Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Car Wash Cover-up Volume 55 Number 1, January/February 2002
by Eric A. Powell

Remains of Upper Canada's first parliament have been found beneath a car wash in Toronto. Historians and local residents have long known that the brick buildings, built in 1797, once stood on the corner of Front and Parliament streets. They were burned to the ground by a U.S. invasion force during the War of 1812. In the nineteenth century, a prison and then a gas processing plant were put up in the area, leading most to suspect that any traces of the parliament were obliterated. Moreover, "it's no longer an attractive part of town," says archaeologist Ron Williamson, explaining how the site has been neglected for over a century.

But heritage advocate Rollo Myers was convinced that the foundations of the parliament were still intact. (After Upper and Lower Canada unified in 1840, the parliament eventually moved to Ottawa.) On the strength of early nineteenth-century maps locating the buildings near the current car wash, he convinced the city of Toronto to sponsor an excavation. A siltstone floor, ceramics, and even intact bricks from the original buildings were soon discovered. Williamson, who calls the site "the find of a lifetime," is hopeful that future excavation will reveal even more of the parliament buildings. For his part, Myers hopes that the site can eventually be turned into a museum, though there are already plans afoot to replace the car wash with a Porsche dealership.

© 2002 by the Archaeological Institute of America