Month: October 2017

East End Sports Timeline

1848 The first regatta took place on Toronto bay in 1848.[1] 1880 It has been arranged that H.D. Wise, of Leslieville, will contest with Charles Annis, on Orillia Bay, a three mile race with a turn…for $100; the race to come off on August 25th. [2]1880 It has been arranged that H.D. Wise, of Leslieville, will contest with Charles Annis, on Irillia Bay, a three mile race with a turn…for $100; the race to come off on August 25th.[3] 1881 “THE Hounds. The Hounds will meet this afternoon at Ben Lamond corners, Kingston Road, at 3:30.”[4] 1882 The militia met to practice shooting. The 12th Battalion (York) had No. 1 Company (Riverside). The troops competed for prizes and cups, individually and as teams.[5] 1883 Sleighing Party.  A large and merry crew sailed forth from O’Keefe’s brewery last evening and wended their way to the Woodbine, on the Kingston-road. Including the contingent which joined them at Simcoe-street, the party mustered about 200, and formed a pleasing procession as the half-dozen pleasure-vans, with flambeaux blazing and the …

Decoding City Directories to find out more about your home, your street, your city

Ever wondered who lived where your home is long, long ago? Well, I can give you some idea because I have directories from the early twentieth century and the nineteenth century. But there are no street addresses in the earlier directories. Look at this example from 1866 for Leslieville. I think you’d agree that there is lots of information here. Who knew that there was a Leslieville Oil Company! They found pockets of natural gas, but no oil. The people are interesting and even more so if you know a little about them. R. Ambrose was a labourer in George Leslie’s Toronto Nursery. Later Ambroses became gardeners on the long-vanished Toronto Golf Club course at Upper Gerrard and Coxwell. The Ashbridge Estate still has a lovely old Ashbridge family home and hosts a flea market in the summer. James Berry was an African American who came north before the end of slavery. The Finucans and others were Irish Catholics who came here during the Potato Famine. William Higgins was Toronto’s first High Constable or chief …

Riverdale Gardens & the Edwardian Dream Home

We think of the Edwardian period as the time when King Edward VII, Victoria’s son reigned. That is the period from 1901 to 1910. For Riverdale Gardens, this is the period when Albert Wagstaff and others opened brick yards along Greenwood near the railway tracks. William Prust, Riverdale Garden’s founder, retired from his positions in Haliburton during this period and moved to Greenwood Avenue in Toronto. Let’s be clear, I love this neighbourhood and it is very different from anything else in our area. Some of the words to describe these Edwardian homes are quite technical and, if you don’t know them, don’t worry, I didn’t either — at least when I began researching many years ago. I have added a section at the end with definitions of the various technical terms used.   But Edwardian architecture, including the house style that dominates Riverdale Gardens, began earlier in the dying years of Queen Victoria’s reign. The change from the Victorian architecture of the 1890’s to the new style was dramatic. In the earlier Victorian period …

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 …