A Lost Street: Applegrove Avenune

1906 Woodfield Rd USED

Looking north on Woodfield Road, through the Ashbridge’s orchard, the “Applegrove” for which Applegrove Avenue was named — now part of Dundas Street East.

1924 Goad's Atlas close up

1924 Goad’s Atlas map (close up)

1924 Goad's Atlas

1924 Goad’s Atlas Map showing Applegrove Avenue

What happened? How can a street be lost?

Applegrove 1912Let’s go back to the beginning, around 1909 when Applegrove Avenue was a short street running from Morley Avenue, now Woodfield Road, to Ashdale Avenue — a mere two blocks. It ran through the Ashbridge’s large apple orchard, giving an obvious reason for the street name. Applegrove Avenue was 910 feet north of Queen Street East. A large brickyard lay between the west end of Applegrove Avenue and Greenwood Avenue. It did not extend to Coxwell in the east.

In 1910 the City Engineer that one of the short streets running off of Applegrove be extended down to Queen Street. Ashdale Avenue south of Gerrard was just a short muddy track that dead-ended about 200 feet north of Queen. It ran north from Gerrard past over a level crossing at the railway tracks all the way to Danforth Avenue.

19111229 GL City Improvement Plan

Globe, December 29, 1911

The City Beautiful movement and the birth of the profession of town planning spurred the development of imaginative plans to remodel Toronto into an ideal city with broad avenues, not the narrow, crowded streets. Instead of a grid plan, diagonal avenues would link suburbs encircled by a boulevard like a ring around Toronto. It was a grand, even grandiose, vision that included a rapid transit that included parkways and a subway, Metropolitan Toronto government, and even the preservation of Toronto’s ravines as parkland. The Toronto Harbor Commission’s plan to fill in Ashbridge’s Bay, extend the Toronto Harbor shoreline south, and build Lakeshore Boulevard was incorporated into this larger vision, known as “the Boulevard Scheme”. Some versions of the plan had Lakeshore Boulevard crossing the Western Gap, over the Toronto Islands and the Eastern Gap, along the new industrial area, now known as “The Portlands” and through the Beach at the waterfront, to terminate at Victoria Park. This would be a world in which the car was king and the city severed from the lake by a super highway.

Work would start first on the southern section of the boulevard schem, beginning with the Humber route. The plan called for a boulevard along the waterfront to Victoria Park, which would be expropriated to make way for the highway.

Part of the plan included:

Widen and extend Wilton avenue from the bridge to Kingston road, via Elliott, Whitby and Audley streets and Doel avenue.

In 1912 the City Engineer recommended that the city extend Applegrove Avenue from Ashdale east to Coxwell at a width of 66 feet. At that time those living on a street where expected to pay most of the cost of extending or improving a street. The City Assessment Commissioner worked hand in hand with the City Engineer, adding a proportion of the cost to each homeowner’s annual property taxes, in this case spread over ten years. However, there were only ten families living on Applegrove in 1912. It was not the most desirable location. The noise and smoke from the brickyard would have been constant as brick kilns burned day and night. The City tried to foist 70% of the costs on those living on Applegrove and on neighboring streets like Rhodes Avenue, Coxwell, Ashdale, Erie Terrace (Craven Road). Needless to say there was an uproar even though the City’s notice advising of the plan warned:

A petition against the said proposed work will not avail to prevent the carrying out of this improvement. Toronto Star, October, 1912

But the City backed off this smaller project as city politicians felt the heat from East End voters.

The larger project, the Wilton Avenue extension, was projected to cost $800,000, including $200,000 for an underpass near Logan Avenue. Wilton Avenue was the forerunner of Dundas Street East, running along the same route to Coxwell Avenue, swallowing up smaller streets like Dagmar and Doel and, ultimately, Applegrove. To put this in perspective, a skilled tradesman, such as a carpenter, in Toronto made about $800 a year and a factory worker about $400 a year. The City of Toronto would pay 81 percent of the cost of extending Wilton Avenue; homeowners along the route would pay the rest of the amount through a levy included on their property taxes. Here is the description of the route as discussed at a Parks Committee meeting:

Wilton Avenue Extension

The proposed expenditures also includes the widening and improving of Whitby street to a width of 66 feet, and its extension easterly to Logan avenue; the diversion of Logan avenue to the west side of the Grand Trunk Railway tracks at a width of 66 feet; the extension of Dickens avenue, 66 feet wide to Pape avenue; the opening of a 35-foot thoroughfare from the rear of lot 55 on Pape avenue to Jones avenue, which thoroughfare is intended to take the location now used by the high-level sewer right of way; the extension of Doel avenue, 66 feet wide, and its diversion in a south-easterly direction following the course of the trunk sewer to Morley avenue; and the extension of Applegrove avenue, 66 feet wide to Coxwell avenue, as a local improvement, under section nine of the Local Improvement Act. (Toronto Star, July 15, 1913) 

The City Board of Works pushed for immediate action on the Wilton Street extension, arguing that the project was necessary and waiting would only drive up the cost: “the circumstances require immediate action. (Globe, September 20, 1913). But the economy swung into a brief recession just before World War One and the City complained that “money is had to get”. City Commissioner of Works R.C. Harris found his budget gutted, as the City Treasurer explained the financial realities.

In early August, 1914, World War One began, but virtually everyone expected it to be over by Christmas. Harris continued to fight for the building of what is now Dundas Street East:

The recommendation dealing with the extension of Wilton avenue in the Riverdale district was referred back to the next meeting of the committee…

As outlined in his report, which supersedes all previous recommendations, Commissioner Harris combines the widening of Wilton avenue as far as Logan avenue, the construction of a subway under the G.T.R. tracks and the extension of Dickens avenue. A new street is to be opened, following the right-of-way of the trunk sewer from Dagmar to Jones avenues, while Doel and Applegrove avenues are also to be extended. (Globe, October 10, 1914)

The grand project was shelved on the outbreak of World War One in 1914 as the war effort shifted priorities. This part of the grand plan would not be realized until 45 years, two World Wars, a Great Depression and the dominance of the automobile radically changed Canada’s cities.

Even as the war in the trenches raged on, Harris continued to push for, at the very least, the extension of Applegrove eastward to Coxwell.

The Works Commissioner has recommended the extension of Applegrove avenue from Ashdale avenue easterly to Coxwell avenue. The estimated cost of the improvement is $27,000, of which the city will contribute $7,168. Globe, October 16, 1910

This time the City meant business and notified homeowners in Toronto newspapers:



Take notice that the Council of the Corporation of the City of Toronto intends to extend Applegrove Avenue at a width of 66 feet from Ashdale Avenue easterly to Coxwell Avenue, and intends to specially assess a part of the cost upon the land abutting directly on the said work, and upon certain other lands hereinafter mentioned, which will be immediately benefited by such extension. The estimated cost of the work is $17,000, of which 26 53-100 percent [26.53%], or $7,163 is to be paid by the Corporation. The remaining 73 47-100 percent [73.47%], or $19,837, is to be assessed against the property fronting or abutting on the following named streets…

The streets included Applegrove Avenue, Ashdale Avenue, Coxwell Avenue, Erie Terrace, Hiawatha Road, Morley Avenue, Kent Road and Rhodes Avenue. Those living on the street would benefit by improved access to their property on a better wider street, as well as by higher property values. The extension would open up the area to the housing boom that was expected after the War ended and which actually began in 1923. Of course, the building of a 66-wide through the East End was still part of a greater master plan to re-engineer Toronto’s  road network to meet the demands of the automobile and the growing suburbs around the center of the city.

Local residents, championed by City Councillor Robbins (Robbins Avenue is named for him), protested both against the extension and paying for it, arguing that there was no traffic anyway and that it was unfair to ask the wives of so many serving soldiers to pay. Recruitment from the neighbourhood was, with the Earlscourt community, the highest of any city in Canada. City Council, while not abandoning its plan to extend Applegrove east to Coxwell, did back off its plan to force local residents to pay heavily for the project.  However, when the Applegrove extension appeared before the Works Committee in May, 1918, the Committee recommended that the project be shelved.

In August, 1919, City Council passed another by-law raising $249,000 “to discharge indebtedness created to extend Terauley street and Applegrove avenue”. (Globe, August 21, 1919)

In 1924 another notice appeared in Toronto newspapers, identical to that of 1917, but by this time perhaps Council thought that since the area was in the midst of a housing boom, the benefits of the extension would be more  tangible and a walloping tax more acceptable.



Take notice that the Council of the Corporation of the City of Toronto intends to extend Applegrove Avenue at a width of 66 feet from Ashdale Avenue easterly to Coxwell Avenue, and intends to specially assess a part of the cost upon the land abutting directly on the said work, and upon certain other lands hereinafter mentioned, which will be immediately benefited by such extension. The estimated cost of the work is $17,000, of which 26 53-100 percent [26.53%], or $7,163 is to be paid by the Corporation. The remaining 73 47-100 percent [73.47%], or $19,837, is to be assessed against the property fronting or abutting on the following named streets…

Memories were short, but not that short. Property owners were again enraged as the prospect of paying three-quarters of the cost loomed over them. Shortly after another notice appeared with the figures adjusted to make the tax far more palatable and spread out over a decade.


Applegrove Avenue Extension

Take notice that the Council of the Corporation of the City of Toronto intends to extend and grade Applegrove Avenue, at a width of 66 feet, from Ashdale Avenue easterly to Coxwell Avenue, as a local improvement.

The estimated cost of the work is $27,300,00 of which 50 per cent, or $13,650.00, is to be paid by the Corporation.

The Council further intends to specially assess the sum of $13,650.00 against the property abutting upon the proposed improvement, and other property which is specially benefited by the proposed work.

The special assessment is to be paid in 10 annual installments.

For a short extension, the decision to actually move forward was a long and winding road. Two years later, in 1926, Applegrove still didn’t reach Coxwell and City officials were still promoting it:

Regarding a suggestion of Ald. Baker, Assessment Commissioner Forman and Works Commissioner Harris expressed in a letter the opinion that Applegrove avenue should be extended from Ashdale avenue, easterly to Coxwell, as per their report of 1924, estimating the cost at $27,300, and fixing the city’s share of the cost at 50 per cent. (Toronto Star, October 8, 1926)

In 1929 Applegrove still didn’t reach Coxwell.

19290617 City of Toronto proposed extensions

City of Toronto Surveyor’s Map of Proposed New and Improved Through Streets, June 17, 1929 Existing streets are yellow, proposed extensions are green.

In February 1930, it was decided not to renumber Applegrove Avenue to reflect the new houses on the street and the extension west to Greenwood. Why? “because it was expected that before long the street would be part of Dundas St. to be extended through to Kingston Rd.” (Toronto Star, February 25, 1930) But the City had not counted on the Great Depression lasting another nine years or the Second World War that finally brought full unemployment and a housing crisis to the East End. Dundas Street East would have to wait, but meanwhile the Applegrove extension still hung pending.

And in early 1934 it still didn’t reach Coxwell.

19340000 Dominion of Canada topographical map

Dominion of Canada topographical map, 1934

But it was extended finally later in 1934 as this map of Toronto shows.

19350101 Algate's Toronto & suburbs

Algate’s Toronto & Suburbs, 1935

After the end of World War Two, the creation of Dundas Street East through to Kingston Road was back on the table as traffic jammed Queen Street East, Eastern Avenue and Gerrard Street. Another through street across the East End would be a major route in the days before the Don Valley Parkway and the 401 Highway.



 Seventeen east Toronto homes will be expropriated and demolished as soon as possible to speed up the start on the Dundas St. extension, board of control decided today.

 A delegation of east-end residents, headed by James Arnott, urged the city to start work on that section of the new extension between Coxwell Ave. and Kingston Rd. in order to alleviate traffic congestion at the Eastern Ave – Queen St. bottleneck.

The board gave Leslie Allan, deputy works commissioner, authority to press on with the work. The municipal board [OMB] will be asked to expedite its approval of the project which R.C. Baird, legal counsel, [said] had been delayed because of a last-minute change in the route.

The homes which will come down are situated on Edgewood Ave., Maughan Cres. and Coxwell Ave. the eastern section of the roadway will follow Ashbridge Ave. to Maughan Cres. where it will follow the southern curve of the crescent across the Serpentine ravine to Edgewood Ave. and Kingston Rd.

Mr. Allan promised an immediate start on the filling of the ravine. Watermains will go in as soon as the homes are down, he added, with the hope this work will be completed by next spring and the paving to follow shortly after. It is expected that the complete length of the new extension will not be open until 1954 or 1955.  Toronto Star, June 7, 1950

City Council approved the route extension and a budget of $3,242,305 to complete the work. The new Dundas Street East followed Whitby Street, Dagmar, Doel, and Applegrove across Coxwell to Maughan Cres. From the corner of Maughan Crescent and Orchard Park Road, it went a little southeast then curving northeast to meet Kingston Road near the western boundary of St. John of Norway Cemetery.

According to the Globe and Mail,

The extension is seen as much-needed relief for easterly traffic along Keating st., now carrying a capacity traffic load during rush hours [Lakeshore Blvd. had not yet been built in the East End]. The Toronto Planning Board believes it will provide an important direct connection between the downtown area and the east end of the city.

The extension will be diverted southerly as it passes under the CNR tracks to allow construction of a subway just west of Logan Ave. Globe and Mail, June 8, 1950

19500608 GM Dundas Extension Map

Globe and Mail, June 8, 1950

The construction work would begin at the eastern section where it connected with Kingston Road. This is the area where 17 houses would be torn down, including three houses at the southeast corner of Applegrove and Coxwell and others on Maughan and Edgewood.  Not everyone was behind the new Dundas Street route. James McIlmurray had just finished work on his triplex on Kingston Road – one of the houses on the tear-down list:

“We’re upset, very upset,” said Mr. McIlmurray, reflecting the attitude of his neighbors…We got the building permit two months ago…They told us then the extension would go up the ravine. So we bought radiators, window casings and lumber.” (Toronto Star, June 8, 1950)

A week later the Ontario Municipal Board approved the project. Council decided that it didn’t need to submit the project to voters for approval. Alderman Collins said, “This means the green light.” (Globe and Mail, June 15, 1950). On June 26, 1950, City Council approved a bylaw allowing the Dundas Street extension project to go ahead.

The next day The Globe and Mail reported,

To Change Names of Four Streets

Without moving, residents of four streets in Toronto’s east end will undergo a change of address when the Dundas St. E. extension is completed.

City council last night endorsed a recommendation by Planning Commissioner LeMay that Dagmar, Doel, Applegrove and Ashbridge Aves., which will be part of the extension, be changed to Dundas St. when the work is completed.  (Globe and Mail, June 27, 1950)

19510703 TARCH 129-131 Applegrove Avenue, July 3, 1951

129-31 Applegrove Avenue, expropriated and demolished.

19511201 GM Globe and Mail, Dec. 1, 1951

19520507 GMGlobe and Mail, May 7, 1952


19521030 GM Name change

Globe and Mail, October 30, 1952

19530321 GM Applegrove

Globe and Mail, March 21, 1953

Series 372, Subseries 58 - Road and street condition photographsSeries 372, Subseries 58 - Road and street condition photographsSeries 372, Subseries 58 - Road and street condition photographsSeries 372, Subseries 58 - Road and street condition photographsSeries 372, Subseries 58 - Road and street condition photographs

19550519 GM Will Call Extension Dundas St E

19571029 TARCH Dundas Street east at Edgewood Road - October 29, 1957

October 29, 1957 Dundas Street East at Edgewood Avenue

19571105 GM Notice renaming

Official Notice of the renaming of the streets, Globe and Mail, November 5, 1957


Some Leslieville Street Names

1860 Tremaine's Map of the County of York, Canada West

From Tremaine’s Map of the County of York, 1860

It is sometimes difficult to trace the origins of street names. Clearly most Leslieville streets were named after families who lived here or after the builders who put up the houses on the street. Only a few, such as Eastern Avenue, are more or less self-explanatory. Moreover, street names changed over time. Doel became Dundas; Kingston Road became Queen Street, etc. Street names were changed because citizens requested it (as with Erie Terrace with became Craven Road) or because amalgamation with the City of Toronto led to confusing duplication of street names. A number of streets in the newly annexed areas had the same names as streets in the old City of Toronto so those streets were renamed.

Street naming went through fads and suffered at the whim of politicians. In 1905, the City of Toronto’s Street Naming Sub-Committee (all aldermen) wanted all new streets running east and west to be called ‘avenues” and all north-south routes to be called “streets”. It wanted to do away with “place” and “square”. Luckily, the expense and unpopularity of the idea stopped it from being implemented.

The Street Naming Sub-Committee was often arbitrary in its choices. Alderman renamed streets after themselves, friends, family and places they loved from “the Old Country”, sometimes at a whim.  The Street Naming Sub-Committee gradually erased the term “street” and replaced it with “avenue” since “avenue” was considered more prestigious. Real estate agents preferred other “classier” terms as well, such as “road”, “boulevard” or “gardens”.  Hence, Leslieville has Woodfield Road and Cherry Nook Gardens.

Agnes Lane – After Agnes Thompson, Alexander Muir’s first wife.

Alton – Alton, like Hiltz, is a Palatine German family name from Protestant refugees who fled Germany to Ireland. A family of Altons lived in Leslieville. The Palatines were mostly Methodist and came to be regarded as the enforcers of the Orange Order.

Applegrove — After the Ashbridge orchards.

Ashdale — After the Ashbridges family and the ‘dale’ or valley where a branch of the Ashbridges Creek flowed.

Athletic – This street spanned the short distance between two athletic fields: Greenwood Park and the Ulster Stadium.  The steep concrete stairway at the east end of Athletic Avenue was one of the stairways of the Ulster Stadium’s grandstand. The Ulster Stadium existed from 1924 to 1945.

Audley  — Formerly Victoria Avenue.  In 1895 the name was changed to avoid duplication on amalgamation with the City of Toronto.  Audley is a village in Staffordshire, England, and a Lord Audley was the leader of a Cornish rebellion in 1497. One of the aldermen on the Street Naming Sub-committee was Cornish and probably responsible for this street name and other Cornish street names. An interesting local landmark, Hideaway Park, is tucked away at 23 Audley Avenue.

Austin – This street was developed around 1900 and is named after James Austin of the firm Austin & Foy, the owner of the new and resplendent Spadina House. Austin was also president of the Dominion Bank of Canada.

Badgerow – Formerly Franklin Street. It was renamed after George Washington Badgerow (1841 – 1892), an Ontario lawyer and politician who represented York East in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from 1879 to 1886 as a Liberal member. The family, originally “Bergereau”, were early settlers in Markham and strong supporters of the rebels in 1837. Disgruntled, some joined the Markham Gang of outlaws.

Berkshire – Built through the grounds of the Toronto Nurseries around 1911, this name was likely given by real estate agents hoping to attract English immigrants.

Bertmount – After Albert (Bert) Wagstaff who owned land here. Bertmount Avenue runs straight through the site of the Wagstaff family home.

Billings –Robert J. Billings was a local builder from Somerset, England, who probably came to Canada to work at the Price brothers’ brickyard. Like many brickyard workers, he also became a contractor. Builders often named streets after themselves or family members.

Bisley – In 1905 Russell Place, site of a Russell brickyard, was renamed Bisley, perhaps after a local family or because a local rifle club practiced in the Russell brick pit there where Value Village is today. Bisley is still the most important rifle range in England (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Rifle_Association_of_the_United_Kingdom ).  Rifle clubs, competitions and special events were a major recreational pastime for Leslieville’s men folk in the 19th century. Bisley is probably the shortest street in Leslieville.

Blong –The Blong family came to Canada from Ireland, but were originally Huguenots from France. This prominent local family were wholesale butchers and cattle dealers.

Bloomfield – After George Bloomfield, shoemaker, and his family, local residents.

Booth – After a local butcher.

Boston – After the Boston family. Frank Boston managed a gravel pit in Ben Lamond and began the first streetcar (tramway) service on Kingston Road. His son Joseph was a florist.

Brick Court – After the early brickyards that clustered between the shore of Ashbridges Bay and Kingston Road.

Brighton – Formerly Hallam St., after a local family, the Brightons, not the resort town in England. John Hallam was a Toronto alderman, hide and leather merchant and consistent opponent of John Knox Leslie in the council chambers.  When Leslieville became part of Toronto, a Hallam Street already existed, necessitated the name change.

Brooklyn – Because it was by a brook, now buried underground. It ran through John Russell’s brickyard, the site of Brooklyn Avenue.

Bushell –The Reverend Bushell was a popular Anglican priest in Leslieville. It may also be named after a brickmaker: Sergeant Bushell who was killed in World War One.

Busy – Busy because it was actually a very busy street. It was lined on the north side with stables for the teams of draft horses that delivered the goods from the Queen Street shops. The stables are still there, but the massive Clydesdales, Percherons and Shire horses can only now be appreciated at special events or fall fairs.

CamFella Lane – After a giant in Canadian harness racing history, CamFella died in 2001, with a remarkable record at the track.

Carlaw –In 1874 the City of Toronto re-named Gorrie Street Carlaw Avenue. Major John Carlaw did not own extensive property in the area, but he married into the influential Clarke family of Leslieville butchers.

Caroline – After Caroline Davis who married George Leslie.

Cherry Nook Gardens – Thomas Beatty’s home was purchased in 1900 by a prosperous Irish grocer named Frank Britton and his wife, Minnie Duff. Here at “Cherry Nook Kennels” they raised prize-winning Irish terriers. In 1911 the Brittons subdivided their land and laid out a new street running east from Greenwood Avenue to the Duke of Connaught School property. They named the street “Cherry Nook Gardens”

Coady – After a local family of Irish Catholics who worked in the market gardens and brickyards. The street was subdivided around 1911.

Colgate – Formerly Natalie Street. It was renamed after the Colgate Palmolive Company of Canada Ltd. The soap factory there was a major local employer.

Connaught – After the Duke of Connaught, Governor General of Canada. A son of Queen Victoria, be became a nuisance during World War One when he tried to direct Canada’s war effort.

Coxwell – After Charles Coxwell Small (1800-1864) who was a gentleman farmer and member of the Family Compact. The Small family came from Berkeley, England.  Major John Small, his father, fought the first duel in Toronto. Major Small married Eliza Goldsmith, who died about 1834. They were Anglicans and donated the land for St. John of Norway Church and cemetery. Small’s town home, built in 1845, still exists, in altered form, at 298 King Street East. He owned a valuable farm of 500 acres (over 200 ha) east of Leslieville in Lots 6, 7 and 8, York Township, where he raised prize-winning shorthorns.

Craven — originally Erie Terrace. In 1923 the name was changed to “Craven Road” to eliminate some of the stigma attached to living there.

Dagmar – After Princess Dagmar of Denmark who married Czar Alexander III of Russia. She was the sister of Queen Alexandra who married Edward VII, King of England. She was pretty and very popular.

Danforth – After Colonel Asa Danforth, an American contractor who built the road to Kingston in 1799.

Dibble – After the Dibble brothers, Robert and Harry, athletes who became war heroes. It may be a memorial specifically to Harry Dibble who was killed in action in the trenches.

Dorothy – Probably after Dorothy Kerr who married into the Price family.

Dundas – This street was not completed through Leslieville until after 1955. It is named after Henry Dundas, a Scotch politician, responsible for controlling the unruly clansmen after Culloden.  The Highlanders burned him in effigy not poor daft King George.

Eastern – Formerly South Park. This was the “Eastern route” out of town.

Empire – after Empire Mills, a paper mill and stationery supplier.

Endean – After a local family, the Endeans.

Fairford – Probably because it was a good place to cross Ashbridges Creek  – a “fair ford” where the water was shallow.

Gerrard – Formerly Rembler’s (Ramblers) Road after Rembler Paul, local veterinarian and brother-in-law to George Leslie Sr. The Gerrards were an early family in York with ties to Montreal, and friends of McGill of McGill Square. They were original donors to Little Trinity Church in Corktown. The street downtown was named after the Gerrards. In 1884, when the City of Toronto extended the street, the rough Rembler’s Road became Gerrard Street East. Rembler Paul and his wife Elizabeth were noted for their eccentricity.  A mountain top in Kelowna, B.C., holds their tomb. The family cat is buried with them.

Glenside – Formerly Glencoe after the place in Scotland where the Campbells massacred the Macdonalds. Renamed Glenside, a happier association. In Scotland a little valley is called “glen”.

Greenwood – after the Greenwood family.

Harriet – After Harriet Wharfe who married a Morley.

Hastings – After Thomas Hastings, local blacksmith and axe maker, and his family.

Heward – After the Hewards, a prominent family in York. Francis Heward came here in 1812 and was influential in the Family Compact. Many of the more affluent members of York, like the Hewards and Robinsons, maintained farms to provide them with a supply of fruit, vegetables, dairy products, etc. In the 1830s William Heward had a farm here.

Hiawatha  – Named after the hero in Longfellow’s poem. Romanticizing First Nations people became very popular around this time with the publishing of a series of books by American Henry Schoolcraft, an Indian Agent. For a while, the Toronto Islands were called “Hiawatha”.

Hiltz  –William W. Hiltz , a school teacher and builder, became Mayor of Toronto in 1924.  During his term, he introduced time-clocks for City of Toronto workers. More importantly, he was instrumental in getting the new Union Station built, along with the Toronto Viaduct, long-promised by the Federal Government.

Ivy – After a member of the Morley family.

Jones – Formerly Clifford after a well-known local family. It was renamed after John Jones, city alderman, and Works Commissioner. He was also a brickmaker and real estate developer, as well as an active Orangeman.

Kent – After the Duke of Kent, son of George V, or because the flat lands along Ashbridges Bay reminded English immigrants of the fields of Kent in eastern England.

Kerr– George Powell Price, son of John Price and Jane Powell, local brickmakers, married Emma Kerr.

Knox – Formerly Lake Street. It was re-named after John Knox Leslie.

Laing – After local family of fishers and boat builders, including William Laing, who built boats at Laing and Eastern and fisherman George Lang (also spelled Lang).

Larchmount – Because tamaracks (larches) grew there on the water-soaked ground by Ashbridges Bay.

Leslie — After George Leslie

Logan – After Scottish market gardener, John Logan, and his family. They had extensive property on this road.

Louvain – After the Belgian city where alleged German atrocity helped to inspire Canadians to enlist to fight the Hun.

Mallon – After a local family.

Marigold – After the flower. This was on Toronto Nurseries land where flowers were grown, including marigolds.

Marjory – After the daughter of John E. Russell, a developer and contractor.

McGee – Formerly Darcy Street after Darcy Boulton. It was renamed McGee after D’Arcy McGee, Father of Confederation who was assassinated on April 7, 1868 by an Irish nationalist.

Minto – After the Minto Brothers, building contractors and tea merchants who lived here. William Minto was born in Scotland and came to Canada with his family.  The family were Plymouth Brethren, an Evangelical Christian denomination, and this made them a little different in the largely Methodist and Catholic Leslieville.  Minto Street was virtually an enclave onto itself.  Minto was educated in Lower Canada, but settled in Toronto in 1876. He and his brother John opened a tea business on Colborne Street. Many years later they moved their business to Front Street. William moved his family home to the Junction in 1896.

Morse – After a family of local cattle dealers. George D. Morse, well known cattle dealer.

Mosley – After Benjamin Mosley, United Empire Loyalist, and one of the first settlers on the north shore of Ashbridges Bay.

Myrtle – Likely after a member of the Morley family.

Pape – After Joseph Pape, a Yorkshireman who had a market garden at the corner of Gerrard and Pape.

Parkfield – Because it is near Greenwood park.

Prust – After William Prust, local builder and real estate developer. Englishman William Prust was one of the founders of Haliburton. He immigrated to Canada in 1873 with his wife Ellen Adams and his children. They settled first in Peterborough where he worked as a shoemaker. A man of many talents, Prust became a carpenter and builder. In 1908 Prust moved to Toronto where he became well known as a real estate developer and created the Riverdale Gardens subdivision. For example, he built many of the houses along Prust Avenue, Sandford, Bloomfield and Ivy.  His pride was that each property had its own fruit tree. He lived on Greenwood Avenue just north of Gerrard. Prust died in Toronto in 1927 at the age of 81.

Queen – After Queen Victoria, formerly Kingston Road. In 1884 the street was renamed Queen Street when the route of Queen Street in Corktown was straightened and the street became a continuous thoroughfare through to the Beach.

Redwood – Named in imitation of “Greenwood”, a sort of echo.

Renwick –Jim Renwick, local New Democratic Member of the Legislative Assembly, who died of a heart attack in 1984.

Rhodes  – Formerly Reid after a local brickmaker, Ross Reid. In 1909 it was renamed Rhodes after a family of shopkeepers on the street.

Rushbrooke – From Leslie Creek, a short fast brook that ran into Ashbridges Bay where the street is now.

Sawden – After Thomas Sawden, local brickmaker.

Sear  – After Charles and Sarah Sear and their family. Charles Sear was a brickmaker from Somerset, like the Prices, Dibbles, Billings and others. He became a builder of tunnels in France. He arrived in Canada in 1866 and became a brickmaker in Leslieville. He was killed by natural gas while digging a well on Jones Avenue.

Sproat (or Sproatt) – Formerly Methuen, a town in Massachusetts where many members of the Hastings family had lived. Sproat was named after Henry Sproatt, who came from Cumberland England and worked first as a carter, driving wagons.  He went on to become one of Toronto’s first soft drink manufacturers, specializing in ginger beer.  He was an alderman for many years and knew George Leslie Sr. well. He was Chair of the Board of works when Leslie was on the Board of Health. Henry Sproatt also sat on the Gas and Water Committee. He was active in the St. George Society. His son, Charles Sproatt, became City Engineer for Toronto and advocated improving the conditions of Ashbridges Bay in spite of the resistance of City Council.  Grandson Henry Sproatt was a member of the firm of Sproatt and Rolph, a well-known Toronto architectural firm. Sproatt bottles are highly collectible today.

Stanton – After prominent photographer, Eldridge Stanton.

Thackeray – After William Makepeace Thackeray, author of Vanity Fair.

Vancouver – Formerly Ashport for the Ashbridges family and the cove where the docked their boats (now under the TTC Russell Car Barns).

Verral – After a family of politicians and owners of stables and of a cab and livery business. In 1884 the Verrals built a livery stable here and Charles E. Verral was put in charge. The Verrals are believed to be the first in Toronto to use automobiles for taxi cabs, replacing horses.  As politicians the Verrals were successful but tainted in the 1890s by their involvement in a kickback scheme at City Hall – the “boodling scandal.”

Verral Mews are ten row houses that were built around 1903 by Anglican bishop, J. McQueen Baldwin, on leased land. The intent was to provide good affordable housing for immigrants from England.  However, the Bishop’s successors were not as keen about affordable housing as Baldwin and the Church evolved into an absentee landlord with run-down property.  In 1973 Russell-McKay Realty Ltd. bought the Verral Mews and renovated it. The old facades were kept though veneered over with brick.  The insides were gutted. The architect for the restoration was Vimal Sarin.  It was a challenge because the interiors are only 14 feet (just over 4 meters) wide.

Walpole – Formerly Vernon. John Walpole was a plasterer and a builder.

Woodfield – Originally Morley Avenue, after a family of brickmakers, some of whom lived on the street. Around 1923 the name was changed by developers to make the street more attractive to English immigrants when the area was subdivided.

Winnifred – Formerly Radcliffe Avenue. The Radcliffes were a local family.  In 1905 Radcliffe Avenue was changed to Winnifred Avenue.  Winnifred may have been a Radcliffe.  A Victorian author, Winifred Radcliffe, was known for her stories about fairies.  Any connection between the fairies and the street is improbable.

Apple Time in the East End

twenty_ounce 300 dpi - CopyIf it was an apple in the Garden of Eden, would you need a snake to tell you to eat it? No! Canadians love apples! But did you know that commercial apple growing in Ontario got its start in Toronto’s East End?

1906 Woodfield Rd USED

Looking north on Woodfield Road, through the Ashbridge’s orchard, the “Applegrove” for which Applegrove Avenue was named — now part of Dundas Street east by remembered by the name “The Applegrove Community Centre”.

As we look around it might be hard to believe that apple orchards once flourished between the Danforth and Queen Street and from the Don River to Victoria Park. But there are clues and I’ve looked hard to find them. Why? Well, I love living here and I love apples!

pictures-r-1385 Pape looking n to Danforth 1907 - Copy

Looking north on Pape towards Danforth, 1907

None of us can remember those orchards. By the end of the 1920s, older people looked back upon the days of Leslieville and Riverside’s apples.

1860 Tremaine's Map of the County of York, Canada West

From Tremaine’s Map of the County of York, 1860

The area between Ashbridges Bay and Danforth Avenue was ideal for apple orchards. The sunshine, maximized on the south-facing slopes, and the rich soil created ideal conditions for apples.

Lazeby 1921 TTC close up topo map Leslieville - Copy

Lazeby 1921 Topographical map showing the gullies cut by the streams that are now buried underground as part of the sewage system.

Gullies, cut by streams, ran south the heights near the Danforth, draining away frigid air away, preventing frost damage to spring blossoms.

Creek Toronto

The farmers diverted the streams to feed water by gravity into ditches among the rows of apple trees, irrigating them with clean, cool, spring-fed water. The steep slope sheltered the orchards that produced some of Canada’s best apples.

Greenwood Avenue Railway crossing looking northeast

Greenwood Avenue Railway crossing looking northeast towards an apple orchard, 1901. The chimney of Logan ‘s brickyard is in the distance. Another orchard is on the west side of Greenwood north of the tracks. Orchards lined Greenwood south of the tracks as well.

Early Days

The first settlers planted apple trees in Leslieville not long after they arrived here in the 1790s.  Many orchards here started as mixed farms like the Ashbridges. But farms dedicated only to orchards did not develop until later. One man, above all others, nurtured the apple industry.

Sorting apples

George Leslie Sr John McPherson Ross PaintingIn 1825 trained Scottish gardener George Leslie sailed to Canada. In 1826 he moved to Toronto to open a seed store downtown. In 1832 he organized a fruit exhibition:

Then came the time when a few men saw the possibilities of the future if fruit-culture was undertaken in a systematic way. George Leslie, one of the earliest nurserymen in Toronto, organized a fruit exhibition in 1832, but a few specimens of apples, some wild plums, and some small fruit [berries] were all he could procure. He brought trees from New York, organized a nursery, and succeeded in interesting others in the subject.[1]

Most farmers bought their trees from English suppliers, but often the saplings couldn’t prosper under different growing conditions here. Leslie secured and tested varieties to find ones good for Canadian farms.

Sweet Bough

In 1842, he opened an eight-hectare (20 acres) nursery near Leslie and Queen. Here he tested new varieties and compared their performance against older apple cultivars. He sold the successful trees to farmers across the country although delivery was slow because mud and deep ruts often made roads impassable in spring. He built his downtown store near the wharves and his nursery on Ashbridges Bay so that he could ship trees by boat whenever possible.

L. would also invite public attention to his Nursery Establishment, for the cultivation of FRUIT and ORNAMENTAL TREES, on a more extended scale that has been hitherto attempted in Canada. Trees and Flowering Plants will be carefully packed, so as to bear transportation to any part of the Province, should their passage take two weeks.[2]

ApplesAn ad from a little later in the spring of 1845, assured buyers that the trees would grow in local conditions:

The collection of Fruit Trees comprises the most valuable and approved varieties, adapted to our latitude… Orders by Mail (post-paid) from any part of the country if accompanied with a remittance, or a satisfactory reference in the City of Toronto, will receive prompt attention. Priced Catalogues will be furnished gratis in all post-paid applications. [3]

18810926GL Ad USEd

Globe, September 26, 1881

In the spring of 1848 George Leslie sold his business downtown in order to focus on growing trees. His nursery had now grown and he offered 40,000 apple trees for sale. He had planted them in 1843 and took pride in his “well grown healthy Trees.” Each year he put out a new catalogue.[4]

18700000 Uof Alberta Catalog captioned

In November 1848, The Farmer and Mechanic pointed out that Leslie was a valuable resource for Canadians:

…Mr. Leslie having procured all the best varieties cultivated, and perfected arrangements for procuring new ones as they from time to time are ushered into notice, a full and complete assortment of the choicest fruit trees may be had at the Toronto Nursery, each warranted to be true to their sorts, at as low a price as can be had in any part of the United States.[5]

19070928 CDNCOUR Apple pickers

Canadian Courier, September 28, 1907

In 1849, he began writing articles for journals such as The Farmer and Mechanic, promoting Canadian apple growing and exports abroad:

I have been engaged in the business of tree culture for twenty years in this neighbourhood. In recommending varieties of fruit, I shall mention only such kinds as personal observation has convinced me are quite suitable for this neighbourhood. …Canada has a right to share, with other parts of North America, the profit and honour of having her fruit shipped to all parts of the world.[6]

Before 1850, most Canadians didn’t value orchards or appreciate the potential for exporting this cash crop to Britain and the rest of Europe. George Leslie set out to change this by writing articles in farm journals and speaking at fall fairs and exhibitions (the trade shows of the day), educating farmers on every aspect of apple growing.


By the early 1850s, a wider audience was beginning to recognize that commercial orchards could be not only possible, but even lucrative. William Henry Smith, in his Statistical Account of Canada West, 1851, commented on the new interest in fruit growing, “We heard, two or three years since, of a Toronto merchant, having a residence a short distance from the city, who sent some apples from his orchard to Scotland, and made a profit of £40 on the small quantity sent.”[7]


In 1856 the Grand Trunk Railway (GTR) line opened, connecting Montreal and Toronto through Leslieville and commercial fruit farming became viable.  Trains delivered nursery stock faster and more efficiently. The train stopped at Queen Street and DeGrassi where apples and trees were loaded to be be shipped by rail to east coast ports. Barrels and boxes of apples sailed to Britain and continental Europe. Once they could get apples to an overseas market, many Leslieville farmers divided their larger properties into small orchards.

The Canadian Courier, Vol. IV, No. 19 (Oct 10, 1908) Orchard

The Canadian Courier, Vol. IV, No. 19 (Oct 10, 1908)

The average size of a Leslieville orchard was about ten to 20 acres, but some, such as the Ashbridges, covered as much as 100 acres. A large orchard employed a dozen or more farm workers from spring to fall. While the major crop was apples, Leslieville growers planted a range of fruit from cherries to pears. However, the more tender fruits (e.g., peach, cherry, grape, plum, pear) were limited to only a few particularly sheltered locations such as that of Vincenzo Casci’s vineyard at Coxwell and Upper Gerrard.

18601109 Ottawa Citizen The Ottawa Nursery USED (2) - Copy

Ottawa Citizen, November 9, 1860

After 1856 Leslie’s Toronto Nurseries specialized in mail order. Travelling salesmen visited farmers across Canada. In spring, farmers went to a train station and telegraphed orders for apple trees in bulk at wholesale prices directly to the Toronto Nurseries. Leslie delivered trees in several days by rail for immediate transplanting. These trees were mature enough to began producing apples that fall for a quick return on the farmer’s investment.

Leslie also commissioned other nurserymen to act on his behalf. For example, Charles Chapman distributed the George Leslie’s catalogue at his own Ottawa nursery. Auctioneers also sold consignments of his trees and shrubs in batches across Canada as they were in PEI in 1881.


Gehle, Sketch, 1868

18750507GL Ad for apple trees Geo Leslie

Globe, May 7, 1875

Seek No Further - Copy

“The Seek No Further”

Need for Training and Education

With all the new growers, trained orchardists were needed.  George Leslie Sr. offered apprenticehsips and taught them everything they needed to know to have a successful orchard or nursery – from choosing the right varieties, planting, grafting and tending trees, grading apples for size and colour, and how to pack the fruit into boxes or barrels so that it wouldn’t not bruise during transport. He also taught them about prices, keeping books, marketing, etc. They spread out to create their own businesses across Canada.

Sorting apples

One valuable marketing tool was the “Ex”. The Exhibition moved each year from city to city, however, many successfully lobbied for a permanent Toronto Exhibition and the first opened in Toronto in 1879.  Later it was re-christened the Canadian National Exhibition.

Sweet BoughOne Leslie apprentice was Alexander McDonald Allan who married George’s daughter Esther. Allan became editor and owner of the Huron Signal and President of the Ontario Fruit Growers’ Association. Allan pioneered the export of fruit.

Alexander McDonald Allan (2) - Copy

Alexander McDonald Allan, “The Apple King of Canada”

In 1886 the Canadian government appointed him Commissioner on Fruits at the Independent and Colonial Exhibition in London. In 1886 he shipped over 100,000 barrels of apples to Britain. He also helped developed markets for Canadian fruit in continental Europe, including shipments to Norway and Sweden, Germany and even far off India. He organized the Imperial Produce Company of Toronto, which became one of Canada’s largest fruit exporters. He also founded the London Fruit Co. to sell Canadian fruit there. The Pall Mall Gazette called Allan “The Fruit King of Canada.”[8]


In this photo, published in the September 1938 issue of the Canadian Geographical Journal, Canadian apples find their way to a street hawker’s barrow in England. (Photo: Canadian Government Motion Picture Bureau/Canadian Geographic Archives)

Sorting and packing apples

Sorting and packing apples, probably Leslieville

1878 County Map

1878 County Atlas map


Varieties of Apples

In 1876, the Province of Ontario asked the Fruit Growers’ Association to undertake a display at the International Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, a major World Fair. The early growers did not know a lot about the different varieties of apples, but many of the first varieties were not suitable for Ontario. Often the farmer chose a particular variety simply because he or she had “via the grape vine” that a particular apple grew well somewhere else. At first only the Snow apple or Fameuse was the only variety of commercial importance. Despite a drought, George Leslie & Son, of Leslie exhibited 35 varieties of apples. Even in those days some were concerned about the decline in the number of varieties of apples, a trend that is reflected in the lack of diversity on grocery shelves today.

The Canadian Courier, Vol. IV, No. 19 (Oct 10, 1908) Cold storage

The Vanished Orchards

Steele Briggs - Copy

Looking over the Steele Briggs nursery at Kent and Queen in the background, just behind the red brick buildings, is the Ashbridge’s nursery.

Under John A. Macdonald’s National Policy, tariff walls went up to protect Canadian agriculture and the CPR carried people – and apple trees from coast to coast. Leslieville’s trees and fruit could now go almost anywhere in Canada, but the days of orchards in the East End were numbered.

ads - Copy

In 1884 Leslieville and Riverside became part of Toronto and property taxes went up as the area became urbanized. While the cost of growing apples increased, the growers’ incomes did not keep step.  Many cut down their trees and subdivided their property for housing. In 1888 84-year-old George Leslie told a reporter:

Value of land, for instance, has wonderfully advanced…although these grounds are so far east of the Don, they are already too valuable to hold for orchard or nursery purposes, and must be sold soon for building lots.[9]

Riverdale gardens - CopyOne Torontonian took the streetcar through Leslieville:

After crossing the Don, we passed through the little villages of Riverside and Leslieville, so close together that it was hard to tell where one ended and the other began. Then the houses began to scatter. There were nursery gardens, with their rows of tiny young trees; one or two orchards, very pretty in spring when the blossoms are out, and prosperous-looking now, with the fruit showing through the foliage.[10]

Hastings Creek - CopyGeorge Leslie died on June 14, 1893. Gradually the nursery lands were sold off. Now apples come from all over the world, but the species available are few compared to the many in George Leslie’s catalogues. Yet every spring I walk the streets in my neighbourhood looking for the few survivors of those early orchards. And I still snuggle up with an apple and a book and maybe a piece of good Ontario cheddar and think of Astracan Reds, Sweet Boughs, Early Harvests, Early Strawberrys, Early Joes, Golden Sweetings, Keswick Codin, William’s Favorites, Primates, Alexanders, Black Detroits, Duchesses of Oldenberg, Pommes Royal, Fall Pippins, Hawleys, jersey Sweets, Saint Lawrences, Indian Raventips, Baldwins, Bourrassas, Blue Pearmates, Holland Pippins, Mothers, Northern Spys, Peck’s Pleasants, Rambos, Red Canadas, Russets, Greenings, Seek-no-furthers, Talman’s Sweets, Waggoners, Kings of Tomkins County, and more, as I dream.

1919 Devils H - Copy

1919, Looking east on Gerrard. Riverdale Collegiate in the background right. Just east of it the remains of an orchard and an apple barn, a structure designed to store apples.




[1] Canadian History, No. 10, June, 1900, 263

[2] Globe, February 18, 1845; Globe, March 25, 1845; The British American Cultivator, New series, Vol. 1, No. 9, September 1845

[3] Globe, April 1, 1845

[4] Globe, September 16, 1848

[5] The Farmer and Mechanic, Vol. 1, no. 2, November 1848, 42

[6] The Farmer and Mechanic, Vol. 1, no 7, April 1849, 188 –193

[7] William Henry Smith, Canada Past, Present and Future, London: T. Maclear, 1851, 419

[8] Henry J. Morgan, The Canadian men and women of the time, Toronto: W. Briggs, 1898, 11-14

[9] Globe, June 8, 1883

[10] The Dominion Illustrated, Vol. 3, no. 71, November 9, 1889, 299

Chinese Immigrants & The Old East End 

Thousands of Chinese are pouring in upon us.

In 1931 Toronto did not see itself as a multi-cultural society. It saw itself as British and people sincerely believed that white people were superior and that the British Empire was the most civilized society ever. Society was openly racist and imperialist. Restrictive immigration laws were passed to keep Chinese, South Asian and black people out.

Chinese men and women were officially not welcome to come to Canada. How did this specific community find itself the target of such prejudice? And were there Chinese Canadians in the East End?

Around 1855 a few Chinese men came to Canada to work as miners and domestic servants (cooks and cleaners). In 1858 Britain created the Colony of British Columbia.  The same year, the first Chinese gold-miners arrive in British Columbia from San Francisco to work in the Fraser River Gold Rush. They trek north to the Fraser River along with thousands of other prospectors. Most of them are, like the majority of Chinese immigrants in the nineteenth century, from the Guangdong ( 广东 ) province in southern China. These miners form the first continuous Chinese community in Canada. Later, this community became the jump-off point for many who went further east, including to Toronto and the old villages of Leslieville, Riverside, Norway and East Toronto. Many Canadians, but not all, held deeply prejudicial attitudes towards Chinese people. Most were single men, as women, for the most part, were not allowed into Canada.

Globe November 19, 1860

Globe, July 12, 1859 E B HoltIn 1860 Mrs. Kwong Lee, the first Chinese woman in Canada, landed in Victoria, British Columbia She was the wife of the owner of the Kwong Lee Company.

In 1871 Census takers went out to take Canada’s first annual census. It showed that the total population was 3.6 million. That year the Canadian government agreed to build a transcontinental railroad (the Canadian Pacific Railroad or C.P.R.) from Ontario to the new province of British Columbia. English immigrants were pouring into Canada, forming the largest ethnic group after those born in Canada. English, Irish and Scots constituted most of Toronto’s population. The city was overwhelming Protestant, with a large Irish Catholic minority. An Anglican and Orange-dominated city government saw itself as “British”.

Map of EmpireFrom 1871 to  912 Britain coloured much of the world map pink, as Victorians grabbed, gobbled and coerced peoples around the world into acknowledging Queen Victoria as Empress and their subservient role in a benevolent Empire. The motive was economic, put simply as greed, but Britons rationalized their imperialism as “the White Man’s Burden to “civilize savages” and “bring them to Christ”. The supremacy of Christianity and that tiny segment of humanity that proudly called itself “Anglo-Saxon” was virtually unquestioned.  Chinese culture was very old, very well-organized and structured around its own Emperor, and strongly resisted European intrusion into its territory. Britain, like other European imperialist powers, played “divide and rule” wherever it could establish a foothold, playing local interests, classes, ethnicities and religious groups against each other, using a velvet glove wherever possible. But that velvet glove cloaked an iron fist, professional armies bristling with the latest military technology; a large, effective navy; and ruthless politicians. Britain wanted cheap raw materials, commodities like tea, silk and manufactured goods like china, and the right to flood local markets with British manufactured goods. They did not, however, want their imperial subjects to return the favour by immigrating to England and neither did their largest colonies – Canada and Australia.

In 1872 the Canadian government granted contracts to build the C.P. R. The transcontinental railroad was supposed to bring settlers to the Prairies, transport agricultural products like wheat to the East, and link the newly-born Canada together behind the tariff wall of John A. Macdonald’s National Policy. By the early 1870’s there were a few Chinese merchants and shop owners in Toronto.

Globe, Jan. 7, 1873 Tea merchant Toronto

Globe, Jan. 7, 1873

In 1873 The Dominion Elections Act instituted voting by secret ballot. The Canada of the day was one where only male British subjects 21-years-old or older who had an annual income of at least $400 a year could vote. First Nations men could choose to give up their status as “Indians” in return for the vote. One of the first things that John A.’s government did was to take away the vote from indigenous Canadians — just weeks after Confederation in 1867.

The people of the day had no idea that Chinese people could ever or would ever become Canadians.

In 1875 the Leslieville population was largely British and Orange with a large Catholic minority around what is now the Curzon and Dundas area.


The Illustrated Wasp, Dec. 5, 1877

In 1877 rioters attacked San Francisco’s Chinatown. Chinese people in Canada were no safer.

Heathen Chinese

The same year Chinese men established their first Toronto laundries.

Mr. Lee Hong's laundry at 48 Elizabeth St 1912 City of Toronto Archives

Mr. Lee Hong’s laundry at 48 Elizabeth Street, 1912, City of Toronto Archives

On October 31, 1877, The Irish Canadian reported on a funeral:

The Irish Canadian, Oct. 31, 1877 Ah Lung's funeral Toronto1

The Irish Canadian, Oct. 31, 1877 (1 Part)

The Irish Canadian, Oct. 31, 1877 Ah Lung's funeral Toronto2

The Irish Canadian, Oct. 31, 1877 (2 Part)


In British Columbia anti-Chinese opinion prevailed and, in 1878, the provincial government banned Chinese workers from public works. However, from 1880 to 1885 thousands of Chinese men labour to build the Canadian Pacific Railway, (C.P.R.), from Ontario to British Columbia. They did the most dangerous and dirtiest work.  It is said that one Chinese labourer was killed on the job for every mile of track laid.

Chinese camp (CPR), Kamloops, BC, 1886. Edouard Deville, Library and Archives Canada C-021990

Chinese camp (CPR), Kamloops, BC, 1886. Edouard Deville, Library and Archives Canada C-021990


Miscellaneous, Railway Lands. - [between 1977 and 1998]

The Chinese Railway Workers’ Memorial, Toronto, 1880s

They faced danger off the job as well, as Chinese people everywhere in North America were subject to unprovoked racial attacks by individuals and by mobs.


California The Chinese Agitation in San Francisco, 1880


In Globe, April 18, 1881 Chinese man fights back1882 the U.S. Congress passes The Chinese Exclusion Act. It wasn’t just governments that were against the Chinese workers. The union movement in the U.S. and Canada blamed Chinese labourers for taking “white” jobs and undercutting wages. When the Canadian Labour Congress met for the first time, its first president called on delegates to deal with the “Chinese immigration curse.”

In 1884 the federal government set up a Royal Commission to study Chinese immigration.


California The Chinese Agitation in San Francisco, 1880

Through the 1880s there were a number of anti-Chinese riots in the western U.S., including San Francisco and Seattle.

Report of the Royal Commission on Chinese Immigration 1885 Title

When the C.P.R. was finished in 1885, the government put in place a $50 head tax on every Chinese immigrant.  They limited the number of Chinese people who could travel on a ship to Canada.

Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald, 1886:

I do not think that it would be to the advantage of Canada or any other country occupied by Aryans for members of the Mongolian race to become permanent inhabitants of the country.

Many Chinese labourers returned to China, but many stayed. Many simply walked east along the railway tracks, settling along the way in the small rail-side towns in the Prairies or trekking all the way to Toronto, and Montreal, hoping to face less prejudice and discrimination and find better jobs.  Just as the first Chinese immigrants had found themselves confined to menial personal service jobs such as servants, the unemployed railway labourers found work as cooks and cleaners where they could.

A Chinatown soon appeared in downtown Toronto.


Globe, July 9, 1887 Description Toronto Chinatown1

Globe, July 9, 1887 Description Toronto Chinatown2

They faced attack again, but there are a number of reports of people in Toronto fighting back.

Globe, Sept. 30, 1887

The magistrate said that some people thought that they could run on Chinamen as they pleased because they had no friends.

Canada extended the vote in 1888 to all adult male British subjects except un-enfranchised “Indians” living on reserves. In Ontario, men had the secret ballot and could now vote without any property qualifications.  These rights were not extended to the so-called “Celestials”.

Chinese tailor, c. 1889, BC, Robert W. Reford, Library and Archives Canada PA-118195

Chinese tailor, c. 1889, BC, Robert W. Reford, Library and Archives Canada PA-118195

The first Chinese businesses appeared in the East End in the late nineteenth century: laundries, tailors and restaurants. Chinese Canadians were few and far between since the Canadian government passed measure after to measure to restrict immigration from China. Most of the Chinese people who came to Toronto in the early days were men, single by choice, necessity or circumstance, as Chinese women were not allowed into the Dominion of Canada.

By 1893 there were at least 24 Chinese laundries in Toronto.


Toronto Star, August 11, 1894

Toronto Star, August 11, 1894


The abuse went on and on.

Toronto Star, July 15, 1895

Toronto Star, July 15, 1895

Globe, March 13, 1899 Baiting a Chinaman

By 1900 Toronto was home to a fledgling Chinese community of some 200 residents, but growth was hampered. Another Royal Commission on Chinese and Japanese Immigration held hearings. One of the chief concerns government had was that limits on Chinese immigration would negatively impact trade between China and Canada. Not surprisingly, given the prevalent attitudes, they concluded that keeping Chinese immigrants out would not keep Canadian goods out of China.

Bill an act respecting and restricting Chinese immigration, 1900

Bill an act respecting and restricting Chinese immigration, 1900

The fear of the “Yellow Peril”, the idea that Chinese “blood” would swamp the so-called superior “Anglo-Saxon” population, was rampant in the early 20th century. Fearing that the West would be flooded by Chinese and Japanese immigrants unless it was “fully occupied”, Canada developed an immigration policy that lured Eastern Europeans to the Prairies. This was the same year as Ottawa raised the Chinese head tax to $100, to take effect in 1902.

Racism, both official and popular, left Chinese people vulnerable to exploitation and assault. They got the worst, lowest-paying jobs and then they were blamed for undercutting the wages of white labourers and taking “white” jobs. Labour unions and activists were solidly behind excluding Chinese immigrants from all but the worst jobs and from Canada itself. Self-employment in laundries, cafes and groceries was the predominant source of livelihood. Racists frequently assaulted Chinese men on the street and even in their homes and, from time to time, anti-Chinese rioters attacked the whole Chinese community.

Throughout the latter part of the 19th century and onward, “the brick limits”, City by-laws, only allowed brick buildings, including houses, to be built in certain areas. Wooden structures were banned for reasons of public safety; the risk of fire spreading through large areas of downtown was too much to allow wooden buildings. On real estate ads of the early 20th century you often see “restricted neighbourhood”. This did mean brick houses only, but it was more insidious than that.

People used the brick limits to keep Chinese people out of neighbourhoods.  They would lobby for the brick limits to keep Asian people out. Some places in our neighbourhood were “restricted”; others, obviously, were not. But more subtle discrimination existed and it is not often talked about. These were so-called restrictive covenants written into mortgages. Such restrictive covenants specified that the property could only be sold to representatives of certain groups, namely white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants, and, correspondingly could not be sold to immigrants, Negroes, Asians, Jews, Catholics or other “undesirables”.

Such racist and discriminatory restrictive covenants were common throughout Ontario and, like a cold silent wall, kept thousands of people in ethnic ghettos. East End resident Harry Wilmot, in an interview for the T.P.L. local history collection, recalled, “When I was a boy, very rarely you met anybody who wasn’t born here or Anglo-Saxon or whatever you call them.”

According to the 1901 Dominion Census, the population of Toronto grows from just over 9,000 in 1834 to over 300,000 in 1901. 90 percent of Toronto’s citizens were of British ancestry. The largest ethnic group was Germans at 3 percent; the next largest, Jews at 1.9 percent. Toronto had 96 Chinese laundries, compared to 66 laundries ran by others. A number of Chinese restaurants and laundries where on Gerrard Street East and Queen Street East. The owners and their families lived above them, but only rarely did were they found living on any East End side streets due to restrictive covenants and outright racial discrimination.


In 1902 as Imperial pride grew, Canada celebrated “Empire Day”, May 24, 1902, for the first time. “Victoria Day” had been renamed.

1903 Globe, Dec. 12, 1903 Chinese Wife

Globe, Dec. 12, 1903

When the first Chinese woman appeared on Toronto’s streets, the Morality Squad or Vice Squad, the specialized team that enforced anti-prostitution and anti-gambling laws, promptly arrested her husband. That year Ottawa raised the head tax to $500, far more than most working people earned in a year.

On May 23, 1904, “Empire Day” became celebrated across the British Empire. This move was to honour the support the Dominions, including Canada, lent to the Mother Country during the Boer War (1899 to 1902).

In 1906 Newfoundland passed legislation requiring all Chinese immigrants to pay a $300 head tax.

In 1907 anti-Asian rioters rampaged through Vancouver’s Chinatown, burning and looting Chinese and Japanese shops and businesses.


Vancouver's Powell Street after race riot of September 7, 1907

Vancouver’s Powell Street after race riot of September 7, 1907

Despite the hardship, some men found the means to raise money to bring their wives and families to Canada.

Canadian Courier, Vol. II, No. 18, September 28, 1907

Canadian Courier, Vol. II, No. 18, September 28, 1907

The police harassed the Chinese community in which gambling was a long tradition. Fan Tan was particularly popular, but other games were played as well.

Toronto Star, March 5, 1907

Toronto Star, March 5, 1907

The predominant view was that Canada was and should be “A White Man’s Country”.

19081209 GL A White Man's Country

Globe, December 9, 1908


Some in Toronto’s East End stood up against the prejudice and supported their Chinese neighbours.

19081029 TS Petition in favor Chinese laundry



Despite the fact that Canada’s Immigration Act of 1909 specifically provided for the prohibition of “any race deemed unsuited to the climate or requirements of Canada”, by 1910 more than a thousand Chinese people lived in Toronto — mostly in “the Ward”. This was a poor area, near Old City Hall, and the nucleus of the first Toronto Chinatown. The parade of 1912 seems to be the first such celebration in Toronto.


Canadian Courier, Vol. XI, No. 8, Jan. 20, 1912

Canadian Courier, Vol. XI, No. 8, Jan. 20, 1912

Canadian Courier, Vol. XI, No. 8, Jan. 20, 1912c


Globe, Jan. 9, 1912 article about parade


Globe, January 9, 1912 Toronto Parade

Only a few weeks later, on January 29, 1912, an article appeared in The Globe, arguing that the country should be kept for whites.

While some women and children slipped in, many Chinese men were unable to bring their loved ones to Canada. The cost was simply prohibitive on their meager incomes and the result was often depression and all too often suicide.

Globe, November 21, 1913 Suicide Kingston Road

Globe, November 21, 1913


They faced grinding prejudice that rarely seemed to abate as more and more restrictions were placed on their ability to make a living.

Toronto Sunday World, April 14, 1914 Chinese restaurants and women

Toronto Sunday World, April 14, 1914

Even relatively progressive men and women turned on the vulnerable. Sam McBride would go to become one of Toronto’s most popular mayors.

Toronto Star, June 15, 1915

Toronto Star, June 15, 1915

McBride’s memory is celebrated on one of Toronto’s beloved ferries.

View of ferry "Sam McBride" pulling into ferry docks

The Sam McBride

Though the Canadian army was desperate for men, Chinese Canadians were not welcome except as labourers. Nonetheless, they formed Home Defense Corps to defend their new country.

The Canadian Courier Vol. XVIII. No. 26 (November 27th, 1915)

The Canadian Courier, Vol. XVIII. No. 26 (November 27th, 1915)

Picture11917 (a) Chinese labourers (b) Coolie compound (c) Chinese labourers (d) Chinese detraining, Camp Petawawa, [Ontario] 1917, Library and Archives Canada

Chinese Labour Battalions in France celebrating the Chinese New Year on Feb, 11, 1917, NARCH

Chinese Labour Battalions in France celebrating the Chinese New Year on Feb, 11, 1917, Library and Archives Canada

From 1917 to 1918  Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia made it illegal for Chinese-owned restaurants and laundries to hire white women.  The Chinese community challenged the law in the courts, but the courts upheld the discriminatory legislation. The common prejudice was that Chinese men would exploit white female workers sexually, perhaps selling them into “the white slave trade”.

Pushed to the brink, men continued to take their own lives and this, perhaps to Toronto’s embarrassment, appeared in papers across the country at a time before the media stopped reporting on suicide.

December 9, 1917, Brandon Daily Sun Suicide in Toronto

Brandon Daily Sun, December 9, 1917


Despite the hardship, most continued to build their businesses and community.

The Canadian Courier Vol. XXIII. No. 13 (March 30, 1918) Dr Mah MacWong

The Canadian Courier, Vol. XXIII. No. 13 (March 30, 1918)

Canadian Courier, Vol. XXIII. No. 13, March 30, 1918

Canadian Courier, Vol. XXIII. No. 13, March 30, 1918

But the ghost of “The Yellow Peril”, which existed only in the minds of the prejudiced, continued to haunt Canada.

Globe, April 10, 1918a

Globe, April 10, 1918b Yellow Peril3 - Copy

Globe, April 10, 1918


In 1919, a Toronto mob attacked Chinatown. Montreal Gazette, Nov. 19, 1919 Mob attacks ChinatownToronto had 2,100 Chinese with 35 families.

The Canadian House of Commons amended The Dominion Elections Act in 1920 to make women eligible to sit in the House of Commons. At the same time, some Chinese veterans who had served in World War One were enfranchised.

By 1921, just before the passing of The Chinese Immigration Act, Toronto’s Chinese community had grown to 2,176 representing 0.4% of Toronto’s population. There were now 374 Chinese laundries in Toronto. Chinese market gardens were springing up in the East End and on the Humber. The Globe, Oct. 27, 1922, reported:

Chinese market gardener

Chinese market gardener

Toronto’s Suburbs Are Favored Section – Growers Voice Protest

Although here in but few numbers yet, the Chinese are steadily establishing themselves in the market garden trade about the fringes of Toronto. Vegetables grown by them are bought by Toronto merchants and are sold on Toronto markets.

This gradual infiltration in many of its aspects much resembles British Columbia’s unfortunate experience. In the Western Province much, if not most, of the desirable market gardening land has been gradually acquired by Chinese; the great trucking trade of the Coast is practically in their hands. First came one Chinaman offering an exceptional sum for land rental. Cupidity closed the bargain. Then there appeared more of these newcomers throughout the neighbourhood. Hemmed in by people whose standard of living was objectionable, and against whose methods of working they could not decently compete, the Canadian gardeners had but one course of action – they sold out to the invaders and moved farther afield, often to poorer land.

Settling About Toronto.

So it is to some extent here about Toronto. One place of about 11 acres the Chinese have rented for one thousand dollars a season. All about the city limits this settlement is going on. The Globe’s representative saw Chinese gardeners at work on the Humber flats by Lambton. Immediately alongside the Lambton Golf Course, three of them are working a small piece of ground, and living in a little scrapboard shack. There are small settlements started at Humber Bay, along the Islington road, Eglinton avenue around Mount Dennis and Weston.

Work on Sundays

“We should not be afraid of their competition as gardeners,” said F.F. Reeves of Humber Bay, a well known grower, “were they compelled to live in a manner befitting Canadian citizens. But this they do not do. They live in hovels for the most part, and observe few of the decencies that Canadian custom demands from others. Sundays are work days for them as much as any other day of the week.”

The owner of the land by the Humber which some of the Chinese have rented said that he had no fault to find. He commended them for their industrious habits and quiet manners. Some of the other land owners in the vicinity, however, were not so enthusiastic.

Open Competitors.

Professor A. McLennan of the Ontario Agricultural College, Vegetable Specialist for the Ontario Government, stated that there was a [illegible] agitation against the Chinese market gardener. “He first started growing crops for his own people, generally special crops which our own growers did not handle. Lately he has begun to compete with these growers and to undersell them on the open market.”

Mr. McLennan had no figures to show the extent of Chinese settlement throughout Ontario, but stated that the majority were to be found about Toronto.

Only a Start.

The general feeling is that the influx has only begun. One grower expressed the opinion that some organization was behind the individual and was providing the money for the big rentals. The movement has started, but is yet small, and should be watched carefully. For it is apparent that the Chinese can establish themselves in the market garden trade in Ontario; and what was shown in British Columbia will prove as sure for us – when the Chinese start to sift in the Canadians begin to leave. We should better preserve our good lands there than we have done in the West. 



Residence of a Chinese Gardener in Lambton, Oct. 10, 1922, Library and Archives Canada

Residence of a Chinese Gardener in Lambton, Oct. 10, 1922, Library and Archives Canada


Globe, Oct. 23, 1923

Globe, Oct. 23, 1923

Violence against Chinese Canadians seemed to escalate as did legal moves to restrict their lives even further. In 1923 the Canadian House of Commons passed the Chinese Immigration Act which basically banned all Chinese immigration. They didn’t repeal it until 1947.

America passed The Immigration Act of 1924 to keep out “aliens ineligible to citizenship,” practically excluding Asians from entry into the U.S. It also stipulated that only white people could be naturalized as U.S. citizens.








Chinese Methodist Mission School Annual Picnic June 21, 1924 TARCH

Chinese Methodist Mission School Annual Picnic June 21, 1924 City of Toronto Archives

Ministers refused to marry inter-racial couples, here and in other places in Canada.

Lethbridge Herald, Feb. 9, 1925 Minister refuses to marry couple

Lethbridge Herald, Feb. 9, 1925

Nonetheless, despite it all, the Chinese community showed remarkable resilience.


Beverly St Baptist Church, Chinese kids Xmas tree. - December 22, 1926

Beverly St Baptist Church – December 22, 1926

Chinese Picnic, father & children on bench. - June 17, 1927

Chinese Picnic, father and children on bench, C.N.E. – June 17, 1927


To Celebrate the Opening of the Canadian Toronto Chinese Christian Youth (YMCA) School, May 30 - June 6, 1926 OARCH

To Celebrate the Opening of the Canadian Toronto Chinese Christian Youth (YMCA) School, May 30 – June 6, 1926, Archives of Ontario

During the 1930’s, Chinese Canadians in Toronto founded the first organization to fight for the abolition of the discriminatory Canadian immigration policies. Leaders in the local Chinese community formed the Committee for the Movement to Abolish the Canadian Restrictive Immigration Policy Towards Chinese in the face of a Toronto that  was frequently referred to as the “Belfast of Canada” due to the British dominance and Orange Lodge which controlled municipal government.

The Dominion Census returns of June 1, 1931 indicated that 72 percent of Ontario’s population of 3.4 million was born in Canada; 10 percent in England; 3.5 percent, Scotland; and 1½ percent, Ireland. 631,201 people lived in the City of Toronto. The overwhelming majority were still British-born or of British descent, but there was now a growing population of Jewish immigrants, and others from eastern and southern Europe. 80.9 percent of Torontonians were of British origin; the Jewish population of 45,305 was the largest non-British group (7.2 percent of the city’s population).

Chinese Picnic, group of 5 children, Exhibition. - June 18, 1926

Chinese Picnic, group of 5 children, Exhibition. – June 18, 1926

Vincenzo Casci: Vintner, Sculptor

Grapes Niagara 1884Did you know that an internationally award-winning vineyard perched on the east side of Coxwell Avenue north of Gerrard?

City of Toronto Interactive map Casci Avenue2

City of Toronto Interactive map. Detail: Casci Avenue, map 1.

A small street, Casci Avenue, is the only reminder left on Coxwell Avenue, but the story is fascinating.

Vincenzo Giuseppe Casci was a sculptor. He was born October 17, 1828, in Barga, Lucca, Tuscany, Italy.


A cartoon of a figurinai on the streets of Paris. One wonders what they would do with the current American president?

John E. Zucchi’s book, Italians in Toronto, (p. 78) says:

Arriving at about the same time as the Genoese were the plaster statuary vendors from Bagni di Lucca (Tuscany), and especially from the town of Barga. These boys and men, known as figurinai, had literally circled the globe peddling or casting statuettes in urban centres. They had plied their trade in London and Paris from at least the late eighteenth century. In 1821, twenty-three of these figurine makers were recorded in Paris alone, where they were often arrested for sedition for casting moulds of political figures. These men and boys usually travelled in groups of about ten under the direction of a contractor or boss, to whom the apprentices and vendors were apprenticed under two- or thee-year contracts. In each town or city visited by the band, the contractor kept a supply of plaster and other goods necessary for his trade. The figurine makers carried their own tools and plaster models. In that way the statuettes and medals were produced in each city and not carried from one locale to another.

When the period of apprenticeships ended, the young men set out on their own to test new markets. Some of them crossed the Atlantic Ocean and journeyed to cities and towns in North and South America. Vincent Casci and Harry Castrucci were among the early figurine makers and vendors in Toronto. Like other lucchesi, they made the statues from casts they carried with them, and sold them to the general public, although Casci, as a skilled sculptor, also produced statues for a number of churches.

enfantVincenzo Giuseppe Casci came as an immigrant to New York by ship, and travelled onward probably selling his wares as he went. Casci arrived in Philadelphia, April 15, 1851, on the ship Johanna which sailed from Livorno (Leghorn), Italy (86 km from Barga). The ship’s manifest lists him as a “marble statue” maker. He then went on to Toronto.


He was a Catholic, but, on December 16, 1861, at St. James Cathedral he married a German Lutheran Henrietta Carle Zink and the children were raised as Anglicans. Both Catholics and Protestant frowned on mixed marriage.

Casci3Casci worked as a sculptor, early advertising his skills with plaster of paris, selling small pieces on the street and making larger works for churches. In The Globe of June 21, 1862, he advertised “Plaster of Paris Manufacturer. All sorts of figures in groups, &c., Hat, Cap and Bonnet, Blocks, made and repaired. V. Casci, 193 Yong St. Cameron’s Block, Toronto, June 4.”

In 1866, according to the Journal of the Board of Arts and Manufactures for Upper Canada, Vol. 6, p. 266, V. Casci’s plaster of paris cast won a prize of $2.00 at the 21st Annual Exhibition.

City of Toronto Interactive map Casci Avenue

City of Toronto Interactive map Casci Avenue.

But his heart was in wine making, a challenge in Ontario then and now. He had his sculptor studio and shop downtown on King Street, but bought a piece of land near Coxwell and Upper Gerrard for a vineyard where he raised prize-winning grapes. Here he built a house that he called “Villa Casci”.

Casci2The contour lines show what an ideal situation this was for a vineyard. The steep south and west facing slopes of the ravine allowed many hours of sunlight to reach Casci’s treasured vines. A branch of Small’s Creek flowed through the ravine, providing clean cool water for irrigation. The east side of the ravine was steep — and still is. But the west side was gentler. Nevertheless, that western slope and the railway embankment sheltered the vineyard from harsh northwesterly winter winds, lengthening the growing season. As far as I can tell, Casci was the first European-Canadian to cultivate this soil so it would have had a thick layer of pine needles and rich soil on top of a sandy subsoil, allowing the drainage vines need to prevent their roots from rotting and fungi attacking the grapes. Nearby Lake Ontario also moderated the much colder climate of the 19th century. In the winter the lake acted as a giant hot water bottle (even though it was cold it was warmer than the land). So the north shore of Ashbridge’s Bay and the farms just north of it enjoyed warmer winters and longer growing seasons. In the summer, the lake acted as a giant refrigerator, cooling the area. Vincenzo Casci’s intelligence must have been as sparkling as some of his wines. He could see what no one else could see — not a patch of pine forest but a potential vineyard.

Casci1The wines he made won him acclaim and even mention in the British House of Commons and a place and the American Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876. In 1876, according to the Sessional Papers of the Ontario Legislative Assembly, Vol. 9, Part 3, p. 167, Vincenzo Casci won a bronze medal at the great Centennial for his wine collection. On page 51, Sessional Papers, Legislature of the Province of Ontario, Vol. 3, p. 151, it says of Vincenzo Casci:

Mr. Casci has had great experience in the manufacture of wine, as he was formerly an overseer of several vineyards in Italy. All his wines are manufactured from the pure juice of the grape, without colouring or flavouring materials, and being pure and unadulterated, are strongly recommended for medicinal purposes.

He also exhibited sculptures of fruit at the Centennial Exhibition. Britain’s The Parliamentary Papers, House of Commons and Command, Vol.35, (1877), p. 91, lists Ontario’s achievements at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition and notes:

V. Casci, Toronto, collection of Wines, chiefly for the “Grape Wine”, marked No. 6.

This is the one that won a Bronze Medal. He also exhibited a cherry wine (p. 99). In The Official Catalogue of the United States Centennial Committee, p. 45, it lists:

Casci, V. Toronto, Ont. a) Wines b) Plaster Work.

At Toronto’s 1877 Industrial Exhibition he won second prize for the “Best half dozen dry wines” and second prize for the “best half dozen sweet wine”, but won first prize ($10.00) for the “Best half dozen sparkling wine” (Globe, September 27, 1877). He also won second prize for the “Best half dozen Canada claret” behind a Saltfleet winemaker. The Globe of September 16, Sep 1880 in its “Report on the Industrial Exhibition, Toronto” mentions Vincent Casci’s native wines. There was also a Canadian Wine Growers’ Association based in Toronto.

On January 8, 1885, Vincent died at the age of 56 from gangrene. Before the age of antibiotics, infected wounds, even small cuts, took many before their time. On his death certificate (January 8, 1885), Vincenzo’s occupation is listed as an “Image Maker”, a translation of figurinai.


A figurinai with some classical busts of the kind that would appeal to the upper class Torontonians who were educated in the classics (Greek and Latin) at schools like Upper Canada College.

His son Frederick William Casci (1873-1946) took over the property near Coxwell and Gerrard. He sued the City of Toronto when the City took part of the vineyard to widen Coxwell Avenue and built the railway overpass. (Toronto Star, Feb. 17, 1915) Fred Casci won $21,915 for that part of the Villa Casci lands expropriated to build the overpass. The arbitrator also award Casci the legal costs of the arbitration. (Globe, June 11, 1915).


In the 1921 Might’s City Directory, Augustus Casci, a candy maker or “confectioner”, was living at 53 Hamilton Street. Frederick William Casci, a tanner with A.R. Clarke & Co., the glove manufacturer with a tannery on Eastern Avenue near Leslie St., was living on Eighth Avenue (presumably on the vineyard) with his family. Eighth Avenue no longer exists but according to this Directory it ran “North and east from Gerrard e to Woodbine Av, first east of Coxwell av, ward 8”. The Casci family were at #72.

Vincenzo and Henrietta had seven children: Annie Elizabeth (1865 – 1919); Augustus Vincent Casci (1867 – 1932); Ralph Canova Casci (1868 – ?); Frank J Casci (1870 – 1928); Frederick William Casci (1873 – 1946); Antonio Luigi Casci (1875 – 1875); and James Bertie Casci (1877 – ).

Casci Villla sign

There are Casci descendants in Toronto today. One of them still has the vineyard sign! So every time you walk by that strip mall at Upper Gerrard and Coxwell, throw your mind and imagination back to the days when the property was covered with grape vines and a large sign “Villa Casci” welcomed visitors to one of Toronto’s best men and some of the best wines.

Clip Art Fruit basket

for more about the figurinai of Lucca and the surrounding villages in Tuscany go to: