Month: October 2017

PART II: Ivy Avenue between a Devil and an Angel

If there is an angel or a saint in the story of Riverdale Gardens it is William Prust, the creator of that quiet enclave dissected by Sandford and Bloomfield, and bounded by Gerrard on the south, Ivy on the north, Prust on the west and Greenwood on the east.  William Prust was born on October 23, 1846, in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England. His father, Robert, was 29 and his mother, Frances (Fanny) Curtis, was 30. His father was a decorator and a house painter. Both worked hard and both died relatively young at a time when life expectancy among the working poor was short. There was, however, hope for a better life overseas in the colonies: Canada, Australia and New Zealand.   The School of Hard Rocks In the 1860s, the Canadian Land and Emigration Company of London, England bought 360,000 acres (150,000 ha) on the Canadian Shield north east of Peterborough. The Chair of this company was Judge Thomas Haliburton, well known as the author of “Sam Slick” and a politician. They planned on settling …

Ivy Avenue: before it was the boundary between Heaven and Hell

How did Ivy Avenue come to be the boundary between a kind of local heaven and a very local hell?  Well, it’s a long story, but I always like starting about 12,000 years ago — perhaps the local historian’s equivalent of “once upon a time”. In that long ago time, the ice from the last glacier melted leaving a deep cold lake called “Lake Iroquois” by geologists. It covered all of the area south of Taylor Creek. In time the lake itself disappeared leaving a much smaller Lake Ontario behind. But that’s not all that was left behind. It left a hook-shaped sand and gravel bar (solid orange yellow on the map) that stretched from the Scarborough Bluffs west and north to just south of O’Connor Drive, diverting the Don River westward. It left behind a thick layer of sand (the yellow, speckled area on the map). It and the lakes before it left a deposit of clay, dark green, on the map, perfect for making bricks. This drew brickmakers to the older area of …

Ulster Stadium: Home of the Red Handers

Behind the decaying Ulster Arms between Greenwood and Coxwell Avenues, lies a neat few streets. Blocky houses, called “four squares” and post-War bungalows line Hertle and Highfield, making this enclave unique. Most of the houses in the surrounding neighbourhood are 25 to 30 years older, having been built between 1912 and 1930. But that is not all that makes this tidy corner of the East End special. Before 1925 this was a brickyard, the Morley-Ashbridge brick pit. When the brickmakers had used up the clay they left a rectangular crater in the ground – a muddy crater with a creek running through it. Ashbridges Creek crossed Gerrard in a ravine and through the brickyard, providing the water needed to make the bricks. Joseph Russell sold the property. An investor purchased it but instead of building houses, he built a stadium – Ulster Stadium, the home of “the Red Handers”, formally known as “the Ulster United Football Club”. On Friday, January 9, 1914,  a group of Irish Protestants, mostly members of the Orange Lodge, got together …