Brooklyn Avenue: Some Resources from the Early Days of the Street (Updatd October 22, 2022)

By Joanne Doucette (

This post includes:

  1. The Owners & Real Estate Developers
  2. Maps
  3. An Assessment Roll, 1897
  4. List of landowners owing back taxes
  5. City Directories
  6. 1891 Census

The Owners & Developers

Typical Ontario brickyard 1880s

In 1884 when the area was still Leslieville there was no Brooklyn Avenue and it is not listed in the 1885 Polk’s City Directory or the 1886 Polk’s City Directory.  A real estate company owned by James Armstrong and John J. Cook sold most of the property on the street. Brooklyn Avenue was named for a small creek that ran down through it, across Queen Street and down to Ashbridges Bay. Brickmakers followed the banks of these rivulets to look for deposits of the blue clay that they could use to make good bricks. Brooklyn Avenue ran through two brickyards. John Russell owned the brickyard on the west side of Brooklyn Avenue and David Wagstaff owned the brickyard on the east side.

John Russell Globe, July 5, 1902
James Armstrong, Brooklyn Avenue, pavement, Globe, May 4, 1886
Lots sold on Brooklyn Ave, Globe, June 24, 1886
Lots sold Brooklyn Ave, Globe, February 15, 1887
Lots sold Brooklyn Ave, Globe, March 26, 1887
Lots for sale, Armstrong & Cook, Globe, November 8, 1887
Lots for sale, Globe, February 18, 1888
lots for sale, Globe, July 21, 1888
Lots for sale cheap, Globe, August 27, 1892
James Armstrong, Armstrong & Cook dead, Globe, October 13, 1919
Both John Cook and James Armstrong died very wealthy men. James Armstrong, Armstrong & Cook, will, Globe, December 4, 1919
Realtor mourned John J Cook, Armstrong & Cook, Globe, June 5, 1933
The women of the family rarely get a mention. She was an exception and must have been an exceptional woman. Mrs John J Cook obituary, Globe, March 28, 1935


1851 map showing the area before the construction of the Grand Trunk Railway (now the GO Train line). The Holy Blossom Cemetery is on Pape Avenue.
1860 map shows the new Grand Trunk Rail line. George Leslie’s nursery is in the lower right, but he had not yet made his fortune and purchased the Widmer property on the west side of Jones Avenue or the Beaton property on the right.
Brooklyn Avenue doesn’t yet exist in 1884
Goad’s Atlas Plan, 1884
Plan of the City of Toronto 1885 Brooklyn Avenue area. Three creeks ran through the area. Holly Creek on the left crossed Gerrard and Carlaw Avenue. Leslie Creek in the middle gave Brooklyn Avenue its name — “brook” meaning a small creek and “lyn” from “linn” — A waterfall or cataract, or a ravine down which its water rushes The creek on the right is Hastings Creek.
1888 Plan of the City of Toronto and Suburbs by Penson, showing a new street: Brooklyn Avenue

Assessment Roll, Brooklyn Avenue, 1897

1890 Assessment Roll p. 47
1890 Assessment Roll p 48

Often property owners were slow, sometimes very late, in paying their property taxes. Brickyard owners and those with connections at City Hall made a practice of this at times. John Russell found that sometimes too late was really TOO LATE. When he didn’t pay his taxes on one of his many brickyards, the City of Toronto seized it for back taxes and sold it to create an industrial park on Carlaw Avenue that still stands today albeit re-invented as condos and boutiques. Russell fought it all the way to the Privy Council in London, England, but lost. Below is a list from the Toronto Star of November 4, 1897, of those property owners who were in default of their taxes. Many were absentee landowners, holding on to lots as investment opportunities.

Tax arrears, Toronto Star, November 4, 1897

Assessment appeals, Armstrong & Cook, Globe, June 9, 1897

City of Toronto Directories, 1887-1899

1887 City Directory
1888 City Directory







1891 Census

Published by Leslieville Historical Society

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.

One thought on “Brooklyn Avenue: Some Resources from the Early Days of the Street (Updatd October 22, 2022)

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