Month: September 2017

A Lost Street: Applegrove Avenune

What happened? How can a street be lost? Let’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. 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, …

Some Leslieville Street Names

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 …

Apple Time in the East End

If 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? 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! 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. 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. Gullies, cut by streams, ran south the heights near the Danforth, draining away frigid air away, preventing frost damage to spring blossoms. The farmers diverted the streams to feed …

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 …

Vincenzo Casci: Vintner, Sculptor

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