Lawyer and real estate speculator George Washington Badgerow purchased the land from local farmer, John Henry Mills, in 1886 and laid out a new housing development: Subdivision #549.
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!)
1924 Goad’s Atlas detail. Subdivision 549 is on Concession One, Lot 12, York East and was originally granted to United Empire Loyalist Christopher Robinson. One of his sons, John Beverley Robinson, became a leading member of the Compact; another, Peter Robinson, founded Peterborough, Ontario.
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.
Lands granted, 1796, east of the Don.
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.
1860 Tremaine map John Henry Mills owned land east of Robinson Street (now called Pape Avenue) where Austin Avenue is today. He was a market gardener and former innkeeper of the Clyde Hotel on King Street in downtown Toronto. He retired to 343 Danforth Avenue where he built a home called “Clyde Cottage” and worked as a market gardener.
John Henry Mills with some of his eleven children.
1884 Goad’s Atlas detail showing John Mills’ property — the future Subdivision #549 and site of Austin Avenue. Cooper, Pape, Logan and Nicholson and Strader were all market gardeners.
George Washington Badgerow from Adam, Toronto Old and New, 1891
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.
from Adam, History of Toronto and the County of York, Vol. II, 1895
Telegram editor and local historian John Ross Robertson wrote in 1894, “Austin Avenue takes the name of James Austin, President of the Dominion Bank.” Landmarks, Vol. 1, 517.
The Austin family on the lawn of their home, Spadina House, which is today a City of Toronto museum and stands just east of Casa Loma on the brow of the Davenport ridge.
1887 City Directory Austin Avenue vacant houses
1888 City Directory
Seven years later the street began to fill up. 1894 Toronto City Directory
1894 Toronto City Directory
1894 Toronto City Directory
Many of the families listed here were among the first on Austin Avenue and their descendants stayed until the 1950’s and 1960’s. 1912 City Directory
Austin Avenue, a century ago. 1919 City of Toronto Directory
1919 Pape Avenue east side: 549 Subdivision properties
City Directories are great sources of information when researching a street, but so are censuses. 1921 Census Austin Avenue, p. 26
1921 Census Austin Ave p 27
1921 Census Austin Ave p 28
1921 Census Austin Ave p 29
1921 Census Austin Ave p 30
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.
2 Austin Avenue The Globe, April 21, 1899 Hogarth Avenue is named after the principal of Leslie Street School. Corporal punishment could be very violent indeed and there are a number of stories of Leslieville parents objecting to the harsh treatment of their sons. Daughters were usually spared physical violence, but not verbal abuse. A girl who acted out was made to sit on a stool in the corner wearing a tall cone shaped hat with the letters D-U-N-C-E spelled out on it.
Many of these small family businesses have been converted into homes. Globe, May 25, 1909
6 Austin Avenue, Toronto Star, October 6, 1918
8 Austin Avenue, William Robertson Hodge’s death was reported on the day the Great War ended: now known as Remembrance Day. Toronto Star, November 11, 1918
Sergeant A Robertson, 10 Austin Avenue, wounded. The impact of World War One on the street cannot be understated.
10 Austin Avenue: Highway Robbery A number of market gardeners lived on and around Austin Avenue. Strong arm tactics to hijack valuable cargo was not uncommon though this was particularly audacious. Often the motive was to re-sell the produce and sometimes simply to get something to eat. The perpetrators usually knew their victims and counted on intimidation to keep the victims from reporting to the police. Gangs were a reality back then too. Timothy Lynch of Austin Avenue took the law into his own hands shooting those who robbed his orchard. But that’s another story. Globe, September 10, 1909
24 Austin Avenue The Rev. F.C.C. Heathcote
24 Austin Avenue Rev. F.C.C. Heathcote building permit Globe, December 27, 1900
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.
24 Austin Avenue is, I believe, on Lot 18, Plan 549. I am far from an expert on Land Registry documents as I don’t normally do house histories. But this time I wanted to delve deeper into the history of the street as I have already done a lot of research on George Washington Badgerow and James Austin while working on “Toronto’s Lost Golf Courses”, my latest book. David Hunter listed here was a real estate agent — yes there were real estate agents in 1886! — Joanne Doucette, local historian You will note that some of the property was sold to John Jones, for whom Jones Avenue is named. Jones Avenue was named for the Clifford family, another name that comes up on Austin Avenue.
John Jones was a jack of all trades, market gardener, sailor, brickmaker, Master of an Orange Lodge, politician and later Street Commissioner for the City of Toronto. It would appear that in this case he was wheeling and dealing in real estate.
Many of the families on Austin Avenue, like the Ingrams, stayed in the homes that they built for generations.
Some of these real estate transactions appeared in the newspapers of the day.
Globe, December 7, 1886
Globe, December 9, 1886
Globe, May 16, 1887
Globe, June 1, 1888
Here is a real estate ad from the early days of Austin Avenue.
Vacant lot, Austin Avenue, $18 a ft. Globe, March 10, 1888 That would be $450 for a 25 foot lot at a time when a working man earned about a dollar a day.
Another ad for Austin Avenue. Toronto Star, June 28, 1913
Toronto Star, May 15, 1913
But back to the lives of those who lived on Austin Avenue.
26 Austin Avenue It’s a boy. Globe, July 7, 1893
26 Austin Avenue, Globe, May 22, 1908
26 Austin Avenue Walter Davidson was a contractor. In those days, the property owners on the street had to pay for “Local Improvements” like this. They often objected. Globe, September 15, 1908
Local improvements could get expensive, especially when streets were extended. The ravine of Leslie Creek cut across the east end of Austin Avenue severing it from Marjory Avenue until 1909. The Russell family of brickmakers mined the banks of Leslie Creek for clay. Marjory Russell is believed to be the source of the name for this local street. Toronto Star, June 22, 1909
32 Austin Avenue Local beekeeper, A. Green, made the newspapers! Globe, November 2, 1912
My take on honeybees on Austin Avenue.
If you like this page, please let us know and we will post more on the people of Austin Avenue.