves said he believes the ship was scuttled in the 1870s, just a few hundred metres from where it will be on display at Fort York. 

Beginning the 1850s, massive quantities of fill was dumped into Lake Ontario to start making new ground for development. The mud, sand and gravel essentially entombed the ship, preserving it better than any other ship discovered along Toronto's historical waterfront.

In fact, the three other historical ships discovered in the city were so deteriorated, they had to be taken to landfills, Reeves said. 

Archeologists will use the preserved elements of the ship to develop a 3D model of what it would have looked like during its time on the lake. 

"We're really interested in the details of the construction," said Robertson. 

It's not yet known when the vessel will go on display at Fort York. 

The 19th-century schooner is one of the oldest ships ever discovered along Toronto's waterfront. (Supplied)


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