Midway is the area in the centre of the map between the City of Toronto and the Town of East Toronto.
Midway is the area in the centre of the map between the City of Toronto and the Town of East Toronto.
It is questionable if one out of every ten of those in this city who possess bicycles really appreciates a quarter of the opportunities for enjoyment which it places within his reach, and it is certain if he does that he makes little attempt to improve them.
With the average rider the question of largest moment seems to be that of covering the greatest amount of space in the least possible time, and in the runs into the country which he takes once or twice a week the terminal point of his trip, and the desire to reach it as soon as possible, usually possesses his mind to the exclusion almost of everything else. He is carelessly conscious, perhaps, of a pretty country through which he may be passing, but he is so indifferent to such matters that no considerations of this kind would tempt him to deviate from the straight road leading to his goal.
There are many, too, who are not constantly attempting to make or break a record, and who in their leisurely journeys succeed in obtaining all the benefit and delight which a healthy exercise and charming surroundings can give them, but who always keep to the same beaten track over which they repeatedly pass, oblivious to the fact that there is a wealth of scenic beauty lying all about them if they would only rouse themselves to seek it out.
There are indeed few cities which contain in their outskirts so many delightful spots as does Toronto.
To the north, the west and the east are successions of wooded ravines, and, running along the hilltops above them shaded and, in the main, well-made roads, from which may be obtained in hundreds of places outlooks over lake and stream and meadow too beautiful for the brush of any painter adequately to portray.
All the enjoyment, whether real or fancied, which can be gathered from contact with nature and from communion with her in the secret recesses of her home, are obtainable by the people of Toronto if they would but care to know what they possess. To the bicycle rider, especially during the long summer days, these charming places should be as familiar almost as the street on which he lives. A number of the points will be indicated in other articles, and in the meantime, several of the favorite runs on the wheel will be spoken of.
A POPULAR TRIP.
Among the popular trips from the city is that along the Kingston road to Whitby, to which place and back again a fair rider can “wheel” without fatigue in one day.
The road throughout almost is good; here and there occasionally heavy, and in some places cut up by the traffic which passes over it, but in general such as no bicyclist can reasonably complain of.
The most difficult part of it, by reason of the hills which have to be climbed, is that from the Woodbine to Highland Creek, but this, too, is the prettiest portion, containing many charming bits of scenery, and having in view the broad, blue stretch of the lake to the right.
Leaving the Woodbine, what is, perhaps, the least agreeable piece of the journey is immediately met with.
This is the half mile hill at Norway, which is certainly full of ruts at the present time and anything but pleasant wheeling especially to experienced riders. A good shower of rain, however, remedies this, and also lays the heavy dust; and when in this condition no better place could be found for practice in hill-climbing.
To the left of this hill, along which the electric road to Victoria Park runs, the deep and thickly-wooded ravine presents as charming a bit of scenery as could well be wished for, but at this point the rider is usually too much occupied to give it the attention it deserves.
At Norway the climb and the ravine both terminate, and an excellent run is offered to a considerable distance beyond the Halfway House, almost eight miles from the city.
On the short stretch from Norway to this point the road is gradually rising till the rider can command a view of the lake from the elevation of Scarboro’ Heights and especially on a fresh summer morning, before the heat of the day brings fatigue with it, the sight presented is worth a hundred-fold the labor of the run. The strong, fresh breeze from the water, carrying with it the odor of the fir trees over which it blows from the shoe; the awakening voices of the new day and the half-solitude of the country make up a condition of things the pure delight of which those who have never experienced it are unable to imagine.
At the Halfway House the rider usually halts for refreshment, and, perhaps, for breakfast or dinner. Many there are, too, who in the morning or evening run out here for the short trip, and when this is the case it is not unusual for them to seek the lake shore and enjoy a dip in the water. At this point, however, the land is some hundreds of feet above the level of the water, and the descent to the shore is somewhat of a task. From the Halfway House to Highland Creek numerous hills are met with, and one of them especially taxes the strength of the riders to surmount, but once over this part of the road the run to Whitby is easy and rapid.
The return trip is especially pleasant by reason of the fact that a great portion of it is down grade.
Instead of gong on to Whitby from the Halfway House, the rider, if he chooses, can take the side line across to the Don and Danforth road, and run by it to Woburn. This road is on the whole superior to the Kingston road, being built of excellent gravel, and not being cut up so much as the other, over which a far greater amount of travel continually goes. If the bicyclist should take this road, however, he would do better by running up Broadview avenue where he meets it, take the sidewalk as far as it goes, and soon on through Little York, than by way of Norway, as he would by doing so avoid the heavy climb at the half-mile hill. From Little York half way to Scarboro-station a long ridge of gravel on the centre of the roadway, placed there for purposes of repair, renders this part not quite as good as the rest of the way, but with reasonable care a path on either side can be picked out by the rider.
These two roads, however – the Kingston and the Don and Danforth – are well known and continually travelled by bicyclists.
LITTLE YORK TO WEXFORD
A trip that offers many attractions and can be accomplished in a few hours is from Little York straight north to the pleasant hamlet of Wexford, about three and a half miles’ run, and, after crossing the bridge over the C.P.R., west along the side line to Millen’s Hollow, nestling beneath the hills which enclose the east branch of the Don, up the opposite bank, and along for some miles further to the west fork of the Don, and on to the second concession, which is a mile and a quarter from and runs parallel with Yonge street; due south along the second concession to Moore Park road, and by way of Reservoir Park to Yonge street.
This run is principally over clay roads, and there is no more accommodation, by the way, than is afforded by forest shade and the pure water from the farm house pumps, but the trip is only a matter of from fifteen to eighteen miles and can be covered leisurely in two hours.
The roads are excellent during dry weather, except at the passages of the river, where the rider will find it to his advantage to dismount, at least in descending into the valleys, as the highway at these spots is steep, circuitous and rocky. After rain the road will be found less easy and pleasant to run on, as the farmers’ waggons are apt to cut it up while the clay is soft. The whole road, however, is full of interest to a visitor from the city, and the crossings at the river are picturesque in the extreme.
The run form Little York to Wexford gives one a fairly good idea of the excellence and wealth of the County of York as an agricultural section. The houses of the farmers are substantial brick structures, erected with some attention to style and possessing pleasant and tasteful surroundings. The growing or ripening crops evince the richness of the soil, and the sleek and contented stock show the care which they receive at the hands of their owners. The same condition of things, indeed, prevails all along the route, broken only by the wide and untillable valley of the river.
At the point at which the Don is reached jut about Millen’s Hollow the river makes almost a half circle, opening up a wide stretch of valley, along which between the branches of the trees one catches glimpses of the running water. It is indeed a pleasant place, seated in the shade, from which to enjoy the cool breeze and pretty picture, after a sharp run.
IN MILLEN’S HOLLOW.
In the hollow beneath is Millen’s factory, in which blankets and other woollen goods are made, and where the families who live there rejoice in coolness in summer and shelter from the blasts of winter. The road up the opposite bank can be made in the saddle by a good rider, but the average man will find more comfort and quite as much satisfaction in walking. The road to the other fork of the Don is somewhat sandy in places, but otherwise good.
Once across the other valley and on to the second concession there is a fine road and a beautiful run to the turn to Moore Park.
From the highway the rider catches a magnificent view of the southeastern portion of the city over the ravines running through Rosedale, and the eye travels with pleasure over house and garden and church steeple and away across the lake, dimly descrying the line of coast on the other side.
The sidewalk, of generous size and in good repair, which was laid down along Moore Park road during boom days, makes good way for the rider, and he takes it without hesitation, knowing that in that spot he is little apt to meet any pedestrians. A stop at Reservoir Park for a cup of water, a short run down Yonge street, and a two-hours’ pleasant ride is brought to a conclusion.
Globe, August 2, 1894
As I was preparing for a talk on the lost sports fields in the East End, I had a weak spot – I knew little about Sunlight Park, Toronto’s first professional baseball stadium just south of Queen and west of Broadview, built in 1886. I, as usual, began at the beginning before the start of settler history and long before baseball, but not lacrosse. The Anishinaabe families and Kichigo who were here when Simcoe arrived with William Smith, a master carpenter, in his retinue.
Sometimes history can seem by and about people who are almost-automatons, people doing things but without souls. But some writers have the gift for prose that captures so much. One such writer was John Ross Robertson, editor of The Toronto Telegram.
To animate this story of the John Smith’s lost athletic grounds I include a quote from John Ross Robertson’s Landmarks, apparently drawing on interviews with the Smiths, as well as depictions of some of the Smith family and their home. Their farm would become the Toronto Baseball Grounds later renamed Sunlight Park, an industrial complex around the time of World War One, and, as I write, contractors are digging a deep hole on the site to build Riverside Square, a complex of apartments, boutique shops, etc. that will re-define the whole area.
William Smith Sr. built many of York’s first houses, the first Anglican church (the forerunner of St. James Cathedral), Castle Frank, the Don Bridge, and helped to lay out York which became Toronto in 1834. According to John Ross Robertson, William Smith Sr. was not the only builder who came from Nova Scotia to York with Simcoe:
As a reward for his work, Simcoe allowed William Smith to be the first to choose a building lot for a home in York. He picked a fifth of an acre at the corner of King and Sherbourne. There Smith built a log cabin as a temporary home. In 1794 he tore it down and built a new frame house on the eastern side of his lot. This was believed to be the first frame house in the new settlement. That fall he went back to Niagara-on-the-Lake to stay with his family for the winter.
John Scadding, father of the Rev. Dr. Henry Scadding, Anglican priest and author of “Toronto of Old,” also came with the Simcoes to Toronto. He had been their estate manager in England. William Smith Sr. helped to build the Scadding cabin beside the Don River in 1794. In 1796 the Government granted John Scadding all of farm lot No. 15 on the Don River.
Simcoe had a fractious relationship with his superior Governor Dorchester in Quebec City and, in 1796, was recalled and returned to England, taking his family and faithful and no doubt indispensable servant, John Scadding with him. Before Scadding sailed away, he put George Playter in charge of his property east of the Don and Playter and his family moved into Scadding’s log cabin. Around this time an orchard had been planted, with trees imported from the U.S. Lot 14, just to the east was granted to John Cox. In 1807 Mary Cox, the widow of John Cox, sold Lot 14 to Gerhard Kuck for £156 in 1807. In 1814 William Smith’s son, also called William, bought the 270-acre Lot 14 from the Kucks for £1250.
In 1817, John Scadding came back to York. He laid out a subdivision of one, two, three and five acre lots on his property north of Queen Street [Kingston Road, as it was called then]. He sold the lots and, in 1818, George Playter bought one of the lots north of Queen just east of the Don and build a storey-and-a-half frame house, and 18 x 32 feet [5.4 x 9.7 meters]. The next year William Smith Jr. bought all of Lot 15 south of Queen about 50 acres [20 ha] from Scadding. Smith Sr. died in 1819 in his town house at King and Sherbourne. William Smith Jr. took up his father’s contracting business on his death. That year William Jr. bought Lot 15 south of Queen Street, about 50 acres [20 ha], from John Scadding. This was an excellent location for his favourite sport, hunting, with easy access to Ashbridge’s Bay, a stop over point for many thousands of migrating waterfowl as well as the high pine-covered plains and ridges that Henry Scadding described so well:
In 1820 William Jr. built a tannery on the Don. Not long after that he opened a store in an extension of the family home at King and Sherbourne, branching out as a retailer. Not long after the tannery began operating, he opened a store in an extension of the family home at King and Sherbourne, branching out as a retailer. After William Smith’s wife, Julianne Lewis, died in 1827, George Playter sold William Smith Jr. his new frame house and Smith moved it across the street to his own property. Settlers were skilled at moving buildings and frequently did so, to the confusion of later historians. This move was particularly easy since the ground was quite flat. Initially tannery employees lived in the house and, at some point, Smith built an 18 x 13 feet [5.4 x 3.9 meters] addition on the east side of the building to house more of his workers.
William Smith Jr. ran the store until 1832 when he moved from King and Sherbourne to the frame house beside the river. An astute businessman, his store was successful, winning him the capital to buy up a large amount of real estate and hold it on speculation. William Smith Jr. died in 1839 at the age of 58. John Smith, born at the family home at King and Sherbourne in 1811, as the oldest surviving son, took over the family business and inherited the property. In 1846 John Smith married Mary McGarran. They had nine children (I can’t find records of all – not surprising with high infant mortality.) He moved to Lot 15 on the Don where he farmed and also dealt in real estate.
In 1852 the Grand Trunk Railway (GTR) incorporated with the goal of building and operating a rail line between Montreal and Toronto. In 1856 John Smith sold a strip of his property to the GTR and by the end of the year, the GTR reached the eastern bank of the Don River and the Montreal to Toronto line opened. By the next year John Smith had divided Lot 15 into two fields, separated by a new street, later called “Pioneer Avenue”, which ran south from Queen street. It later became known as “Baseball Place”. The field east of Pioneer Avenue was subdivided under Plan 150 with Smith Street running on a north-south axis again dividing that eastern field into two sections.
As the Smith family grew, John added more extensions to the house until the whole first storey of Playter’s house was the Smith’s sitting room. A prize family heirloom was a tall “grandfather” clock, made by Jordan Post, an early settler. At the time it was believed to be the first clock made in York, now Toronto. Family portraits graced the parlour, the formal reception area, at the east end of the house.
In 1866 John Smith leased some 30 acres of his property on Ashbridge’s Bay to Gooderham Worts and they moved their cow byres (barns) east across the Don. He also leased some of his property to a race track a pottery. The 1871 Dominion of Canada Census showed John Smith (59), Mary (40), Rebecca (20), William John (18), Joseph (16), Henrietta (13), Mary (10), Sarah (8) and Edward (6) living in the frame house built by George Playter over 50 years before. John and William John Smith were listed as farmers.
Parkdale and Riverside began to slowly develop in the 1870’s to the west and to the east of the city limits. Parkdale has large detached houses, the homes of Toronto business and professional men attracted by the healthy lake air and lower tax rates. Riverside also had lower taxes but was less desirable, in part because of the unhealthy reputation of Ashbridges Bay and the sewage from the cattle sheds south of Front Street. Riverside became a residential area for workers in the factories along the Don and the eastern waterfront. The area east of the Don began to be laid out in roads: Eastern Ave, Blong, Saulter, Carlaw, McGee, Lewis, Morse, Strange, Scadding, DeGrassi, and Heward. However, in 1873 the “Long Depression” began with a stock market crash and the economy didn’t fully recover until 1896.
John Smith’s subdivision plan 150 and some other developments failed to materialize. Growth was slow, but there were changes. In 1878 the Christie Brothers started the Don Rowing Club, on the west side of the Don River across from John Smith’s home on the east side. By 1878, the Don Mount post office was on the northeast corner of Smith’s property, at Queen St. E. and Broadview Avenue. William John. Smith, John’s son, worked there as a clerk. None of his sons took up farming, leaning more to the real estate and financial professions.
John and Mary Smith’s oldest daughter Rebecca (married to Walter George Willis) passed away on March 22, 1878, in the Smith family home, at the age of 30 after two years of fighting pulmonary consumption or tuberculosis as it is now called. Around this time, John Smith planned on tearing down the old Scadding cabin of 1794. Instead, in 1879, Smith gave it to the York Pioneer Society who moved it by oxcart to the Exhibition Grounds where it still stands.
In 1880 Queen Street was opened from Woodbine Race Track to the Scarborough Township boundary at Nursewood Road. In 1882, the streetcar tracks were extended from Parliament to the Don and connected to the Queen Crosstown route. The stables were built on the south side of King at River to accommodate the streetcar horses.
By this time, “Uncle John”, as Smith was known locally, allowed his neighbourhood and their sports teams to use his two fields south of Queen as an unofficial athletic field. Like his father, he was a sports man himself, a proficient cricket player and a founding member of the Toronto Curling Club which played on the Don conveniently near the Smith home.
His son, William John, would become a Director of the Toronto Baseball Association. In 1884, the first “World Series” marked a milestone in baseball history which was now beginning to become popular in Canada. That year residents of Riverside and Leslieville approved a referendum to join the City of Toronto and the City annexed the area to Greenwood Avenue.
In his later years, John Smith was known as a story teller, blessed with an excellent memory, a good source for those interested in local history.
His love of sports and his son’s interest in baseball laid the way for his lease of his fields to the Toronto Baseball Association, a group of enthusiastic “cranks”, as fans were known in the day. On May 24, 1886, the Toronto Baseball Grounds opened on Smith’s fields.
Globe, May 8, 1885
In 1888 the City of Toronto expropriated part of the Smith property, including the area where family home stood, to straighten the Don River.
The old Smith house was torn down and John Smith build a new brick house on higher ground further east and nearer to Queen Street (about where my doctor’s office is today). In 1889 John Smith engaged the architects John W. Mallory and Frank S. Mallory to design the Smith Block at 639-655 Queen St. E.
“The Smith Block” today remains, without its pivotal centre section, on the south side of Queen just east of the Queen Street Bridge. Owner John Smith died on September 24, 1890 before the Smith Block was completed. He was buried in St. James Cemetery. His will left $611,000 of which $600,000 was real estate.
In 1900 Lever Brothers built their Sunlight Soap factory on property sold to them by the Smith heirs, property that included the fields of the Toronto Baseball Grounds. In 1902 the ball field became Sunlight Park. In 1906 a syndicate of Buffalo investors, the Erie Real Estate Company, bought the baseball park and initially planned to develop Subdivision #150 as housing, but heavy industry proved more lucrative and the field was lost to the community and largely forgotten to history until recent years.
Adam, G. Mercer, Charles Pelham Mulvany and Christopher Blackett Robinson, History of Toronto And County of York, Vol. II, Toronto C. Blackett Robinson, 1885, pp. 147-149
City of Toronto By-Laws No. 1995-0569
City of Toronto Directories, 1834 ff
Decennial Census of Canada, 1861, 1871, 1881
Don Valley Conservation Report Toronto, Department of Planning and Development, Conservation Branch Library, 1950
Globe, May 25, 1882 ff
Goad’s Insurance Atlas, 1882, 1884, 1890
Heritage Property Research and Evaluation Report Attachment 9
Middleton, J. E.,Municipality of Toronto, Vol. 1, 1923
Nickerson, Janice. York’s Sacrifice. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2012
Robertson, John Ross, Landmarks of Toronto, Vol. 1, Toronto: J. Ross Robertson, 1894, p.136
Robertson, John Ross. The Diary of Mrs. John Graves Simcoe, wife of the First Lieutenant-Governor of the Province of Upper Canada 1792-6, with notes and biography. Toronto: Ontario Publishing Company, 1934
Scadding, Henry. Toronto of Old. Toronto: Adam, Stevenson & Co., 1873. Reprinted with Ed. Frederick H. Armstrong. Toronto & Oxford: Dundurn Press, 1987
Seven Sketch Sheets of a Winter Reconnaissance in the Country East of Toronto, 1868. Map Room, Robarts Library
Tremaine’s Atlas, County of York, 1860
Robertson, John Ross. Landmarks of Toronto A Collection of Historical Sketches of the Old Town of York from 1792 until 1833 and of Toronto from 1834 to 1893, Published from the Toronto “Evening Telegram” Toronto: J. Ross Robertson, 1894. Vol. 1, p. 136
Sauriol, Charles. Remembering the Don. Scarborough, Ont.: Consolidated Amethyst Communications, 1981
Spring and Fall seemed to merge quietly in and out of Summer, so that the change was not as sharp as for the winter season.
Ploughing and planting the market gardens was the first consideration in many places. The deep ruts in the road filled in, and gradually the mud roads were again ready for summer driving.
Store windows took on a fresh look–painting and cleaning up was general.
Street vendors and peddlers again resumed their selling from wagons and curb.
The fruit peddlers shouting, “Strawberry ripe, Strawberry ripe” and selling at bargain prices
Then “Fly Paper John” resumed his calling selling fly paper which he made himself. His cheery chant of “Fly paper all, Fly paper all, catch all your black beetles as well as your flys all” as he walked slowly along; the street, selling from a small wicker basket, was a sure sign of summer.
The Woodbine races started, and on the 24th of May, we always watched the buggies, surreys, cabs and the final thrill when the coach and four would bring the notables down from the city to the races.
Moonlight excursions on the street cars. Victoria Park and the opening of navigation.
The Corinthian and Passport plying from Toronto to Montreal. The Chicora, Cibola, Chippewa, and the Cayuga later on, on the Toronto to Niagara run. The Northumberland and Dalhousie City on the Port Dalhousie trip, and I think it was the Modjeska and Turbinia that were on the Hamilton to Toronto run.
The loads of Strawberries coming by boat and train from Oakville and that district, all amounted to one thing, that summer was here again.
Long, flat·sleighs, drawn by a team of horses, hauling blocks of ice from the Bay to the icehouses.
Farmer’s sleighs with fresh killed pigs, five or six to a load, all cleaned, stiff and stark, also turkey, chickens and geese, plucked and ready for cooking.
The farmer’s wife or son bundled in furs and buffalo robes, and perhaps hot bricks wrapped in bags to keep the feet warm.
Chimes of bells on a strap around the horse. Larger bells attached to the top harness of the horse. Bells fastened on the shafts of the sleigh.
High cutters, drawn by fast stepping horses, (single) with fancy silver-plated bells attached to the harness.
Jingle Bells” really had some meaning, and when a number of sleighs were on the street, it was music that is entirely unknown today.
Horse-drawn streetcars with pea straw on the floor, to keep the feet warm. The driver on an outside platform exposed to all weathers. A whip in one hand and the reins of the horse in the other. It was a hard life for both driver and horse. When the snow was very deep, the cars were transferred to sleighs.
Loads of cordwood on sleighs going to the coal and wood yards were a common sight. At the yard the wood, sometimes would be cut and split in sizes suitable for the ordinary cook stove.
Farmers’ flat box sleighs, filled with steaming grain from the Brewery, on the return trip home. The grain was used as feed for the cattle and pigs.
Smart delivery sleighs used by the merchants, and how easy it was to “hook a ride” from the tail board of these vehicles.
People from the farm and others, wore heavy coon-skin coats, that could be purchased at one time for about eighteen dollars each. Beaver, seal skin and Persian lamb caps were worn by the men. It was the real fur and not the processed kind as worn today. Long gauntlet fur mitts were favoured by the men for driving purposes.
Many butcher shops and especially stalls in and around the market in the late fall and early winter would have deer hanging outside–sometimes eight or nine of them, and perhaps a couple of black bears as well.
One store on King Street near the market had hundreds of ducks ranging from Canvas Backs to Blue Bills hung outside, on hooks arranged in a large curve, and it made a very impressive sight.
Good living was cheap. People today cannot buy the delicacies that were common at that time.
Most store windows, and especially butcher windows were coated heavily with frost on the inside during the winter, so an iron gas pipe, perforated with small holes a out two inches apart, was placed almost next to the glass and when this was lit it provided enough heat to melt the frost, so that the meats etc. could be seen from the outside.
High loads of hay on the way to the market or livery stables was something that cannot be seen to-day.
To the small boy the summer holidays were the paradise of the year.
Shoes and stockings could be discarded.
The old swimming hole in the Bay was again patronized.Flat bottom scow boats were used for fishing over at the deep hole, and in going back and forth to the Island, or as it was called “the sandbar.” The lake was often too cold for swimming.
There were always a hundred things to be done in the long summer days.
The street noises–peddlers shouting their wares, selling fish, fruit or vegetables.
The knife sharpener, with his stone wheel and bell, walking slowly along the street.
The ice cream man, selling a dip of ice cream for a cent, and then the ice man with his canvas-covered wagon, drawn by one or perhaps two horses delivering blocks of ice to the stores for refrigeration, and sometimes a good-sized chunk of ice would drop off the wagon. It was very soon picked up.
If you had a copper in your pocket, you could buy four “Bull’s eyes” candies or chocolate squares.
There were plenty of fields and vacant lots, mostly overgrown with weeds and sweet clover.
In the evening when the dew was on them, the perfume of the clover was a benediction in itself, and it was good to be alive.
When I was about fourteen years of age, I bought a “Flobert” single shot .22 rifle and was very proud of it.
I kept it for eight or nine years and as I had plenty of practice in the fields and Ashbridges Bay, I developed into a pretty good shot.
On one occasion I was coming home across the fields from the direction of Logan Avenue, — not having fired a shot, although there was a shell in the breech.
A member of the police force [Detective Stuart Burrows], who kept a good trotting horse and also a flock of game birds lived up the street quite a little distance from our place.
I rested the rifle on the fence, and allowing for wind and distance, took careful aim and fired, never thinking I would really hit the target.
However, the rooster rolled down the pile and lay still. I got panicky, and though of jail, police court, fines and so on, so hurried into the house, cleaned the rifle and put it in its place, and cut across the meadows and fields to Logan Avenue, and walked slowly down to Queen Street, speaking to everyone I knew and came home.
I was very nervous for days, and during the following week was in the local barber shop, and who should be in the chair, but the policeman in plain clothes. The barber casually asked him if he had found out who shot his rooster. He said, “No, but I am pretty sure it was a fellow on Logan Avenue, and if I am right, dear help him.”
Years went by, and after I was married, the policeman and I became very good friends. While sitting on his verandah one evening, the conversation drifted around to the shooting, and I asked him if he ever found out who shot the rooster.
He said, “No, but I was plenty mad at the time.”
I then said to him, “I know who shot it.” He came right back and said, “Who?”
I told him I did it.
He muttered something under his breath, and then said, “Tell me about it.”
I told him the whole story and offered to pay him for the damage. He just laughed and we were better friends than ever, right up to the time of his death. Those things can’t happen in the Toronto of today.
Where Carlaw Avenue now cuts through north of Queen Street there was situated on the north side of the Kingston Road a hotel called “Woods Hotel.”
A row of tall poplar trees shaded the front. In the yard behind the hotel, was a small zoo. Peacocks, guinea hens, a couple of monkeys and a number of dogs of different nationalities.
An old darkey, who, gossip said, was an ex-slave was the custodian of the animals, and he was also the porter of the hotel.
The hotel people cut down six of the tall trees which were at the front and shaped the stumps in the form of chairs, and they were really easy and nice to sit in.
There was also a large wooden watering trough for horses. I remember watching a fight in front of the hotel and one of the men knocked the other into the watering trough and held him there until he was thoroughly soaked. It seemed to wash all the fight out of him.
I debated within myself whether to censor this out of the quote. Racism today is far more subtle. The racism of Sam Herbert’s day was open and largely unrecognized, being so widely held as it was. Today racism is generally more subtle but it would not surprise many of us if we heard similar terms tumble out of the mouth of the president of the U.S.A.
Not all shared (or share) that prejudice or use its poisonous language. George Leslie, the gardener who dominated Leslieville, others like John Logan and William Woods, owner of the Leslieville Hotel, shared Reform (Liberal politics) with its strong anti-slavery element.
The Toronto Anti-Slavery Society was formed in 1851 and included supporters from “Over the Don”. It supported refugees from slavery and advocated the abolition of slavery. But black people were not universally welcome:
The Rochester Democrat hints that the negroes of Indiana intend emigrating en masse to Canada. We trust there is no such calamity in store for us. Already we have a far greater number of negroes in the Province than the good of the country requires. – The Colonist, quoted in The Globe, Sept. 25, 1851
Leslieville’s thriving black community did not sit on the sidelines in this struggle. It included ice merchants like Henry Lewis of Leslieville, hotel keepers like James Barry of Leslieville, other entrepreneurs, farmers like the Sewells, and others. They helped to organize to assist refugees and fight slavery.
Prejudices and quiet discrimination often worked to keep black people from anything approaching equality. There was a popular and widely-held view that black people were immoral, reflecting fears of the black man as hyper-sexual, bestial and dangerous.
We think that the standard of morality among the colored population in Canada is about as high as it is among our people in the northern States, and would compare favorably with the white population.
Another stereotype was that black people were intellectually inferior. Black people worked hard throughout the 19th and 20th centuries to ensure that their children had access to decent primary and secondary schools, as well as post-secondary education. This was in spite of efforts to segregate black children into second-rate Jim Crow schools.
Discrimination was generally politer and less overt than south of the border, but still omnipresent. One man argued,
We are sorry to be compelled to admit that along the frontier we have to contend with the Yankee prejudice against color, though unlike that which is so formidable in the United States. There it is bolstered up by law – here it has no foundations to stand upon, and we can live it down…The laws that apply to the black men of Canada, apply with equal force to the white men also, and there is no distinction here among men, based on the color of the skin. Globe, Jan. 10, 1852
Some of the first black residents appeared in the 1830’s in what was to become Leslieville. Around 1834 or 1835, an English settler named Charles Watkins built a tavern near the northwest corner of Boston Avenue and Queen Street East, just east of where the Leslieville Hotel was to be built around 1876.
Watkins liked farming more than running an inn so he rented the inn out. The first landlord, Sandy Watson, kept the inn until about 1847. Then James Shaw rented the place and it became known as Shaw’s Hotel. It was one of the first taverns in Leslieville. According to John Ross Robertson:
Mr. Shaw was very fond of horses, and it was one of the sights of the neighbourhood to see the black hostler, an old escaped slave known as ‘Doc’, trot out Mr. Shaw’s team to water every morning. John Ross Robertson, Landmarks, Vol. III, p. 320
“Doc” was Lewis Doherty (or Dockerty), an American who escaped here with his family. The picture below shows Lewis Doherty holding a horse in front of Shaw’s Hotel (northwest corner of Queen Street and Boston Avenue).
Shaw’s Tavern above showing Lewis Dockerty holding a horse. The same area in recent years.
William Woods had experience running a grocery store and then a hotel downtown before he started his own and it appears from the beginning that his hotel was different from most of the day.
William Woods, proprietor of the “Leslie Hotel,” Kingston Road, was born in King’s County, Ireland, and came to Canada in May 1853. For seven years [or until 1860] he occupied a position in the house of Robert Reford, establishing himself in the grocery and liquor business at the corner of Caroline and King streets afterwards. From this locality he removed to the corner of Sackville and King streets, remaining there till he bought and took possession of the above hotel [in Leslieville] in 1876. History of Toronto and County of York Ontario. Vol. I. Toronto: C. Blackett Robinson, Publisher, 1885, 489 – 490.
He actually began as a grocer in Leslieville before getting a hotel license. In 1876 William Woods opened the Leslie Hotel near today’s Carlaw and Queen. His hotel, named “The Leslieville Hotel” had rooms, a meeting hall that could hold 200, a restaurant and a bar.
[William Woods] bought and took possession of the above hotel in 1876. In connection with this hotel he has a garden and conservatory and also owns a lot near the lake for the use of guests desirous of boating or fishing. His premises have a frontage of 81 x 230 feet. History of Toronto and County of York Ontario. Vol. I. Toronto: C. Blackett Robinson, Publisher, 1885, 489 – 490.
He is listed in the 1881 Census as a hotel keeper. One of the permanent residents of the hotel was James Barry, born in Africa sometime around 1820, probably the porter and zookeeper in Sam Herbert’s article. [The Census was careful to record if a refugee from slavery was born in the U.S. Barry may have been one of the last to be carried on a slave ship to America.] Fanny Wright was a domestic, probably the hotel’s housekeeper. All were members of the Church of England.
Tavern keepers offered food, drink and shelter to travelers and their horses, but taverns were also social centers. Taverns and inns were not just places to get drunk. Militia musters, fairs, agricultural society dinners, election banquets, political meetings, church services, dances, and parties were held in taverns.
Mass Meeting of Electors in Leslieville.
A mass meeting of electors of East York was held on Wednesday in the hall adjoining Wood’s store, Leslieville. Mr. Alex. Gibb was called to the chair, and opened the meeting with a few remarks, and concluded by calling upon Mr. G.W. Badgerow, the reform candidate for the Riding, who after a few preliminary remarks, in which he expressed a hope that his opponent would put in an appearance in order that they might have a free discussion of the questions now before the country, said that these questions were altogether different from those which were decided upon by the electors upon the 17th of September last…The meeting closed with three cheers for the Queen, a similar honour being given to each of the candidates. Globe, Nov. 18, 1879
A large number of the electors of East York assembled at Wood’s Hall, Leslieville yesterday. Among those present were Messrs. Geo. Badgerow, M.P.P., W.H. Doel, J.O., George Leslie, Jr., Alexander Bigg, W. Woods, F. Farendon, J. Mallendine, J.M. Ross, George Martin, John Strader, T. Holland, J. Farrell, Julian Schmidt, Jr., Wm. Perry, J. Taylor, and others.
Mr. Woods occupied the chair. Globe, March 24, 1882
Some hotels, including some Leslieville hotels, but not THE LESLIEVILLE HOTEL offered illegal pleasures such cockfighting, dog fights, poker and prostitution.
…the man who owned a fighting dog was better known than the Mayor of the city. A story of the old days, when there was a battle royal every Saturday night between the adherents of the Orange and Green or a mix-up betwixt the volunteer firemen and the bluecoats, will earn a footing quicker than an invitation to the house to lubricate. Toronto Star, April 6, 1901
One function that was unique to William Woods’ hotel was the use of his hall for court cases, which may lead to a certain amount of animosity against him among Leslieville’s rowdies.
THREATENING AT DON MOUNT. – Thomas Pierce was brought up before Mr. John Hamilton, J.P., at Wood’s Hotel, Kingston Road, on Friday evening last, charged with threatening to assault Gus Williams. He was bound over to keep the peace towards the complainant. Globe, Sept. 1, 1879
A DON MOUNT WIFE-BEATING CASE.
A man named Charles Ashby, who had been drinking for some time, is charged with having committed a most flagrant assault upon his wife Elizabeth on Saturday and Sunday, and from his kicks and blows her face and body were covered with bruises.
The inhuman treatment she has received from the hands of her husband, together with the effect of an illness which followed immediately after the birth of her last child some time ago, have apparently contributed to reduce her to a sate of partial mental aberration.
County Constable Woods attempted to serve a summons on the husband yesterday, as it was intended that an investigation should be made into the facts last night at Wood’s Hall, Kingston road, but he could not be found. Later on a warrant was issued by Mr. Doel, J.P., but the attempt to make a service met with a like result. It was then seen that Ashby had escaped.
In view of the necessity of providing for the poor woman, she was brought up last evening at Wood’s Hall on the charge of insanity. Dr. Carroll testified that he had known Mrs. Ashby since last January. His opinion as a medical man, was that with proper treatment she would recover, but if neglected she would become worse. She was melancholic, and without proper attention she might become suicidal.
The poor woman was attended last evening by two of her boys and her little girl. Questions were put to her by Mr. Doel, a few of which she answered, but the others appeared to be beyond the grasp of her mind and to them she was silent.
She was then committed to gaol [jail] as a lunatic and will be brought up before Judge Mackenzie on Wednesday next. Her children, it is expected, will be well taken care of by the neighbors. Globe, August 5, 1879
Woods himself was assaulted again and again over the years, but managed to retain his sanity and his livelihood, having more resources and far more status than many victims of violence.
The rowdies had their revenge on William Woods over the years.
At the Criminal Court yesterday, before Mr. Justice Falconbridge, Frederick Collins, charged with perjury, was dismissed, the witnesses failing to appear. Michael Roe, charged with wounding William Woods … asked time to prepare his defense, when the case was postponed until the next Assizes and the prisoner allowed bail of two sureties at $400 each. Globe, Feb. 3, 1880
William Woods testified against one member of a gang that was involved in a brutal murder, kicking a lone man to death behind his home on McGee Street. This was gang violence, young men fueled with liquor and jealous of any attention other men to “their women”. One gang was based in Leslieville; the other west of the railway tracks. A local athletic star, rower Hugh Wise and one of his friends, were falsely accused of the murder and sent to penitentiary for manslaughter based on the testimony of William Ashby and another man who had originally been convicted of the murder but once in prison changed their stories and alleged that Wise and his friend and done the deed.
WHO MURDERED WM. LONG?
Ashby, the Crown Witness, Charged with Perjury at the Trial.
The Long murder case, which was thought to have been finally closed by the committal of Wise and Phillips to the penitentiary, has been re-opened at the Police Court by the preliminary investigation in the case of Wm. Ashby, accused of perjury at the trial. Robert Tyson, official stenographer, testified that the document put into court was a correct transcript of the evidence given by Wm. Ashby at the trial of Wise and Phillips on the 18th of January last. The copy was produced, and the question, “Had you a piece of railroad iron with you on the night of the row?” and Ashby’s answer in the negative were read by Mr. Murdock.
Robert Dickey, sworn, said he was in the Leslieville Hotel on the night of July 12th, about 8 o’clock, when Ashby and Cooper, with two other young men, came in and had a couple of drinks. Ashby then sprang upon the end of the bar counter, and witness saw something sticking out of his pocket and seized the article and drew it partially out, but Ashby pulled it away from him.
IT WAS AN EEL-SKIN,
and on the end, but on the inside, was a heavy piece of iron. Ashby wound the skin two or three times round his hand, and swung it in the air, after which he restored it to his pocket and left the hotel.
William Woods, bar-tender at the Leslieville Hotel, corroborated the evidence of the previous witness.
…Wm. McFadyen said that after Long had been assaulted he heard Ashby say to a party of young men, but not to himself personally, that he (Ashby) had “put the boots to the son of a —–.”
Hugh Kelly said that he was present when Long was being beaten, and Ashby aimed a vicious kick at the prostrate form of Long, and hit Wise, who was endeavouring to shield Long. Wise did not say “there’s life in the —— yet,” and throw Long to the ground, and kick him again. William Long was in the bar-room of the Leslieville Hotel the day after the row, and heard Ashby say, “I’m only a little fellow, but I had more to do with it than any of you; and if it had not been for Wise he would have got more than he did.” Globe, Feb. 16, 1883
Criminal gangs don’t like those who testify against them.
The number of licensed hotels for Leslieville’s small population was large. Many catered to summer visitors and those who came out to enjoy the races at the Woodbine track (Coxwell and Queen). To serve liquor, an inn had to have been licensed. As noted, the north side of Leslieville was in the Township of York until 1884 while the south side was in the City of Toronto. Liquor licences were issued by both for the areas in their jurisdiction. Both taverns licenses on a yearly basis. The innkeeper or hotel keeper had to show that he had the necessary number of rooms ready to accommodate travelers. A saloon was not required to have rooms while a shop license was a license to sell liquor but not for consumption on the premises.
There were legal places to drink and lots of illegal ones too – and lots of rowdies to make a pub owner’s life interesting.
ROWDYISM IN THE VILLAGE.
The other night some young men from Toronto gave an entertainment and dance in Gowan Hall. After the dance was over, almost three o’clock next morning, they amused themselves by breaking fences and gas lamps on the Kingston road, and breaking over County Constable Wood’s door. The constable was awakened, and it is said learned the name of two of the rowdies; and on Saturday afternoon he laid an information, and obtained warrants of arrest from W.H. Doel, J.P. for John Forbes and James Ryan. Globe, April 26, 1880
Two men near the railroad track, Kingston-road, fought yesterday morning, and they bit, gouged, and kicked each other like barbarians. Globe, April 29, 1882
A DISGRACEFUL FIGHT.
Yesterday afternoon about five o’clock a disgraceful scene occurred on the Kingston-road. Five rowdies, natives of Corktown, including a well-known character nicknamed Paddy the Lash, were driving towards the city, and when opposite the residence of Mr. Russell, Sr., came to words, stopped the waggon, dismounted, and had a rough and tumble fight, kicking, biting, and gouging each other, rolling over and over on the road. Finally they were separated Globe, May 15, 1882
William Woods was a man of some status in the community, elected as a County of York public school trustee and a devout Christian, active in the Little Trinity parish in Corktown.
Mr. Wood, school trustee, at an interview with the directors of the Exhibition Association yesterday, obtained permission for the pupils of the Leslieville Public and Separate Schools and the Norway Public School to visit the great show to-day. The could news could not be made known to the children before closing school on account of some neglect or irregularity on the part of the servants of the Montreal Telegraph Co. Mr. Wood having sent a telegram in time but which was not received. Globe, Sept. 16, 1881
The closing exercises of the school in Section No. 6 took place yesterday afternoon under the direction of Mr. Lannin, the master…Before distributing the prizes, the children were addressed by Dr. Carroll and Mr. Vennell. The following comprise the list: A Bible from Mr. Woods for the greatest number of verses from Scripture recited, Hallie Sawyer; a Bible from Mr. Woods for best specimen of handwriting, Willie Wallace; by Mrs. Manson, two prizes for recitation – 1st, John Taylor; 2nd. George Manson. Globe, July 8, 1882
There were only two licensed hotels on the north side of Kingston Road (Queen Street East) in Leslieville — The Leslieville Hotel (William Woods) at Carlaw and Queen and The Puritan Hotel (Catherine Greenwood) at Greenwood and Queen. Joseph Trebilcock ran George Leslie’s post office and corner store at Curzon and Queen and applied for a license as a liquor store. Only two of the old hotels from both sides of Queen Street in Leslieville remain: the Duke of York (1870) and The Leslieville Hotel (approximately 1876).
GRANTING OF SHOP AND TAVERN LICENSES.
Notwithstanding the resolution of the Board of License Commissioners for East York to supply the list of successful applicants first to a country paper and withhold it from the city dailies, the Riverside reporter of THE GLOBE has got the names of the successful ones in his district. They are as follows: Taverns – B. Tomlin, T. Farr, J. Mallindine, Riverside; W. Woods, Mrs. Greenwood, Leslieville; Charles Heber, Dutch Farm; Ira Bates and John Ross, Norway. Shop licenses – John Coombe and James Murray, Riverside. The applications of Messrs. Trebilcock (Leslieville) and A. Tiffin (Riverside) will receive further consideration by the Commissioners on Saturday next. Globe, April 20, 1882
George Leslie’s store at the northwest corner of Queen and Curzon became a liquor store as well when Joseph Trebilcock got his license.
The following tavern and shop keepers of this vicinity took out their licenses on Thursday and paid the necessary fees: John Ross and Ira Bates (Norway), Terrence Farr, John Mallindine, B. Tomlin, John Coombe, James Murray (Riverside), William Woods and Joseph Trebilcock (Leslieville), Andrew Henderson, Catharine Greenwood, Kingston-road. Globe, April 29, 1882
By 1884, the north side of Queen Street and the rest of Leslieville had been amalgamated into the City of Toronto. The City’s liquor laws required each hotel to have at least six fully-furnished bedrooms for rent. Some owners did not bother to rent the rooms, getting their income from the bar only, and keeping the rooms only to comply with their license. The hotels in the Township of York (north side of Queen Street) were notorious. Since they were outside the City of Toronto, Toronto’s police were absent, but the County Constables were stretched thin and rarely patrolled the area. William Wood’s “The Leslieville Hotel” was a real hotel with rooms, a public hall and a bar, but some were simply the front room of a house with a rough bar installed.
And the rough housing went on.
A CHARIVARI – A gang of young men and boys disturbed the peace of the residents in St. Matthew’s Ward [this included much of Leslieville] on New Year’s Eve by parading the streets with a charivari band for the purpose of serenading a newly married couple residing in the neighbourhood. P.C. Crawford took down the names of several of the offenders. Toronto Daily Mail, Jan. 2, 1885
FOSTER’S FOOLISHNESS– Toronto Daily Mail, Jan. 2, 1885 a man named Foster entered the Leslieville hotel about eight o’clock Thursday night, and made things lively by assaulting the proprietor [William Woods] and several other persons. P.C. Crawford was sent for, but on his arrival the ruffian had made good his retreat. Proceedings will be taken against him. Toronto Daily Mail, Jan. 2, 1885
EAST YORK LICENSES.
A meeting of East York License Commissioners was held yesterday afternoon, when the following liquor licenses were granted: — York Township __ William Brunskill, Ira Bates, David B. Birrell, George Empringham, Sarah Hackett, Michael O’Sullivan, William Woods and Teresa Wall, taverns. Markham Township – Robert Ash, beer and wine; Catharine Button, Annie Milley, John Torrance, taverns. Scarboro’, Norman Burton, Daniel Beldon, George Corfield, Wm. Keeler, Joseph Moon, taverns; J. Davies, six months, beer and wine. Markham Village, T G Percy, Edwin C Hall, John Jerman, taverns. Richmond Hill, Benjamin Baillinger and John Balmer, taverns. Colin A McKinnon and James Gates, York Township, refused. Globe, April 29, 1887
Leslieville men had a reputation for fighting with their feet, kicking their opponents when they were down:
A fight occurred in Jones’ hotel [E.A. Jones hotel, formerly Morin House, now the Duke of York], on the Kingston road, Monday night, during which a Leslieville bricklayer named Allcock was badly kicked about the face. Constable Patterson, one of the mounted policemen, arrested Gus Hamilton as the guilty party yesterday morning. Globe, September 21, 1887
William Woods was a devout Anglican, a school trustee and a prominent man in Leslieville and he didn’t welcome the kind of illegal activity that many men (and some women) came “over the Don” to find. It seems he paid for this with many a beating until one final brutal assault ended his career as a hotel-keeper.
Jeremiah Johnson, cab-driver, was arrested and lodged in Agnes street station yesterday evening for assaulting William Woods, of Kingston road, and inflicting serious bodily injury on his person. A man named James Dorsey was arrested on the same charge. Globe, Dec. 29, 1887
A Serious Case from Norway.
Before Mr. Wingfield and Mr. Doel, justices of the peace, at the Court-house yesterday, Jennie Novel, Jeremiah Johnston, John Brumagin and Alice Mason were tried on a charge of feloniously wounding William Woods at his hotel at Norway on the 27th December. The charge is that the prisoners visited Woods’ hotel, with others, and beat him with a loaded whip, broke a number of bottles and glasses, and drank liquor which they found in the place, without any provocation on the part of Woods. The damage done was to the extent of about $60 or $70. Novel and Johnston were committed for trial. The others were remanded pending some further arrests which will probably be made in connection with the case. Mr. N.G. Bigelow conducted the case for the prosecution. Messrs. Patterson and Murdock appeared for the prisoners. Globe, Jan. 7, 1888
True Bill Found Yesterday.
The grand jury found true bills in the following cases: Robert Neil, alias Robert Thompson, for the murder of John Rutledge; Emerson Dollery, Alexander Romain, Adam Scholes, Thomas Drynan, Robert Kirk and Henry Jackson, feloniously wounding James Richard; Jeremiah Johnston, James Norval, Gus Hamilton and Michael Rae, unlawful injury to property; Jeremiah Johnston, James Norval, Gus Hamilton and Michael Rae, feloniously wounding William Woods. Globe, Jan. 24, 1888
After this beating, obviously seriously injured, William Woods gave up the hotel business.
Hard drinking, binge-drinking and chronic alcoholism were perpetual problems. Alcohol was cheap and life was hard for many. Many women came to see drinking as an assault on their families, robbing the family of the husband’s pay and health. By this point, William Woods might well have agreed with them. He sold the Leslieville Hotel to the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) for Leslieville’s very own Temperance Hall. It was conveniently located right across the street from the Presbyterian Church, a bastion of temperance. The pastor, Rev. William Frizzell fought against liquor and organized his congregation to do so. (Globe, January 22, 1887)
Temperance gave women a sense of power in their lives at a time when they were still disenfranchised politically.
There were plenty of targets for their anger: licensed and unlicensed taverns, saloons and liquor stores, as well as bootleggers.
They had the support, not only of the churches, but the working man’s paper, The Toronto Star:
MANY DISREPUTABLE EATING HOUSES
Low Whisky Dives That Are Operated Under City Licenses
Rendezvous of Thieves and Shameless Women—No Pretense Made to Respectability—Few Victuals Sold, But Immense Quantities of Liquor Disposed OF at All Hours of the day and Night—The City Council to Blame.
The present license system in Toronto has much to answer for. To it is due the existence of some of the most objectionable resorts in the city. Under its cloak the liquor law and other laws against immorality are publicly or semi-publicly violated.
When I speak of the license system I have reference to the system by which men who have frequently been convicted of the illegal sale of liquor can secure the sanction of the city to run resorts with no pretence to respectability.
As it is now an application need only be made to that august body known as the Property Committee of the City Council and permission is secured.
A year or two ago a faint bluff was made that the issuing of these licenses was under the control of the police because the police were asked for a report before the application would be considered. But in most cases where the report was unfavorable, the request was granted, for there were always ward heelers enough around to force the goodly representatives of the people at City Hall to give their consent.
Lately, however, even the report from the police is not asked for. The result is that at the present time the city is beginning to swarm with beer and whisky dives that bear the very innocent name of “all night restaurants.”
There are a few decent and respectable places where meals can be had at any hour of the day or night. There are many where a dollar is turned over in liquor to every cent that is made of victuals.
Nor is this the most objectionable feature of the places. They are the resorts of fallen and degraded women and men that have almost by their acts severed themselves from the human race.
In these holes the frequenters of the police court are found in numbers.
There are, of course, grades in these places, but the highest grade of these liquor dives is altogether too low for a city that lays claim to morality as does Toronto.
The other evening I went out on a tour of investigation. At the door of a York street establishment a young woman was sitting in order that the approach of the police might be made known to the people on the inside.
I was allowed to pass the sentinel without being challenged and on stepping inside I found what was once a store divided on the one side with stalls. On the other side was a short counter.
There was not enough food in sight to feed a dyspeptic pug dog though the place is supposed to be an eating house.
Each of the stalls contained a table and four chairs and all of these were fairly well occupied.
The sight was disgusting. There were men and women in various stages of intoxication, drinking beer and telling the vilest sort of stories.
In the motley throng were young men who have served terms of imprisonment for crimes that they were led into by frequenting resorts of this kind: young men who are not yet recorded in the calendar of crime, but who are in a fair way to have the distinction before many months have passed.
The women, some young, some older, for the most part were of that class that has fallen as low as it is possible to fall. Without reputation, shame, or honor, they assemble in such places as this to gather what pleasure they can out of brutal pastime.
I crossed the road and went in to see a man who for so long kept a dive on Elizabeth street. There were not as many people there that evening as there sometimes are, but it is hardly necessary to say that they were the sort of people that respectable citizens would not care to entertain.
Another old-timer runs a similar place on King street west. His patrons are of a better class. His is the sort of establishment where “respectable” young men entertain ladies of doubtful reputation.
A very fair meal can be had, and all the beer that is necessary to wash it down. Private rooms are provided for ladies and their escorts and no questions are asked.
Still another old-timer has a place on Adelaide street near Simcoe. It is placarded all over with bills announcing that oysters have arrived, but if a past record counts of anything he will not trust to oysters to bring him an income.
In his time, he has contributed more than a moiety to the provincial and civic coffers in the way of fines.
He formerly ran an establishment on York street and though he is not at the old stand, the old stand is there doing business as usual.
And another old-timer is back in our midst. He has a restaurant on Queen street, west of the avenue. He has not long been there, but long enough to be caught selling liquor and fined.
He and his better half did not when they lived together enjoy that domestic felicity which is conducive to happiness. The result was that she applied to Magistrate Denison for an order of protection and was granted her request.
Her husband was cast upon the cold world and she continued the business. She had been well instructed while she submitted to her husband and when he was ordered to quit the place, she continued right along to sell liquor. She was fined for so doing.
Recently she moved from Yonge street to King street east, where she is now to be found. Then there is another woman who was proprietress of a restaurant on York street for some years. She left the rather doubtful place and now she is selling liquor on Queen, a few blocks west of Yonge. She may not be there herself all the time, for when last I heard of her, she was doing time across the Don, because she could not pay a fine.
It is quite impossible for the police to break up these resorts, while the present license system is in vogue.
Aldermen do not or should not know the vice of the dens that they license. They why should they undertake to issue the licenses? The matter should be left entirely in the hands of the police who know the character of the places as well as the people who run them.
It is a shame the one man, for instance, who has run a whisky dive in the city for many years should be granted an eating-house and a cigar license as he was granted them within the last fortnight.
It is a shame that similar licenses should year after year be granted to a dozen others whom I have located as having been convicted of law-breaking.
And just here there is room for another protest. When these dive-keepers are convicted Inspector Dexter out of the goodness of his heart postpones the cases from week to week to give the guilty an opportunity to scrape together their fine.
That is not the spirit of the law. The Ontario Government never intended that money should be extorted out of people guilty of violating the liquor law. The idea was to stamp out illicit selling and regulate the legal sale and this can best be done by vigorously prosecuting the offenders and giving them no time in which to pay their fines.
The community can well afford to pay the board of such people in jail.
Some years ago the good fathers of the city though they could manage pedlars’ licenses.
What was the result?
Just before the exhibition crooks from all over the continent were in the habit of coming to Toronto and procuring a license that give them the freedom of the city.
The vagrancy act, the great preventive of crime, was in this way rendered useless and Toronto was overrun with blacklegs.
Now the police regulate these licenses. As a result, pedlars are more respected and citizens are better protected.
The revolution brought about in this way could also be brought about with regard to these all-night eating houses. A few night restaurants are a convenience, but when the great majority of them has degenerated into grog-shops, haunts of thieves, institutions where all the vices are permitted, it is high time that something was done to bring about a change. Toronto Star, October 20, 1894
In 1901 there were only five hotels left “over the Don”. The Toronto Star published an article on April 6, 1901 on Leslieville’s taverns. By that time, there was only one liquor store and five hotels left in Toronto’s East End “across the Don”.
By 1908 temperance supporters were moving to reduce liquor licenses across Ontario. They were well organized and well financed. They divided Ward One, including East Toronto, into seven districts. Charles Bully was in charge of Gerrard Street, east of the Don and north to city limits; E. O. Weston – Don River to Logan Avenue, between Gerrard and Queen Streets; Walter Davidson – Logan Avenue to Greenwood Avenue, between Gerrard and Queen Streets; and H. Radcliffe – Don to Greenwood Avenue, south of Queen Street. They elected a Finance Committee that included a representative of the Salvation Army. They were highly successful in restricting liquor in the City’s newly acquired suburbs east of Greenwood Avenue.
THE HOTELS ADJACENT TO THE RESIDENTIAL DISTRICTS
A Good Deal of Money Has Been Spent on Structures Where Some of People Will Ask The Commissioners to Cancel Licenses—Three Aspects that Worry the Board. The handling of the reduction question preparatory to the first of May, with reference to the hotels situated in the residential districts of Toronto, is the one which will give the License Commissioners a good deal of worry.
For this there are principally three reasons. The first one that the feeling throughout the city is that Toronto’s residential districts should be free of hotels and liquor stores, as was shown in the vote of January first, when Ward Six piled up the biggest majority in favor of reduction, as a protest against the forcing of a shop license in the residential district of Parkdale.
The second cause of worry to the commissioners is that there are no laws governing what is a residential district and what is not in the strict sense of the term. There are the civic by-laws, declaring certain locations to be residential, which means that in the future all factories and certain kinds of stores are excluded, but in a number of instances there are locations more residential than some of those declared so.
What License Act Says
Further, that is not the intention to limit the commissioners to the already declared residential districts is shown by the Liquor License Act which says:
“A petition signed by not less than 75 persons, being at least a majority in number of the electors in any polling sub-division, may be presented to the Board of Licensing Commissioners, for any city praying than any tavern license issued for any premises situated in the said polling sub-division be not renewed on the ground that the locality that the same are situate in is a residential and not a business locality…The third cause of anxiety to the commissioners is the fact that in cutting off the hotels in residential districts they will have to deal with four practically new hotels upon which upwards of $125,000 have been spent during the past few years.
Beginning at the east end of the city, in the newly-annexed district, there is not a hotel in the residential belt. One of the five existing houses is close to it, that of R. Harris, at the corner of Main street and Kingston road… Toronto Star, February 25, 1909
In 1916 Ontario prohibited the sale of alcoholic beverages except native wine (generally considered vile stuff), for purposes other than medicinal or scientific. Doctors began writing prescriptions for liquor to their more desperate patients who carried the precious medicine home in brown paper bags. In 1919 The Volstead Act passed in the U.S. and the rum-running era began. Many Canadians smuggled liquor across the Great Lakes at night. Al Capone is rumored to have had a late-night rendezvous with local rum runners at Cherry Beach. In 1924 Ontario voted to keep prohibition, but the next year near beer, watered down beer, was allowed.
Prohibition was repealed in Ontario in 1926. The Liquor Control Act placed the sale of alcoholic beverages under government control. Liquor was and is sold in government liquor stores while the large brewers founded the Brewers Retail to sell beer.
In 1934 strong beer and liquor were again allowed in hotels and taverns under bizarre rules that ruled until only a few decades go. For example, you weren’t allowed to pick up your beer and walk to another table with it. Instead you had to get a waiter or the bartender to do it for you! Beer is now available in grocery stores (some). Women can enter a bar without a man and are not confined to a separate entrance for “Ladies and Escorts”. The silliness of some of this beggars belief, but people across Canada got to make fun of our now vanished obsession with keeping Ontario virtuous and dry. And, of course, most people were neither virtuous or dry.
In 2018 I can enjoy donairs and pick up my beer myself even in the former Leslieville Hotel, the home of the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement and now The Thirsty Duck.
Just east of Pape, on the north side of the Kingston Road was situated Martin McKee’s residence, lumber yard and planing mill. He had one of the first telephones in the district. He employed quite a number of men, and was well known and highly respected.
It is said, that sometimes small incidents will be remembered long after those of more importance are forgotten. As an example, on dozens of occasions I have stood in the boiler room of the planing mill, just a short distance from the large flat driving belt, and held out my hand just a few inches from it, watching the sparks of electricity jumping from my finger tips to the belt. Don’t ask me what caused it, I do not know.
A mile stone was just outside the lumber yard on the Kingston Road, stating “two miles to Petley and Petley at the Market.”
There were two frame cottages just east of the lumber yard on the Kingston Road, and I heard that Alexander Muir lived for some time in one of them. These cottages were eventually taken over by the lumber yard and used for storage of their finer lumber. An elm tree grew outside these cottages and it was the tallest and largest tree in the district. It was cut down only a few years ago.
Another saw mill was on the Kingston Road west of Pape Avenue on the north side. It was not well known, and was in the path of the rising water of the creek every Spring. Once or twice it was flooded, and eventually it was closed.
Kingston Road was still a country road, and in the marsh at the corner of Pape and the Kingston Road garter and the occasional black snake were still to be found.