From 1836 to 1837 workers had straightened and planked the Kingston Road. It became a toll road, providing a reasonably good route for transporting products in and out of Toronto. Here, in 1842, Scottish gardener and tree grower, George Leslie, leased 20 acres of land from Charles Coxwell Small for a 21-year term. George’s landlord, Small, a member of the Family Compact and Clerk of the Crown, was the owner of extensive lands in the area. (Coxwell Avenue is named after him.) Small may have thought he got the better of the deal when he found someone foolish enough to lease his 20 acres of mucky swampland on the shores of Ashbridge’s Bay. The Toronto Nurseries was built on a tamarack-covered swamp (Larchmount Avenue recalls this). These 20 acres of rich black mud were the core of his nursery which would expand to 200 acres, the largest in Canada. George Leslie did not buy that land until the lease ran out in 1863. Then Small demanded an exorbitant price from Leslie and apparently got it. George Leslie valued that soft, rich dark muck and others recognized its worth, as shown in the Annual Report of the Bureau of Forestry for the Province of Ontario.
The memory of the tamaracks and reeds remained for decades. Marigold Gardens, the subdivision on Toronto Nurseries land, was nothing but “bulrushes and swamps”. Ward 8 News. “Short Stories of Leslieville” in Ward 8 News, February 9, 1979. Marigold Gardens is one street in the former Leslie Gardens subdivision built by realtor and contractor H. Addison Johnston.
George Leslie died on June 14, 1893. George Leslie left a large estate with considerable real estate, including properties on Queen Street East, on Jones Avenue, on Curzon Street, on Eastern Avenue, and on Leslie Street, worth almost $115,000 in 1893. Not long after George Leslie died most of the Nurseries was sold. Before long most of the land was mortgaged to the Gooderhams and sold off around 1910. Some Leslie descendants still remember the grudge against the Gooderhams who “took” their land; others remember how like prodigal sons, John Knox and his brother George Leslie Jr., between the two, spent like millionaires, gambled, drank and womanized. The Leslie family’s loss was another family’s fortune.
“The market for small house properties continues to be very active.” Toronto Real Estate News Aldridge and Leslie Gardens, Globe, July 21, 1923
Welcome to the Leslieville Historical Society's website. Please feel free to join us, to ask questions, to attend walking tours and other events, and to celebrate Leslieville's past while creating our future. Guy Anderson, President, Leslieville Historical Society and Joanne Doucette, local historian and webmaster.
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