Welcome to the story of a street and a subdivision. Who knew that such a short street could spin so many golden stories! There is so much to share about Austin Avenue, but records can only tell so much. Do you live on Austin Avenue? Is it a good place to live? What about your house? Does it hold secrets? I have combed many sources to uncover some of those tales and will post more than one page on Austin Avenue if the response warrants it. Local historians run the risk of being the bore at the party that everyone hides from. I like to think of myself as a story teller too and I find the stories of everyday people and neighbourhoods intriguing. Each house a mystery! Let me know if you want more on Austin Avenue. Further on in the article I start with a house by house listing of documents, beginning with the north side of the street and ending in the middle (I ran out of energy!)
Maple Leaf Skating Rink is where the recreation centre is today. I suspect that the Maple Leaf Tavern was for a period of time the clubhouse for the skating rink — it was one way to get around the prohibition and temperance laws.
Most of these properties were granted to “reliable” people, friends of Lieut. Governor John Graves Simcoe. Some were United Empire Loyalists like Christopher Robinson; others like the Ashbridges were “Late Loyalists” who came for cheap or free land. Many of the large landowners listed in the map above held onto their property until the building boom of the 1850’s when they subdivided it into market gardens. Those market gardens were later subdivided further into small housing developments like Subdivision Plan #549.
Subdivision 549 This property was purchased by George Washington Badgerow in 1886 from John Mills. Badgerow developed Subdivision 549, selling 26 lots almost immediately. Each lot was in turn subdivided and small wooden houses built.
Newspaper articles can give a sense of the life of the street. Perhaps some of these stories are ones the current residents of Austin Avenue can relate to.
Another way to find a lot of information is to go over the title search if you own your house or to have a title search done. It can also be done on line for free (but not more recent transactions) or by going to a Land Registry Office and doing it yourself. Here are some examples of the kind of information in these documents.
Lot 1 309 and 311 Pape Avenue
In 1886 George W. Badgerow sold two lots to Mark Sparkhall and Fanny Otter while holding the mortgages on the properties. Over the next two decades the properties passed through various hands, including members of the Pape family of market gardeners who had extensive greenhouses on Pape Avenue.
In 1903 trustees of the Toronto Hebrew Congregation Holy Blossom purchased the property from George Alexander Woodward. In 1905 they sold some of the property to Robert and Mary E. Lankin. The property then was purchased by a series of owners, including Hugh D. Wise, a famous rower of the time, and his wife Sarah. The Wises were brickmakers which suggests that this property may have been a brick clay pit. Leslie Creek and Holly Creek cut ravines through the area. This exposed the layers of clay and sand in the creek banks. Clay, sand and water were the essential raw materials used to make bricks.
Lots 2 & 3 2 to 16 Austin Avenue.
David Hunter brought Lot 3 from Badgerow and sold it to John Jones. Both were brickmakers and may have mined out the clay before they sold the property for housing..
One of the mortgage holders was Goldwin Smith of the Grange. This and Lot 3 became part of another Subdivision Plan: Subdivision #230.
Lot 4 303 and 305 Pape Avenue
In 1886 George W. Badgerow purchased Lot 4 from John Mills and subdivided it. Eventually it was purchased by James Clifford and his wife Helen and Cliffords lived there until the 1960’s.
Lot 5 301, 299, 297 Pape Ave
In 1896 City of Toronto seized it for unpaid taxes and in 1907 sold it to Robert Lankin.
Lot 6 275, 285 Pape Avenue
Lot 7 11, 15 Austin Avenue
In 1886 Badgerow sold this to Charles H Clifford. It stayed in the Clifford family until 1969.
Lot 8 17 and 19 Austin Ave
A.M. Wellings purchased this lot from Badgerow in 1886.
Lot 9 Jones Jones bought this property from Badgerow in 1886 and the next year sold it to William White. It stayed in the White family until the 1950s.
Lot 10 In 1886 Badgerow sold this lot to James Poole. The lots passed through various hands.
Lot 11 John Jones brought the property from Badgerow and in turn sold it to one of the Hagerman family (Albert E. Hagerman)
Lot 13 Catherine and Jeremiah Lynch brought the property in 1886 from George W Badgerow. It remained in the Lynch family for many years.
Lot 14 Honora Ellen (Nora) Lynch bought this property from Badgerow in 1887. In 1913 it was owned by Nora and Ellen Lynch, spinsters.
Lot 15 In 1887 Badgerow sold this lot to the Ingram family.
Some of these real estate transactions appeared in the newspapers of the day.
Here is a real estate ad from the early days of Austin Avenue.
But back to the lives of those who lived on Austin Avenue.
If you like this page, please let us know and we will post more on the people of Austin Avenue.
5 thoughts on “Austin Avenue: Subdivision 549 by Joanne Doucette”
Thank-you for this article. I do appreciate it. As a sometimes Family History researcher I know how much work it can be to dig up the little gems that make a street a community. I have shared this article in the Austin Avenue Facebook page.
This was just a delight to read. Thank you so much for your effort!
What follows is lengthy.
Well-done with this Austin article! I am a retired teacher who once taught at both local schools, Morse Street plus Bruce. Have lived on Badgerow since the early ’80s, back when this neighbourhood had both the highest rate of teen pregnancies, plus the highest rate of preemie births in the entire GTA. The latter probably had to do with the contaminated soil from past industrial presence here, no? My source for that data was the former-Bruce Principal Valerie Mah, who just died of covid last week.
Nice to finally see a photo of old Mr. Badgerow. I’m also a history major with an enduring fascination for local history.
My wife Ellen and I live next door to the old heritage home which is @ 44 Badgerow. Its my understanding that the Simpson family built the original house and ran their horse-and-carriage livery business from there. Their final descendant was a widow who died there in the mid ’90s. Subsequent residents were surprised to discover such historical items as ancient dry-cleaning still in the plastic wrap and with receipt down in the dungy basement, plus horse bones dug up during backyard work as recently as 2003. *The alley between Austin and Badgerow was apparently the trotting lane for the Simpson business horses.
One young couple who lived in that home circa 2003, also had an interest in the history of this immediate street and the husband claimed to me that he had located a collection of old 19C photos taken on Austin and Badgerow. He never got around to showing them to me, nor did I retain his supposed source. Years later, I went repeatedly to some of the usual municipal locations in hopes of seeing those same shots, but to no avail. Couldn’t find a single image of our pair of streets. Pity. There is however, one good photo taken near the site of that old Maple Leaf Skating Rink looking west along Gerrard.
Speaking of the Maple Leaf, back when it was a tavern in the early ’80s, the lounge trio that I drummed for as a way of paying my way through York teachers college, had a few gigs there (see ‘dive bar’). Also regarding past local musical experiences, the local band ‘Max Webster’ (i.e. guitarist Kim Mitchell) once performed on a hot July day in ’74 over at the Greenwood Park Free Rock Fest, along with several other local rock acts. As well, the legendary group ‘Rush’ recorded a pair of their albums in the area: first at a recording studio on McGee then their swan song finale at another studio near Greenwood, just across from the Leslie Loblaws.
Did you hear about the recent windfalls experienced by my old Morse school, plus Riverdale C.I.? Each received $2.3 million from a former student’s will! The Globe wrote a good article about all that.
Just a final word here about our beloved local libraries. Very few residents frequent our TPL system as often as my wife and I continue to do. But both of my ongoing pitches to the executive brass at TPL have failed. Firstly, I have petitioned them to name one of their new branches after the late librarian from Queen-Saulter branch, the much-missed Sue O’Neall. Sue was murdered here by her conman boyfriend back in ’89. She had been one of the kindest local librarians in terms of agreeing to host my rarefied Special Ed classes. Back then, I taught young offenders and was often in need of a public venue to host my students and I. The modest Police Museum at the College Street HQ has a display about poor Sue’s tragic case. TPL has thus far refused to name a branch after Sue. Shame.
I have also asked TPL to replace the tiny-therefore-inadequate Jones branch and proposed that it be rebuilt as part of a new Community Centre just down the way at Leslie Grove parkette, where the old baseball diamond site would be ideal. Of course, that parkette was once the hub of pioneering market gardener George Leslie’s original business. Poor boys apparently hopped his stone perimeter fence at night to steal flowers to resell. Later during the Depression, it seems that Premier Doug Ford’s similarly-impoverished father stole local coal along eastern Avenue for his struggling parents.
I was amused to read about George Leslie’s apparently idiotic pair of adult sons who first immediately botched the managing of their dad’s market garden after inheriting it, then also could not handle operating the local postal office, another of their father’s local businesses. believe that the latter was one of those ancient red-brick lane structures in our area, maybe the one just a block east of Morse school, just south of the South Riverdale health clinic.
That’s it Joanne. Again, thank you for your efforts on behalf of our neighbourhood history. Great stuff, well appreciated. Maybe after this covid is over we can meet for coffee and historical discussion, Ellen, myself, yourself plus whoever?
former rock drummer
feeder of birds
PS wazzup wid dat heritage home at corner Pape/Riverdale, the old home for pregnant teens during the ’60s? Any idea what the current extensive renos are all about? I have always maintained that Leslieville should look into establishing the world’s first Travel Hall of Fame, in hopes that such a place might become a tourist attraction along the lines of Cleveland’s similarly narrow-in-focus Rock & Roll Hall of Fame–wouldn’t that aforementioned structure mentioned above in this paragraph be perfect for that?
Such a delight to hear from you Gregg. I agree about naming a branch for Sue O’Neall. I was chair of the Toronto Public Library Board when her boyfriend murdered her and dumped her body in a ravine. It was sickening. I gave the eulogy at her memorial service. She was a wonderful person and a great librarian. As to the big house — I haven’t been following it but my friend Jim Harris, one of the descendants of the Harris family of butchers who built the house, watches it like a veritable hawk. Best wishes and thanks for all the information. Regards, Joanne Doucette, watcher of birds, retired jill-of-all trades
Thanks for pulling this information together. It appears that Allen Morris, listed as the son of policeman Gordon Morris of 59 Austin Ave in the 1911 and 1921 censuses, was Canadian football Hall of Famer “Teddy” Morris, real name Allen Byron Morris, who won 3 Grey Cups playing for the Toronto Argonauts (1931-39), and 3 more Grey Cups as their head coach (1945-49), becoming one of the giants of Toronto sports of the middle third of the twentieth century. I research Argonauts history and am working on a biography of Morris. He was famous for being tough as nails despite a small stature – they called him “Little Iron Man” – and it sounds like he grew up in a tough neighbour hood.
Dr. James Fraser
University of Guelph