1965 Photographs of new Greenwood Yard follow
London, England has a BBC show, The Secret History of Our Streets. The series claims to explore “the history of archetypal streets in Britain, which reveal the story of a nation.” Our streets are just as interesting and our stories goes back millennia before Austin Avenue existed to when Leslie Creek was full of salmon and Anishnaabe, Haudenosaunee and Wendat gathered wild rice in Ashbridge’s Bay. I hope you enjoy this page. My research ends in 1919, a century ago. I have not explored the history of every family, Austin Avenue has more secrets to tell.
Here are some of those stories — those from 2 to 17 Austin Avenue
2 Austin Avenue
Walter Gray was born on November 9, 1857 in at Gray’s Mills, York Township, now part of the Donalda Golf and Country Club. He married Annie Emma Clifford on January 30, 1884 and they had five children in 11 years. The Grays had a grocery store at 2 Austin Avenue and lived above the store. They moved to 100 Boulton Avenue about ten years later.
His wife Annie Emma passed away on July 29, 1916, on Bolton Avenue, at the age of 49. They had been married 32 years. Walter Gray died on April 8, 1938, in Dunnville, Ontario, at the age of 80.
Son William John was born on December 19, 1885, in Toronto, Ontario. He Gray married Annie Mary Norris on June 28, 1907, in Toronto. They had two children during their marriage. He died in 1948 at the age of 63, and was buried near his parents. Annie Mary Norris died in 1960 and was laid to rest next to her husband. The Gray family plot is in Saint Johns Norway Cemetery and Crematorium, Woodbine Avenue.
Ironically both the Gray family homestead and Leslie Street School principal Thomas Hogarth’s house have been honoured with historical plaques.
4 Austin Avenue
4 Austin Avenue was the home of Henry Bowins in 1919 and, in 1921, by widow, Mrs. Louisa (Beckett) Greenslade and her five children, ranging in age from 7 to 17. in 1921. Her husband, William Henry Greenslade, a market gardener, had dropped dead of a heart attack in 1915. The family lived in Etobicoke at that time.
6 Austin Avenue
8 Austin Avenue
John Christopher Waldron married William Robertson Hodge’s sister Eveleen in 1919 and was lived with her, sister Jean, and their mother, Mary. Like his brother in law he was a tall man for the time (5’11”) and fit. He was an Irish Catholic while Eveleen Hodge was an Irish Protestant. Both were from Dublin. Unlike his brother-in-law, he was not conscripted but volunteered. Like his brother-in-law he was hit by shellfire. Clearly from the medical records doctors had a hard time identifying just what was wrong with Pte. Waldron, apart from flat feet which was easy. The blast buried Waldron completely under mud, timbers and rubble, causing a severe concussion and what was known as “shell shock “. He died in 1964.
10 Austin Avenue
It appears that Mrs. Robinson at 10 Austin Avenue took in lodgers, as many widows did. Since the lodgers were mostly young men who moved frequently, it is difficult to determine just which Frank Mulhern was responsible, but it appears to have been Frank Beauchamp Mulheron (1881-1917) who moved to the U.S. permanently shortly after this assault occurred. 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 51 Austin Avenue took the law into his own hands shooting those who robbed his orchard. But that’s another story.
Dudley Seymour Robinson was born on July 6, 1892, in San Jose, California, USA,. Both his parents were English. He married Gladys Elsie Moffat on October 6, 1920, in Toronto. They had two children during their marriage. He died in March 1963 in Michigan, USA, at the age of 70. In 1911 he was living with his widowed mother Rosina Alice Robinson at 10 Austin Avenue and working as a Foreman in a leather shop. Dudley Seymour Robinson enlisted on February 16, 1916 and sailed to England where he became an Acting Sergeant but injured his left knee while training. A torn meniscus kept out of the trenches, he was discharged from the army on Dec. 17, 1916 and sailed on the troop ship Metagama back to Canada, arriving in St. John, New Brunswick on Christmas Day 1916. He married Gladys Elsie Moffat in Toronto, Ontario, on October 6, 1920, when he was 28 years old and they lived in an apartment on Silverbirch Avenue. His mother Rosina Alice passed away at home 10 Austin Avenue on November 9, 1922, at the age of 55 from pneumonia. After his mother’s death Dudley Robinson moved to Detroit and died at the age of 70 in March 1963 in Michigan, USA.
14 Austin Avenue
William Edward Harrold was born in March 1873 in Monkton Combe, Somerset, England, his father, William, a wheelwright, was 54 and his mother, Amelia Ann, was 29. Though in 1871 the family owned their own home and even had a servant, Ten years later family was destitute and he was educated in a pauper school. In 1881 his father was in the Poor House as a pauper, as was William and his brothers, Alfred and Henry, but there was no sign of his mother. His father died in 1887. In 1890, at the age of 17, he immigrated alone to Canada. He was related to the Billing family, another Somerset family, for whom Billings Avenue is named. William Harrold married Ellen Sophia Eva Cox on June 15, 1897, in Toronto, Ontario. They had two children during their marriage: Alfred William Badgerow Harrold and John E Harrold. He died at home 14 Austin Avenue on November 11, 1936 of heart disease. Though he spent his working life in a foundry, his death certificate lists his true vocation: musician.
The Wheelwright’s Arms pub in Monkton Comb, now part of the City of Bath, was likely the family home of the Harrolds. To see photos of the pub go to: https://the-wheelwrights-arms-gb.book.direct/en-us/photos
17 Austin Avenue
Every family has stories and secrets. We don’t know why 17-year-old Kate Wellings mysteriously left home, alarming her parents. But perhaps the numerous articles about the Wellings family might hold a clue. My sympathies are with Kate. I was a teenage daughter of a man with some “unique” ideas, obsessed with politics and who wrote numerous Letters to the Editor. I was sometimes proud of him and sometimes embarrassed. Perhaps Kate felt the same or perhaps there was another reason.
The Wellings family were the first to live at 17 Austin Avenue and built the house there where Katherine “Kate” Wellings was born on January 31, 1887, but their story, like every family’s, goes back further.
Father George Washington Wellings was born in 1855 in Birmingham, England, the centre of Britain’s steel industry. His grandfather had been a blacksmith. His father, George Wellings Sr., was a “steel toy maker”. However, at the time, “toys” were not the playthings we think of today, but the term meant small metal items like buttons and buckles, and was part of the jewelry trade.
In 1830 Thomas Gill described the production of steel jewelry in Birmingham, from cutting the blanks for the steel beads or studs, to final polishing in a mixture of lead and tin oxide with proof spirit on the palms of women’s hands, to achieve their full brilliance. Gill comments: No effectual substitute for the soft skin which is only to be found upon the delicate hands of women, has hitherto been met with.” — from Revolutionary Players Making the Modern World, published by West Midlands History at https://www.revolutionaryplayers.org.uk/birmingham-toys-cut-steel/
George Sr. also worked as a gun maker during the 1850’s and 1860’s. This was a lucrative business during that period. Between 1855 and 1861, Birmingham made six million arms most went to the USA to arm both sides in the American Civil War. Not long after George Wellings Sr. father retired from gun making and opened a pub, The Wellington, in the Duddeston at 78 Pritchett Street. German aircraft bombed the area heavily in World War. The pub no longer remains.
For more about Birmingham’s gun making history go to: http://www.bbc.co.uk/birmingham/content/articles/2009/02/18/birmingham_gun_trade_feature.shtml
George Jr. became a jeweller specializing in engraving on gold.
George Washington Wellings married Anna Maria Johnson in 1875 in Birmingham. They and their five children immigrated to Toronto in 1884. They would have seven more children, all born in Toronto.
Walter was their first child born in Canada – at home 13 Munro Street. Dr. Emily Stowe delivered the baby. Florence was born at home 17 Austin Avenue in 1889 and was soon joined by sister Hilda Marie was born on October 4, 1891. Harold was born on July 14, 1893. Another son Howard George was born on January 1, 1896, but died two years later on March 21, 1898. Irene Wellings was born on September 18, 1897.
In 1896 George Wellings ran for Alderman for the first time and was beaten badly by brick manufacturer John Russell.
Wellings a proponent of the ideas of Henry George, popular at the time, but still on the fringes. For more about the Henry George Club, go to:
A tireless activist, George Wellings persevered. In the days before social media, Letters to the Editor had to fill the need for expressing political ideas.
Unsuccessful in his attempt to enter municipal politics as an Alderman, in business George Wellings prospered, renovating his home at 17 Austin Ave and building a new factory downtown on the site of his previous manufacturing plant.
Katherine “Kate” Wellings married Albert Edward Ward in Toronto, Ontario, on November 13, 1911, when she was 24 years old.
Wellings Manufacturing Company continued to proper, turning out buttons, badges, etc., what were known as “toys” in Birmingham in the mid-nineteenth century. Many thousands of Wellings cap badges, buttons and medals went overseas on the uniforms of Canadian soldiers during World War One.
Kate’s husband died of a heart attack on January 8, 1927 at their farm on the 3rd Line West, Chinguacousy, Peel, Ontario.
George Washington Wellings passed away on May 31, 1930, in Toronto, Ontario, at the age of 75. Though he tried and tried again, he never succeeded in becoming a Toronto alderman.
Katherine Wellings married James Templeman in York, Ontario, on March 27, 1937, when she was 50 years old. Both were widowed. Katherine was living at 17 Austin Avenue at the time of her marriage. James Templeman was a truck driver from Todmorden Mills. Her mother Ann Maria passed away on April 12, 1938 at her son-in-law’s home on Oakdene Crescent. Kate Wellings died in 1960 when she was 73 years old. She is buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery. 67 Richmond Street East is now a Domino’s Pizza take-out.
To see all of this large table drag the bar below across. The table shows who lived where and when on this part Austin Avenue from 1887 when the street was born to 1921. The 1888 City Directory was based on 1887 date and there were no street numbers as it did not get mail delivery. Postal service required numbers. Joanne Doucette
|1888 City Directory||Lot # Subdivision 549||#||1889 Directory||1890 Tax Assessment Roll Occupier||1890 Tax Assessment Roll Owner||1890 Directory||1891 Directory||1894 Directory||1895 Directory||1900 Directory||1903 Directory||1904 Directory||1905 Directory||1906 Directory||1907 Directory||1912 Directory||1919 Directory||1921 Directory||1921 Census|
|Vacant lots||3 frontage on Pape||2||Vacant lots||Gray Walter, grocer||Gray Walter, grocer||Gray Walter, grocer||Gray Walter, grocer||Gray Walter, grocer||Hannigan & Gunn, grocers||Best Wilbert E||Wells George A, Hardware|
|Vacant lots||3||4||Vacant lots||Lowman Charles||Lowman Charles E||Lowman Edwin C||Pettit John E||Pettit John E||Pettit John E||Pettit John E||Burkholder Albert/Pettit John E||King Samuel||Bowins Henry||Greenslade Louisa Mrs||Greenslade Louisa|
|Vacant lots||3||6||Vacant lots||Perkins Charles E||Fortier William J||Overdale Christian S||Overdale Christian S||Overlade Pauline Mrs||Overlade Pauline Mrs||Mundy William||Mundy William||Vacant||Bruce Charles||Bruce Charles||Bruce Charles|
|Vacant lots||3||8||Vacant lots||Field Emma G||Farmery Charles||Booth Albert||Booth Albert||Booth Albert||Halliburton James||Pettit William H||Pettit William H||Brittain Rev David||Hodge Mary Mrs||Hodge Mary Mrs||Hodge Mary|
|Vacant lots||3||10||Vacant lots||Vacant||Cosgrove John J||Mulheron Mrs Sarah||Turner Joseph||Robinson Frederick||Robinson Frederick||Robinson Frederick||Robinson Frederick||Robinson Rose Mrs||Robinson Rose Mrs||Robinson Rose Mrs||Robinson Rose|
|White Henry||3||12||White Henry||White Henry||White Henry||White Henry||Jarrett George||Doxsee George W||Vacant||Crawford Walter L||Crawford Walter L||Crawford Walter L||Montgomery Norman H||Montgomery Norman H||Montgomery Norman H||Nicholson John||Macdonald Wm||Ireland Louis||Ireland Lewis|
|Vacant lots||3||14||Vacant lots||Private Grounds||Vacant||Kordell George H||Liley Henry||Taggart Thomas R||Montgomery Norman H||Stewart William H||Stewart William H||Stewart William H||Harrold William E||Harrold William E||Harrold William E||William Harrold|
|Vacant lots||3||16||Vacant lots||Private Grounds||Vacant||Stewart William||Simmonds Alfred||Simmonds Alfred||Murphy John||Ridley Joseph||Ridley Joseph||Ridley Joseph||Ridley Joseph||Ridley Mark||Ridley Joseph||Ridley Joseph|
|Vacant lots||4 frontage on Pape||1||Vacant lots||Store, s e||Store, s.e.|
|Vacant lots||4||3||Private Grounds|
|Vacant lots||8||15||Unfinished house||Taylor Edward||Clifford C H||Taylor Edward S||Taylor ES||Clifford James||Fredenburg George A||Clifford Caroline Mrs||Clifford Caroline Mrs||Clifford Caroline Mrs||Clifford Caroline Mrs||Clifford Caroline Mrs||Clifford Caroline Mrs||Clifford Charles||Clifford Charles||Clifford Charles|
|Vacant lots||8||17||Wellings George||Wellings George||Wellings, Annie M. and George Wellings||Wellings George||Wellings George||Wellings George||Wellings George||Wellings George||Wellings George||Wellings George||Wellings George W||Wellings George W||Wellings George W||Wellings George W||Wellings George W||Wellings George W|
|Private Grounds||Private grounds|
by Joanne Doucette This is a follow up to: https://leslievillehistory.com/austin-avenue-subdivision-549-by-joanne-doucette/
Part 1: Austin Avenue blocked by A Creek
Did you know that there was a creek at the east end of Austin Avenue?
In 1918, the foreman of George Leslie’s nursery recalled Leslie Creek:
a creek … also started near the sandpit and ran through the gardens of Cooper’s, Bests and Hunters, crossed the road by the Leslie Postoffice. Here it joined a small creek that drained the nursery, and both crossed Leslie street under a bridge that has since been filled up by intersecting sewers.
John McPherson Ross (1859-1924), Globe, January 18, 1918
Leslie Creek originated in the area of Strathcona Avenue and Eastview Park from springs on the slope of a sandbar from the last Ice Age.
Over ten thousand years ago, the melting ice dumped sand, clay and gravel (“glacial drift”) on southern Ontario. It is about 26 meters thick over most of Toronto. As the ice melted, a lobe of the glacier filled the basin where Lake Ontario is now. This ice blocked the melt water from draining to the sea down the Saint Lawrence River. The ice was like a plug in a bathtub and a deep, cold melt water lake, Lake Iroquois, formed behind it. This lake was 55 meters (180 feet) deeper than Lake Ontario. All of Leslieville was under water. The Lake Iroquois shore-cliffs form a steep rise or escarpment north of Leslieville. The shore cliff can be seen clearly along Davenport Road and near Variety Village on Kingston Road. It is the long hill on Yonge Street south of St. Clair Avenue, known as “Gallows Hill”. South of this cliff lies a plain of sand deposited on Lake Iroquois’ bottom. Leslieville sits on the Lake Iroquois Sand Plain. The Plain, though tilted is still relatively flat, but far from featureless. Great rivers poured off the melting glacier, carrying huge amounts of sand and gravel into the Lake. There wave action and strong east-west offshore currents carried the sand and gravel westward, piling it up in bay-mouth bars. Behind the sandbars at the mouth of what are now the Humber in the west and the Don River in the east, large bays formed.
In the East End, these sand bars form a ridge that stretches from Scarborough, west from the foot of Kennedy Road for about five kilometers (three miles). The sandbar diverted the flow of Taylor Creek westward into the Don. To the south of it more sandbars formed offshore under water, creating the long hill south of Danforth Avenue from Broadview through Leslieville to the Beach and the sand plain of Leslieville. The settlers mined these glacial beaches for sand and gravel. The sandy loam was the basis of Leslieville’s market garden industry. With compost and manure, it was fertile and easy to till, ideal for carrots, potatoes, turnips and other root vegetables.
Leslie Creek was deeper and faster flowing before settlers deforested the flat, but tilted, sandy plain south of Danforth Avenue. Streams like this cut deep ravines into the loose Lake Iroquois sand plain that made market gardening so lucrative in Leslieville. Erosion exposed clay deposits from an earlier Ice Age, providing the raw material for brickmaking. Some families of market gardeners became brickmakers, like the Logans, while others, like the Papes, remained gardeners, florists and nurserymen.
Part 2: A Skating Rink and Park
According to Elsie Hays, an elderly resident that I interviewed 40 years ago, it was a small brook that ran through an orchard where she used to play with her sister, catching minnows and tadpoles. It crossed Gerrard where there is a shallow dip in the road to mark it. Entrepreneurs dammed the creek in the late nineteenth century to create Maple Leaf Skating Rink at Pape and Gerrard.
Part 3: A Cemetery by a Creek
In 1849 Toronto’s Jewish community opened the first Jewish graveyard west of Montreal on the west bank of Leslie Creek. It must have been an idyllic situation.
There is no synagogue in Leslieville but there has been a definite Jewish presence here from the mid-nineteenth century. In 1847 Judah G. Joseph was an optician and jeweler, with a store at 56 King Street East, Toronto. In 1849 his young son, Samuel, was dying and there was no Jewish cemetery nearer than Buffalo or Montreal in which to bury his boy. Abraham Nordheimer, a successful piano manufacturer, and Judah Joseph sought land on behalf of the Jewish community for a graveyard. At the time there were only 35 Jews living in Toronto.
They bought land 60 feet wide and 400 feet deep (about 18 by 12 meters) for £20 through the Chief Justice, John Beverly Robinson. The Robinson family, prominent members of the Family Compact, owned land in the neighborhood. (Part of Pape Avenue was called Robinson Street for some time.) For more about John Beverley Robinson to to: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/robinson_john_beverley_9E.html
They buried Judah Joseph’s son, Samuel, in 1850, probably near the cemetery gate where the gravestones are all under grass. The grave of Catherine, the wife of Alfred Braham, also buried in 1850, was the earliest Jewish grave in Toronto marked by a tombstone. After 1930 there were few interments, although the cemetery remained in use through the late 1940’s.
The Pape Avenue Cemetery (now known as the Holy Blossom Cemetery) still lies behind high walls, just south of the Matty Eckler Community Centre. This is the oldest Jewish cemetery in Ontario and indeed the oldest in Canada west of Montreal. It is inactive and permission is needed from Holy Blossom Temple to enter. Seven years after the cemetery was founded, the Jewish community established the first synagogue in Ontario in rented premises above Coombe’s drug store at Yonge and Richmond streets. It later became Holy Blossom Temple. In 1919 a new Jewish Cemetery on Jones Avenue, just north of Leslieville, was consecrated, fulfilling an old Toronto Jewish proverb: “Live in the west; buried in the east.”
Part 4: Leslie Creek: from Austin Avenue to the Bay
South of Austin Avenue, the creek flowed west of Marjory Avenue to diagonally south east to cross Dundas Street at Dagmar. It crossed at 61 Jones Avenue where there was heavy basement flooding. It ran behind the store front block on the north side of Queen Street (George Leslie’s house and selling grounds) and crossed Queen Street just west of his general store at the northwest corner of Queen and Curzon. It flowed through George Leslie’s nursery to cross Leslie Street and Eastern Avenue to enter Ashbridge’s Bay at the foot of Laing – the Gut. The Gut is where the City of Toronto Works Yard is now.
In 1910 city work crews buried Leslie Creek diverting its water into the municipal storm sewer system so that Austin Avenue could be extended. But the creek didn’t die. While water from rain and snow pours into the storm sewers, precipitation also sinks into the soil of gardens, lawns and parks, flowing as groundwater along the course of the old creek. Gone and totally forgotten, wet basements and faulty foundations along its way tell their own story.
Today there’s not much left to see of Leslie Creek, but if you look closely traces of the ravine remain. The dip in the lane way north of Austin Avenue is the old creek bed. If you look into backyards, remnants of the ravine west of Marjory Avenue south of Gerrard. The creek itself can still be heard running underground after a rainfall or in a spring thaw.
Part 5: The Street is Extended
Public infrastructure, which in those days meant sewers, paved streets and sidewalks, was essential to the success of any new subdivision, then and now. George Washington Badgerow believed the East End would become an important and prosperous part of Toronto. Even before he began Subdivision #549 where Austin Avenue is today, he pushed the City of Toronto to improve road access to his subdivision. He succeeded.
Brickmakers deepened and widened the ravine when they dug down to extract clay and sand for bricks. Leslie Creek blocked the extension of Austin Avenue eastward to Marjory until 1910.
New transportation technology demanded new streets.
When Austin Avenue was extended in 1910, the area was a streetcar suburb of Toronto. Under heavy pressure from the City of Toronto, the Toronto Street Railway Company extended its Gerrard line east from Pape Avenue to Leslie Street and, after that to Greenwood Avenue, but no further.
The private streetcar company’s line was extended from Pape to Leslie in 1906 and to Greenwood in 1909 The City of Toronto built its own Civic Car line from Greenwood Avenue to Main Street. In December 1912, the new line opened. Soon after the City built a streetcar line from Broadview to Main along Danforth Avenue. Like Badgerow, others could see a bright future for the East End.
And then people could see that this part of the east-end was being brought very, very near to downtown, and that it was a beautifully wooded stretch of land. The cars discovered Gerrard street. They have taken hundreds of home-site buyers and builders down there. Toronto Sunday World, December 22, 1912
But by the time Austin Avenue reached Marjory Avenue, there were over 2,000 automobiles registered in Canada – a mere handful, but by the outbreak of World War One there were over 50,000. Cars, the new technology, demanded the developed of a different kind of city street, one that could accommodate the wear and tear of mechanized transport.
Not everyone was in favour of improving roads. Some rural residents resented Torontonians and their noisy automobiles. In 1903 York County Council considered improving the roads, but:
Councillor Baird stated that he was very much opposed to paying out money for good roads and then have “the automobile fellow” come out on them from Toronto. He stated that these machines went at a terrific rate, and were very dangerous.” Toronto Star, November 27, 1903
The automobile revolutionized Toronto’s cityscape, transforming the gravel and sand roads of the earlier rural Leslieville and even the more recent “streetcar suburbs” created by the extension of the streetcar system, especially the Civic Car line along Gerrard. It is not coincidence that people in the East End stopped thinking of their community as “Leslieville” around this time.
Sheet asphalt placed on a concrete base was first used in Paris, France in 1858 and first used in the U.S. in 1870. Thirty years later bitulithic pavements, a mixture of aggregate (crushed rock or gravel) and crude oil, began to be laid in Toronto. At first the binder was produced using naturally occurring crude oil (mostly from Trinidad), but in 1907 manufacturers began producing asphalt binders synthesized from petroleum. By the 1920’s many of Toronto’s streets were paved with asphalt. Portland cement (a mixture of cement, sand and gravel) was also being used in road construction, as a base to support wooden block paving, bricks, cobble stones, granite blocks, etc.
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.
Austin Avenue was paved using new technology, but an old material: asphalt, a mixture of bitumen (crude oil) and aggregate, rolled on to streets hot. As automobiles began to multiply, drivers began to demand better roads and streets. Before asphalt this, the City of Toronto paved its streets with bricks (yes, there really were yellow brick roads), granite or wooden blocks. But the kind of pavement laid down in 1910 on Austin Avenue gave a smoother ride.
A writer in 1716 said, “Tis impossible to be sure of anything but death and taxes.” After the City of Toronto filled in the ravine of Leslie Creek and extended Austin Avenue to Marjory Avenue, property values went up as did tax assessment on Austin Avenue and Marjory Avenue.
Death is still with us and I wonder what the taxes are on theses Austin Avenue houses?https://www.blogto.com/city/2013/04/house_of_the_week_41_austin_avenue/
Perhaps nothing illustrates the value of knowing the background to your life and future than the environmental crises facing us today, including global warming and mass extinction. The bees of 32 Austin Avenue have a story to tell us about remembering the background to our lives.
Collective amnesia is as if we suddenly forgot everything important that ever happened to make us who we are. It is as if we as a society had a massive stroke and could only remember what happened today. Yesterday gone. If this happened to a bee colony, how could they find the flowers with the nectar and pollen needed for survival. The colony would collapse.
What is another name for “the background to your life”? Informally it is our communal memory. More formally it is history, both that written by academic historians in universities and by more everyday folks like me. I’m Joanne Doucette, one of Leslieville’s local historians, and I think that our collective past can help us imagine a better present and certainly a better future.
Let’s take a time machine back to the Green family 32 Austin Avenue in Leslieville in the summer of 1912. Neat homes and gardens line this quiet street and bees buzz from flower to flower long before the City of Toronto considered it necessary to develop a “Pollinator Protection Strategy”. https://www.toronto.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/9676-A1802734_pollinator-protection-strategy-booklet.pdf
Leslieville was founded by market gardeners and many of our streets are named after these families: Pape, Logan, Leslie, Greenwood, etc.
George Leslie and the other market gardeners of Leslieville were absolutely dependent on bees, but no doubt took them for granted.
Toronto was home to incredibly communities of pollinators, including honey bees, native bees (many now endangered or threatened), butterflies and moths. For more information about the bees of Toronto: https://www.toronto.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/8eb7-Biodiversity-BeesBook-Division-Planning-And-Development.pdf
Although pesticides like Paris green were in use on farms and market gardens, most farms were still essentially organic and agriculture more sustainable.
A thriving community of beekeepers, men, women and children, kept hives in their backyards and produced honey for home use and even sale. In 1912 Alfred William Green and his wife Effie Harnden lived at 32 Austin Avenue with their four children, Harold, Bernice, Myrtle and Alton, and thousands of honey bees.
In 1912 farming was still largely chemical free and based on small family farms. Bee populations were healthy and beekeeping both a popular urban hobby and a rural business. A beekeeper of 1912 would have had a hard time believing that a century later bees on Austin Avenue would experience more biodiversity than rural bees. Alfred Green, like all beekeepers, would have known that bee keeping is more than some boxes, frames, gloves, head gear and other equipment: it is bee caring. Bees require consideration and in return they give honey and pollinate our gardens and crops.
“The evidence is overwhelming that wild pollinators are declining. Their ranks are being thinned not just by habitat reduction and other familiar agents of impoverishment, but also by the disruption of the delicate “biofabric” of interactions that bind ecosystems together. Humanity, for its own sake, must attend to these pollinators and their countless dependent plant species.” -Edward O. Wilson
In 2019 farming is large scale agri-business, dependent on chemicals and artificial fertilizers, no longer sustainable but a major contributor to a global environmental crisis. Now Toronto, like many cities, is encouraging beekeeping to both stop falling bee populations and encourage local farmers and business.
Today’s city bees are healthier than their country cousins. The urban bees make more honey and have a higher winter survival rate. The city bees of 2019 have access to a wider range of flowers, a more varied diet. They have a stronger immune system and less exposure to toxic chemicals than rural bees.
Colony Collapse Disorder was unknown as were neonicotinoids, the insecticide believed to be behind declining bee populations.
However, now the term “colony collapse” is something even school children worry about.
“…most industrial farms practice extensive monoculture (miles of the same crop), where there is no alternative forage for any pollinator, native or non-native. Without a variety of food blooming at different times, any insect pollinator in the area will have a short, troubled life.” -Karen E. Bean, beekeeper
So for me the value of the background to this little illustrated story from Austin Avenue is not in some dusty type of history that leaves a dry mouth and bored mind but in its power to awaken our imaginations. We reach into our background to move forward to create alternative futures.
“I dreamt—marvelous error—
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my past mistakes.
-Antonio Machado, “Last Night As I Was Sleeping”
Some bee-friendly plants still common in Leslieville today
A bee-friendly Leslieville area garden, 2019
Although large operations like those of Joseph Russell and John Price with heavy machinery dominated the industry by the time Riverdale Collegiate was built, small operations like this still continued using methods that had changed little since the Middle Ages.
The horse is working the first type of machine that was introduced to the brick industry — in the 1850’s. The horse walks around and around that beaten track, pulling that big piece of timber which turns a grinding wheel. The machine, a pug mill, grinds the clumps of clay into a powder. The brick moulder mixes it with water and sand and pushes it into a wooden mould (in his hands). He then dumps it onto the ground to dry in the sun.
The figure to his right is a young boy, probably his son. Often the women and younger children worked with the father but by this time it was not socially acceptable so they don’t appear in the photo. The children did much of the heaviest labour.
The green is the richest clay and the best for bricks. It was found near the surface south of Gerrard Street and along the creeks, including Hastings Creek. Between Gerrard Street and the railway tracks the deposits were covered with sand but still not far below the surface. But north of the railway tracks the deposits were deeper. Brickmakers used steam shovels to dig through the sand to get at the good clay, but when they had used that up, they dynamited the shale (gray in the illustration) and made it into bricks.
There is an urban legend that Myrtle, Ivy and Harriet Streets were named after local women (true) who argued so much that they could never meet so the streets don’t meet (not true). The deep ravine called “the Devil’s Hollow” had more to do with keeping the streets from meeting. The women were all members of local brickmaking families who actually seemed to have got along quite well.
Canada’s immigration policy was openly racist and specifically sought white Scottish, Irish and English immigrants to counter the feared “Yellow Peril” — immigration from China and, to a lesser degree, Japan. This is clearly and, none to subtly, reflected in the poem below. John Wilson Bengough (1851-1923) was one of Canada’s leading cartoonists.
British immigrants crossing the “Bridge of Tears” over the railway tracks at Union Station around 1911. It was called this because here people said goodbye to loved ones or cried because they had left everything they had to gamble on a new start in a new country. Everything they own is in their hands.
Most came in family groups like this. Mother has baby in her arms. Dad is at the back. Two teens carry the luggage and grandmother is at the back carrying another child. The grinning child on the right reflects the hope they had, but others don’t look so enthralled with Toronto.
At the same time that a Shacktown was growing outside the city, families like the Andersons built brick and brick-fronted houses like these west of Greenwood Avenue. The City of Toronto imposed stricter building requirements due to the danger of fire. The so-called “Fire Limits” required brick construction at least on the street facade and fire resistant cladding on the other walls. Much of that cladding was Insulbrick, a kind of asphalt impregnated with asbestos. There is still a lot of that material around, often covered with newer aluminum siding.
The Andersons, professional builders from Scotland, preferred to build solid brick, sturdy houses, like these three. Many of those still stand today near Riverdale Collegiate. (Photos courtesy of Guy Anderson)
After 1905 a Shacktown developed east of Greenwood Avenue on land that was still outside of the limits of the City of Toronto. A flood of impoverished British immigrants arrived here to start new lives only to find that while jobs were available (at least at first), there was no housing for them. So they bought lots at around $5 to $10 a foot of frontage and scrounged bits of lumber, old crates, tarpaper, tin and whatever could use to create their own homes. These are on Coxwell Avenue.
December 22, 1919 Boys playing hockey on Hastings Creek. Hastings Creek crossed the Danforth just east of Jones and cut a ravine at Ravina Crescent in “The Pocket” and another gully, known as the “Devil’s Hollow” between Jones & Greenwood.
The creek continued south through the Hastings’ farm (Hastings Avenue to Alton Avenue) and across where Greenwood Park is to enter Ashbridge’s Bay between Leslie Street and Laing Street. The City filled the ravine in a number of times and finally buried the creek in the sewer system in the early 1920’s.
A staff member at the East End Garden Centre recalled when her grandfather caught fish in this pond. Others have told me of their grandparents tobogganing down the hill or skating on the pond.
Cattle and pigs were driven along roads leading into Leslieville from very early in the 19th century. The men and boys who managed the cattle en route were called “drovers”. Later they were brought in by train. When they reached Leslieville the animals were let loose to graze on the nutritious meadow grasses along Ashbridge’s Bay.
Some were even fed on the leftovers from the Gooderham Worts Distillery. Then they were slaughtered by butchers in the many abattoirs that were feature of Leslieville’s economy. Of the cattle that were fed on whisky mash, it is said that they died happy.
This is looking west along Jones Avenue just north of Riverdale Collegiate. Heavy industry lined the track, including a pork packinghouse on the west side of Jones where pigs where slaughtered. The stench was incredible especially on hot days, making nearby houses and the high school even more uncomfortable in the days before air conditioning,
Badgerow – Formerly Franklin Street. It was renamed after George Washington Badgerow (1841 – 1892), an Ontario lawyer and politician who represented York East in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from 1879 to 1886 as a Liberal member. The family, originally “Bergereau”, were early settlers in Markham and strong supporters of the rebels in 1837. Disgruntled, some joined the Markham Gang of outlaws.
Ever wondered who lived where your home is long, long ago? Well, I can give you some idea because I have directories from the early twentieth century and the nineteenth century. But there are no street addresses in the earlier directories. Look at this example from 1866 for Leslieville.
I think you’d agree that there is lots of information here. Who knew that there was a Leslieville Oil Company! They found pockets of natural gas, but no oil. The people are interesting and even more so if you know a little about them. R. Ambrose was a labourer in George Leslie’s Toronto Nursery. Later Ambroses became gardeners on the long-vanished Toronto Golf Club course at Upper Gerrard and Coxwell. The Ashbridge Estate still has a lovely old Ashbridge family home and hosts a flea market in the summer. James Berry was an African American who came north before the end of slavery. The Finucans and others were Irish Catholics who came here during the Potato Famine. William Higgins was Toronto’s first High Constable or chief of police. Henry Lewis was another black merchant. Logan Avenue is named for John Logan, a tall shy market gardener. James Morin built the Duke of York Tavern, in 1870. Alexander Muir wrote “The Maple Leaf Forever”. Pape Avenue is named after the Papes who specialized in growing flowers. Joseph Pape was one of Ontario’s first florists. Samuel Sewell was the patriarch of Leslieville’s black community. Thugs murdered his 15-year-old son, Isaac, ostensibly because he flirted with a white woman, but more probably that motive was piled on another — they robbed him of a substantial amount of money. There are so many stories, but from this you would not really have much idea where they actually lived.
The same Directory gives us more information, but only if you understand the rather cryptic language used. It lists every head of house (i.e. men) alphabetically for the Township of York East. Leslieville was in York East, but so was Riverside, the Village of Norway, etc. — and the City of Toronto.
Let’s look at a few examples: Ashbridge, Jesse Con 1 Lot 8f; Beaty, Hanah Con 1, Lot 15f (single women and widows were included, especially if they owned property); and Calendar, Henry, laborer, Con. 1, Lot 5h.
With that information we know within a city block or two where these people lived. But how?
Maps say a lot, but you have to understand the language they are using or at least the basics.
Just as we begin learning French with basic phrases like “Bonjour” or “Merci beaucoup”, we begin with a few basic terms in the language of those who laid out the roads and side roads, farms and subdivisions — surveyors. If you own a home, you want an accurate survey to know where your property begins and ends or you may find yourself tearing down the new fence you just built and/or having a heated argument with your neighbour. So, now and then, surveyors used state-of-the-art equipment, to lay out a pattern of roads and property divisions called “lots”. In the Township of York East, they began by carefully laying out an accurate base line — an imaginary, but crucial east-west line. Then they laid out a second line and a third and a fourth and so on, like rungs on a ladder reach north from the lake — each rung at a equal, pre-determined distance from the base line. The area between the base line and the second line was called “the First Concession”; and between the second and third line it was “the Third Concession”.
They laid out another set of lines, but these ran north and south, again in pre-determined and equal distances. These lines were known as side lines. Between each sideline and the one to the west of it was a “farm lot” or simply called a “lot” of 200 acres. The lots are number from east to west, beginning at the Victoria Park, the boundary between the old Scarborough Township and the Township of York East.
In this way, the early surveyors laid out the Township of East York as a grid and their orderly lattice of concessions, sideroads, and lots is still with us today. When settlers or contractors “opened up” or built a road along the imaginary line, the road became known as “the First Concession Road” or “Base Line Road”; Second Concession Road; Third Concession Road; etc. In rural areas today, you will often hear, “Oh, so-and-so lives on the Second Concession”, meaning the Second Concession Road.
In our area, the First Concession Road became known as the Kingston Road or the road to Kingston. Parts of it later became known as “Queen Street”.
Where Kingston Road bends and goes up the hill towards Woodbine Avenue, Lee Avenue and beyond, it is no longer on that imaginary line but follows an ancient First Nations trail. In fact most of our streets that run diagonally or meander lazily around hills and through valleys, are trails made by the Wendat, Haudenosaunee and Missisauga, and the Nations that went before them. This includes Kingston Road, Dawes Road, Broadview Avenue, Todmorden Road, Bayview Avenue, Rosedale Ravine Road, Davenport Road, and so many more. Some like the Ridge Road in this map have been completely forgotten.
Queen Street through the Beach is on the line of the First Concession Road. The roads alone the sidelines became known with numbers in most rural areas, but in our area the sideline roads have names. This Map of the Townships, York, Scarboro, and Etobicoke from ca 1911 by C.H. MacDonald clearly shows the area streets with the numbered lots. People called the area between Queen Street and the bay and lake “the Broken Front” because it was the front of the grid but was not continuous, being cut up with coves and inlets.
If we take an even more detailed part of the map above and flip it 90 degrees, we can see the names of the sidelines better.
The sideline at the boundary with Scarborough Township is now Victoria Park Avenue. The next sideline, separting Lot 1 and 2, is Willow Avenue. Between Lot 2 and 3 is Beach Avenue, then spelled “Beach Avenue”. Then between Lot 3 and 4 is Main Street which becomes Southwood Drive south of Kingston Road. Sidelines here are not as straight as the first surveyors, mostly military men, would have wished because the steep hill and numerous ravines messed up their neat plan. The side line between Lot 4 and 5 was called “Morton Road” but is now “Norwood Road”. South of Kingston Road it is Lee Avenue.
|1-2||Willow Ave||Willow Ave|
|2-3||Beach Ave||Beech Ave|
|3-4||Main Street||Hammersmith Ave, Southwood Rd, Main St|
|4-5||Lee Ave, Norwood Rd, Morton Rd||Lee Ave, Norwood Rd, and roughly Westlake Ave|
|5-6||Woodbine Ave||Woodbine Ave|
|6-7||Roughly along line of Berkeley Ave||Now roughly along Edgewood Rd, then Beaton Ave, Wembley Rd, and Hillingdon Ave|
|7-8||Coxwell Ave||Coxwell Ave|
|8-9||Morley Ave||Woodfield Rd and closer to the Danforth it is Gillard Ave|
|9-10||Greenwood Ave||Greenwood Rd|
|10-11||Leslie Street||Leslie Street and north of the CNR tracks Condor Ave|
|11-12||Jones Ave||Jones Ave|
|12-13||Carlaw Ave||Carlaw Ave|
|13-14||DeGrasi St||DeGrassi St and further north near the Danforth it is Hampton Ave|
|15||Broadview Ave||Broadview Ave|
Even today our houses sit in numbered subdivisions within the original farm lot.
So let’s decipher our examples. Keep in mind that while the sideline is not mentioned, we don’t really need it. There were very few streets opened up in 1866 and only two major Concession Roads: Queen Street and Danforth Avenue. Kingston Road being a First Nations Trail was “off the grid” and not a concession road in York East.
Ashbridge, Jesse Con 1 Lot 8f means Jesse Ashbridge, living on Queen Street between Woodfield Road and Greenwood Avenue, in Leslieville. “Con 1” is Concession One or the block of land that lies between the Baseline (Queen Street) and the Second Concession Road (Danforth Avenue). “f” is for “front”, meaning the south end of the block of land while “h” is for “hind” or “rear”, meaning on the south side of Danforth Avenue.
Beaty, Hanah Con 1, Lot 15f means Hannah Beatty (typos even back then) lived on Queen Street between Broadview and the Don River — in Riverside.
Calendar, Henry, laborer, Con. 1, Lot 5h is a lot trickier because Kingston Road intersects Lot 5 and though it says “h” for rear, he could be living on Kingston Road or near to Danforth Avenue, somewhere between Norwood Rd. or Westlake Ave. and Woodbine Avenue.
We will follow the Jesse Ashbridge property. Jesse Ashbridge died in 1874 of tuberculosis. His wife Emma Rooney died in 1919. Their son Wellington Ashbridge died in 1943 and Jesse Ashbridge Junior died in 1945. Wellington Ashbridge had two daughters: Dorothy died in 1996 and Winnifred in 2002.
Goad’s Fire Atlas maps have a great deal of detail. For example, take the block of buildings from Vancouver Avenue (formerly Ashport) to Greenwood Avenue, on the north side of Queen Street. When someone planned a subdivision they had to register the plan with the Registry Office and they received a number for their new subdivision. The number 303E is the subdivision number for the storefronts and houses here. There are seven narrow north-south lots, numbered from east to west 1 to 7. 7 is the store on the northeast corner of Greenwood and Queen. The address is also given and for this store it is 1372 Queen Street East. It also tells us the construction of the buildings. Not surprisingly the reddish-brown brick-coloured buildings are brick. The yellowish builds are wooden. The red line in the lower left corner is the water line for a fire hydrant. The fire hydrant is a circle.
So if you wished to research the title for 1372 Queen Street East, you know it is in Concession One, Lot 10, Subdivision Plan 303E, Lot 7. You could also check it in some of the other City Directories.
View of Queen Street East at Greenwood Avenue, 1981
Postscript: The Ashbridge Estate
We think of the Edwardian period as the time when King Edward VII, Victoria’s son reigned. That is the period from 1901 to 1910. For Riverdale Gardens, this is the period when Albert Wagstaff and others opened brick yards along Greenwood near the railway tracks. William Prust, Riverdale Garden’s founder, retired from his positions in Haliburton during this period and moved to Greenwood Avenue in Toronto. Let’s be clear, I love this neighbourhood and it is very different from anything else in our area. Some of the words to describe these Edwardian homes are quite technical and, if you don’t know them, don’t worry, I didn’t either — at least when I began researching many years ago. I have added a section at the end with definitions of the various technical terms used.
But Edwardian architecture, including the house style that dominates Riverdale Gardens, began earlier in the dying years of Queen Victoria’s reign. The change from the Victorian architecture of the 1890’s to the new style was dramatic. In the earlier Victorian period there were many more varieties of house design. The Edwardian era featured simpler designs and fewer styles, chiefly the Edwardian Classic house and the Arts and Crafts bungalow, both of which are found in Riverdale Gardens.
While technically the Edwardian architectural period coincided with the end of World War One in 1918. But Edwardian houses continued to be built in Riverdale Gardens up until the end of the 1920s, no doubt because William Prust himself preferred this style.
At the beginning of Edwardian era, most of the East End was still not subdivided. The Hastings and Ashbridges farms had not been sold to developers and the Toronto Golf Club’s course from Coxwell to East Toronto was in operation until 1912. Gerrard Street from Greenwood to Main was not opened until 1912.
Greenwood Avenue was widened in 1909. Gerrard and Greenwood was a major streetcar junction with Greenwood cars going north-south to Danforth and Queen and Gerrard cars going east-west.
We may chuckle now, but it is important, I think, to remember that the architects and builders, be it 1917 or 2017 consider their work “modern” and “state-of-the art”, but certain periods featured such dramatic technological and social change that they stand out.
With the advent of cheap hydro-electricity after 1907, industry was expanding along key East End streets, particularly Carlaw, Eastern and, to a lesser extent, Coxwell Avenue. Virtually the only industry on Greenwood in this period was brick making. These new plants provided employment for managers, foremen, and skilled tradesmen such as lithographers and engravers who followed their employers from downtown to the East End. Toronto’s growing middle class embraced change, including electricity, the expansion of public transit, and the new architectural styles.
The middle class begin to move farther away from downtown to new “streetcar” subdivisions such as Riverdale Gardens. This accelerated in the 1920s as the automobile became cheaper and more accessible, offering another transportation option. In the “The Roaring Twenties”, Gerrard Street and Greenwood Avenue were built up all the way from the Don to Main Street and from Queen past the Danforth. As the population of Toronto boomed, real estate along Gerrard also boomed.
The Edwardian era featured apartment buildings built with plumbing and electricity, such as Albert Wagstaff’s Vera Apartments at Wagstaff Drive and Greenwood Avenue. Wagstaff build it as a modern building, in the latest style, and as a practical investment allowing his managers and foremen to live right next to their workplace. He may even have subsidized some of the rents, but this remains to be documented. Wagstaff built a number of apartment buildings in the East End, but apartment buildings were very controversial at the time. They were often and unfairly labelled “tenements” with all the associations to over-crowding, unsanitary conditions and poverty. The new type of apartment building pioneered in Toronto by Wagstaff and others made these buildings socially acceptable and even fashionable.
Prust was careful to include shops in Riverdale Gardens. Shopfronts were simpler than their Victorian predecessors. Glazing now featured broad panes of plate glass instead of the smaller-paned windows. Although merchants could buy machine-made plate glass from as early as 1800, it was very expensive and did not come into common use until later and only became relatively common by the 1890s. These show windows featured fresh fruit or vegetables, hardware, shoes or other merchandise.
The Isaac Price house at 216 Greenwood stands out both because of its size and its style and would have been considered slightly old-fashioned by many even when it was built. The Queen Anne house featured asymmetrical; textured surfaces; classical ornamentation; often towers/turrets; wraparound porches; balconies; art glass; and high brick chimneys. The Isaac Price house is a more restrained rendering of the Queen Anne style and includes some Arts and Crafts elements. It might better be considered a “vernacular style”, but does feature a vertical orientation, asymmetrical massing, projecting gables, and contrasting materials, particularly brick and wood. Of course, the brick it featured was Isaac Price’s own high-quality face brick, virtually identical to his brother’s “John Price Red”.
Most of us see Edwardian Classic houses each and every day and don’t think much about them. But they, and Prust’s guiding hand, are what makes Riverdale Gardens unique and beautiful. So let’s take a second of many more long looks at the houses and neighbourhood of Riverdale Gardens.
The typical Edwardian house of Toronto’s suburbs has a gable front, three or four bedrooms upstairs, and a big front porch. Most have lots of windows, often with Indiana lime stone sills, and a smooth brick walls on a high cement or field stone foundation. The wide porch usually was painted white and has clustered columns.
Many Edwardian houses are basically rectangular brick buildings with classical elements drawn on the architectural vocabulary of “classical” Greece and Rome. (Personally, I would like to see more homes today build on the not-so-classical vocabulary of the wigwam but is another story.)
Many have modified Doric columns. The architrave is usually quite plain. The cornice maybe exaggerated and with dentil blocks. The window surrounds are large but not ornate. Some area owners have retained the original windows with storm windows added, preserving the original design. The front door is important and many Riverdale Gardens home showcase the front door with the house’s most prominent Edwardian features.
Many verandas span the whole front façade and have a simple pediment over the staircase, as in this example above. Above the smooth tapered Doric columns, a plain architrave supports the porch. Under the soffit of the roof, a plain frieze board would have repeated the design of the architrave, subtly unifying the building while referring to the classical ideals that were so much a part of the middle-class education of the day.
Examples of original Edwardian Art Nouveau or Arts and Crafts art glass still survive to grace Riverdale Gardens. Some owners such as those who own the house in this photo have preserved their art glass, and, incidentally, improved the value of their house.
This Edwardian house features the clean lines and solid massing of the Edwardian style but also presents some Arts and Crafts elements. The gable has half-timbered effects. The simple brown and white painting of the timber is, as with many Edwardian touches, restrained and subtle compared to Victorian paint schemes.
This is a typical Edwardian verandah with Doric colonettes on brick posts. The stairs are wide and simple, welcoming, and there is lots of room for the wicker chairs they loved so much.
Some Edwardian homes sometimes have half-timbered exteriors, in what has sometimes been jokingly referred to as “Tudorbethean” or a fabricated mixture of Tudor and Elizabethan architecture. Sometimes the fill between the timbers is stucco and occasionally “pebbledash”.
I think of the Edwardian houses or Riverdale Gardens as neatly-wrapped presents. They look good, really good, on the outside and you just can’t wait to get into them. And what is inside them is treasure. Prust’s lay-out of the streets and houses and his insistence on “trees, trees, trees, if you please”, add to this feel that characterizes Riverdale Gardens. But, like a wrapped present, there are goodies on the inside.
The front door of an Edwardian house made a statement. It was panelled and sometimes incorporated Masonic symbols or images and stained glass. Walk through the front door of these Edwardian homes and you found paintings (albeit reproductions or prints), sparkling tileworks, stained glass and decorative features inspired by both the Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts movements. To get an idea of the fashionable home interior of the early 1920s and the clothing of the men and women who lived when most of Riverdale Gardens was built, one of the best places to look is the Eaton’s catalogue. These are from the Eaton’s Fall and Winter catalogue of 1920 to 1921.
Prust houses often had piping for gas lighting, stoves and fireplaces, but all had electricity. This was one of those revolutionary technological changes we take for granted until a transformer somewhere on the grid goes down and the lights go out. As electric lights brightened interiors, those interiors opened up, creating a very different interior from the larger hall to the bigger rooms, with larger windows and taller ceilings. The living-room replaced the parlour. Simple replaced the fussy. Light colours replaced the dark colour schemes of the Victorian interior.
This was a new vision of the living space: light-filled, with open, airy rooms, considered far more healthy especially at a time when the “white plaque”, tuberculosis (TB), killed so many. Incidentally, this term is not a reference to race, but to the ashy paleness of those eaten up or consumed by “consumption”, another term for TB.
Women had more say in how homes were designed. These Edwardian houses and their Arts and Crafts contemporaries featured the first built-in kitchen cabinets, the first built in kitchen sinks and stoves, as well as bedrooms with a closet in every room, even though those closets seem small to us today. Servants no longer looked after the middle class and these houses were made easier to clean – especially with the electric vacuum cleaner.
The floors would be dark, polished wood as would be the staircases, posts and banisters. Persian-style rugs broke up the expanses of bare floor with splashes of colour and texture. Walls were often white downstairs, but wallpaper was frequently used in the bedrooms. Walls could be white when they were lit by electricity. Gaslight, oil lamps and candles made walls sooty and dark Victorian paint and wallpaper concealed this. Now wallpaper was softer and easier on the eye than Victorian wall paper. It often featured delicate floral patterns in pastel shades.
Many homeowners in Riverdale Gardens have renovated their Edwardian homes with extensions, skylights and additional windows, very much in the spirit of the original design with its emphasis on light, airy space. Riverdale Gardens is a very attractive location, part of Leslieville with its very desirable “location, location, location”. Properties gain both aesthetically and in value when homeowners understand more about the Edwardian nature of their houses. These gracious understated houses were built with the highest quality materials and workmanship especially when someone William Prust controlled the development of the subdivision. The bricks were the best, usually Price bricks. The timber was the highest quality, old-growth pine for framing and quarter-sawn oak, American chestnut or other fine wood for floors, interior moldings, doors and windows. These houses, detached, duplexes, triplexes and a few terraces, if lovingly maintained, will last for centuries, long after hastily-constructed condos will be nothing but dust and rust.
Even the roads of Riverdale Gardens were better maintained that Greenwood and even Gerrard. The brick wagons with their heavy loads cut deep ruts into Greenwood Avenue. To avoid the bog, motorists detoured through Riverdale Gardens. This went on for at least a decade, but probably more. At the time that Prust Avenue was built, Alton Avenue did not extend all the way to Gerrard but stopped before the steep drop-off that was the north face of the clay pit where Greenwood Park is today.
The traffic, even when not befuddled [or inebriated] was not welcome.
For more info about the Edwardian house see:
Some terms defined:
Architecture: The art of designing and building according to the rules regulated by nature and taste.
Architrave: The lintel or flat horizontal member which spans the space between columns; in classical architecture, the lowest member of an entablature.
Aspect: The direction in which a building faces.
Balcony: A projection from a wall of a building. It is usually placed before windows or openings.
Balloon framing a method of wood framing (begun in the 19th century) where the exterior walls are continuous from foundation to roof plate, and all the framing members are secured with nails.
Baluster: Any of the singular posts of a railing, one of a series of uprights, often vase-shaped, used to support a handrail.
Balustrade: the low wall made up of a series of balusters and railings, a row of columns supporting a railing.
Bargeboard: fancy, wooden ornately carved scrollwork, attached to and hanging down under the eaves of the projecting edge of a gable roof
Base: The architectural element on which a column or pier rests. See also column, pier. Other parts of columns and piers: abacus or impost block, capital, shaft.
Baseboard (skirting board): interior finish trim hiding the wall and floor junction.
Bay Window: A window forming a bay or recess in a room or an alcove projecting from an outside wall and having its own windows and foundation.
Bay: A unit of interior space in a building, marked off by architectural divisions; sections of a building, usually counted by windows and doors dividing the house vertically.
Bond: the pattern in which bricks are laid, either to enhance strength or for design.
Bracket: historically, a support element used under eaves or other overhangs. In Edwardian architecture, exaggerated brackets used under wide eaves are decorative rather than functional. A projection from the face of a wall.
Builders: trained as apprentices with master builders who were themselves usually carpenters or masons.
Bungalow: The Arts and Crafts bungalow in its purest form didn’t work for cold climates like Toronto, Detroit or Chicago. So, designers reconfigured the bungalow, creating a new style of bungalow that was raised on a stone or concrete foundation with a basement and the most modern furnace available. Nevertheless, they built in elements that emphasized the horizontal vs. vertical even when, as in our neighbourhood, the bungalow was perched half-way up a hill. This new bungalow, sometimes called a “semi-bungalow”, was usually a storey and a half with a dormer, not a full two stories. Although small by today’s standards, often between 800 and 1200 square feet, they were considered spacious at the time. The typical six-room house had two or three bedrooms, one bathroom, a livingroom that flowed into the dining room, kitchen, and a full basement. It often had a second floor with additional space, but was usually only a storey and a half. It had large porches covered by the overhanging roof and eaves and supported by generous columns. Columns were designed in such a way as to break up the vertical line using groups of columns, a column split into two parts (a bigger base with a small pedestal on top) or so-called elephant columns that were wedge-shaped, narrow at the top and widened like an inverted elephant’s trunk at the ground. By 1923, there was a building boom across Toronto as prosperity had returning following the brief depression of 1919. The area along Gerrard filled in with rows of brick bungalows, detached, duplexes and triplexes. Riverdale Gardens is exceptional in being mostly Edwardian villas with only a few bungalows.
Capital: top part of a column, decorative element that divides a column or pier from the masonry which it supports.
Cladding: exterior surface material that provides the weather protection for a building.
Classical Orders: Doric (earliest and simplest) Doric columns usually have no base; the shaft is thick and broadly fluted, the capital is plain. Ionic (second) Ionic columns are usually slender, with fluted shafts, and prominent volutes on the capital. Corinthian (latest and most ornate Order) Corinthian columns are slender, usually fluted, with capitals elaborately carved with acanthus leaves.
Colonnade: Series of columns set at regular intervals or a row of columns which support horizontal members, called an architrave, rather than arches.
Column: Cylindrical support consisting of base, shaft and capital.
Coping: a cap or covering on top of a wall, either flat or sloping, to shed water.
Cornice: The top section of the entablature; a horizontal molding projecting along the top of a building or wall.
Course: a continuous horizontal row of brick or stone in a wall.
Crenulations or battlement: A parapet with alternating openings (embrasures) and raised sections (merlons), often used on castle walls and towers for defense purposes.
Decorative Wooden Trim: Most homes include a street-facing gable decorated with wood trim such as brackets, patterned millwork, bargeboards, or shingling; this decoration is also occasionally used on the porch gable.
Dentils: small, oblong blocks spaced in a band to decorate a cornice.
Doors and Windows: Front facades of homes in this district are typically wide, which allows architectural elements like windows and doors to also be wider.
Doric: The oldest architectural style of ancient Greece; characterized by simplicity of form; fluted, heavy columns and simple capitals.
Dormer: an upright window projecting from the sloping roof of a building; also the roofed structure housing such a window.
Early roads: Queen Street was the baseline (with the land beneath it becoming known as the “broken front”). Surveyors ran their lines north from Queen Street with the Danforth eventually becoming the first concession. Farms were oriented north-south along Queen Street in 200 acre lots. Villages sprang up at the toll gates along the road — Norway at the Woodbine toll gate; Leslieville at Leslie Street and Don Mount (later renamed Riverside) at Mill Road (Broadview).
Vernacular style: many houses exhibited a mixture of several styles. Many Edwardian architects and builders borrowed elements from different styles, particularly Neo-classical, Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts, to create their own designs.
Elevation: one of the external faces of a building; an architectural drawing (to scale) of a building façade.
Ell: an addition or wing to a house that shapes it like an “L” or a “T”.
Entablature: A horizontal superstructure supported by columns and composed of architrave, frieze and cornice.
Façade: the faces of a building, often identified by the cardinal direction (N,S,E,W) which it faces.
Fascia: a plain horizontal band; a fascia board will cover the joint between the wall and the projecting eaves.
Floor plan or ground plan: Horizontal cross-section of a building as the building would look at ground level. A ground plan shows the basic outlined shape of a building and, usually, the outlines of other interior and exterior features. The main floor and upper floor plans (if any) are always included. In addition, depending upon the scope of the survey, plans at the following levels may be required: foundation plan, reflected ceiling plans (crawl space, main and upper floors), attic joist plan, rafter plan and roof plan.
Foundation wall, beam, column, footing: Many of the homes of settlers sat directly on the ground. Masonry walls were used for footings from c. 1850 – 1900. Poured concrete foundations were new in the late 19th century and those with Portland cement, harder and more durable, in the 20th century.
Foyer: The entrance hall.
Framework, walls, floors: Wooden structural frame and light cladding. Clad in brick, stucco or wood.
Frieze: the horizontal band forming the middle section of the entablature; usually decorated with sculpture.
Gable: The end wall of a building, the top of which conforms to the slope of the roof.
Gambrel: a ridged roof with two different slopes on each side of the ridge, the lower slope having a steeper pitch (sometimes called a Dutch roof).
Glazing: the glass in a window.
Grand Trunk Railway (GTR): This railway was proposed in 1851 as the main trunk line through the United Province of Canada. It was formally incorporated in 1852 to build a railway from Toronto to Montreal. In 1856 the GTR reached the banks of the Don River in Toronto. The GTR became part of the Canadian National Railway (CN) and now GO Trains roar along it.
Half-timbering: wall construction in which spaces between wooden timber framing are filled with brick, stone, or other material; used decoratively in 20th century houses.
Head: the top of the frame of a window or door.
Header: the end of the brick seen in a brick course.
Industrialization There were a considerable number of highly organized and specialized plants located in the East End. These larger manufacturers were successful, and, with their state-of-the-art machinery mass produced goods, that outcompeted smaller factories. Many, like Palmolive or Wrigleys, were branch plants owned by American corporations who had to build here in Canada because tariff walls imposed high duties on American-made goods.
Jamb: A vertical element of a doorway or window frame.
Jerkinhead: a gable roof with a hipped end
Joist: horizontal structural members to which the boards of a floor or the lath for a ceiling are nailed.
Light (lite) : small panes of window set into an individual sash.
Lintel: A flat horizontal beam which spans the space between two supports.
Lozenge: A diamond shape.
Masonry: work done by masons, including brick, stone, or concrete block.
Massing: the expression of interior volume as form.
Mortar: a material used in the plastic state and troweled into place to harden; used to consolidate brick, stone, and concrete block work.
Newel: the principal post in a banister at the foot of a staircase and at the corners of landings.
Parging (pargeting): to coat with plaster, particularly foundation walls and rough masonry (see stucco).
Pediment: a triangular section, or gable end, often used above doors and windows or at porch entrances.
Pier: An upright support, generally square, rectangular, or composite.
Pitch: the degree of slope of a roof, usually given in the form of a ratio, such as 6:12.
Porch: a roofed exterior space on the outside of a building.
Portal: Any doorway or entrance but especially one that is large and imposing.
Portland cement: a high-strength material (commercially dating to 1824) used as a component of concrete and modern hard mortars.
Quoins: rectangles of stone or wood used to accentuate and decorate the corner of a building
Rafter: framing member supporting the roof.
Repointing: removal of old mortar from joints of masonry construction and filling in with new mortar.
Return: the part of a pattern that continues around a corner.
Ridge: the [top] line of intersection of the opposite sides of a sloping roof.
Riser: the vertical face of a step.
Riverside Missionary Church In 1902 this building was erected as a Primitive Methodist Church on the site of an earlier Church at 466 King Street West, at the corner of Bright Street and King Street.
Roofs: Gable, hipped (mansard included) and flat roofs.
Rusticated block: concrete block formed to replicate rough stone.
Sash: the moveable framework holding the glass in a window or door.
Shaft: The structural member which serves as the main support of a column or pier. The shaft is between the capital and the base.
Shingles: thin pieces of wood used in overlapping rows to cover roofs and exterior walls of houses; can be cut in decorative shapes.
Sidelights: windows at either side of a door; often in conjunction with a transom above door and sidelights.
Siding: the exterior wall covering of a structure. German : common 19th century wood siding pattern, with a combination of concave curve and flat profile novelty : general term for 19th century wood siding with a decorative profile.
Sill: the horizontal water-shedding element at the bottom of a window or door frame.
Site Plan: The site plan shows the legal boundaries; the topographical features, including contours, vegetation, trees, roads, walks, fences and other man-made features; and the buildings. If the grid system is employed, the baseline of the grid, including its true bearing and tie-in dimensions to permanent features, is indicated as well as the level reference datum. Included with the site plan is the location plan, which is a map enabling one to find the property with reference to main roads, towns or natural features.
Soffit: The underside of an arch, opening, or projecting architectural element.
Springer: The lowest voussoir on each side of an arch. It is where the vertical support for the arch terminates and the curve of the arch begins.
Stained Glass Windows and Transoms: Stained glass decoration is sometimes found used in homes, especially in large, arched windows in the front of the house, and in transoms over the front doors.
Streetscape: the combined visual image from all of the physical elements found on both sides of a street, including the property up to the building front Riverside Garden has a distinct, identifiable streetscape. Repetition of design features such as roof and porch trim, and gable shapes, create a sense of unity and rhythm as they are repeated throughout Riverdale Gardens. This gives an overall character, a sense of community, visually to Riverdale Gardens and, of course, those who live there give the rest to that very tangible sense of community.
Stretcher: the long side of a brick when laid horizontally.
Stringcourse: A continuous projecting horizontal band set in the surface of a wall and usually molded.
Studs: the upright framing members for a wall.
Transom window: a window above a door; commonly hinged for separate operation.
Tread: the horizontal surface of a step (see riser).
Trim: the framing of features on a façade which may be of a different color, material, or design than the adjacent wall surface.
Turret: a little tower, set at an angle to the main wall; often at a corner and projecting above a building.
Veranda or verandah: a roofed, open gallery or porch; a large covered porch extending along one or more sides of a building and designed for outdoor living. Verandahs and porches provided shade for the home and offered a sheltered place to sit, especially during warm summer evenings. They also gave homeowners a place to observe and interact with their neighbours. Porches were initially made of wood, which could warp, leak or rot if improperly constructed. By the 1910s, porches were constructed from concrete and brick. As the world became less rural, demand for porches declined; cars stirred up dust and people became more private, spending their spare time indoors with their families and televisions. Most pre-1914 homes in the East End were designed to have some sort of covering for the front door entrance, whether it is a front porch, verandah, or a small overhang. Homes built during the 1920s feature porches that are integrated into the roofline. Porches include a variety of features, including columns, spindles, and handrails.
Verge board: bargeboard.
Vernacular: used to describe buildings with little or no stylistic pretension, or those which may reflect an interpretation of high-style architecture of the day.
Villa: In Roman architecture, the land-owner’s residence or farmstead on his country estate; in Renaissance architecture, a country house; in early 20th-century Toronto, a detached house usually two or more storeys.
Voussoir: One of the wedge-shaped stones used in constructing an arch.