Building Leslie Gardens

From 1836 to 1837 workers had straightened and planked the Kingston Road. It became a toll road, providing a reasonably good route for transporting products in and out of Toronto. Here, in 1842, Scottish gardener and tree grower, George Leslie, leased 20 acres of land from Charles Coxwell Small for a 21-year term. George’s landlord, Small, a member of the Family Compact and Clerk of the Crown, was the owner of extensive lands in the area. (Coxwell Avenue is named after him.) Small may have thought he got the better of the deal when he found someone foolish enough to lease his 20 acres of mucky swampland on the shores of Ashbridge’s Bay. The Toronto Nurseries was built on a tamarack-covered swamp (Larchmount Avenue recalls this). These 20 acres of rich black mud were the core of his nursery which would expand to 200 acres, the largest in Canada. George Leslie did not buy that land until the lease ran out in 1863. Then Small demanded an exorbitant price from Leslie and apparently got it. George Leslie valued that soft, rich dark muck and others recognized its worth, as shown in the Annual Report of the Bureau of Forestry for the Province of Ontario.

The memory of the tamaracks and reeds remained for decades. Marigold Gardens, the subdivision on Toronto Nurseries land, was nothing but “bulrushes and swamps”. Ward 8 News. “Short Stories of Leslieville” in Ward 8 News, February 9, 1979. Marigold Gardens is one street in the former Leslie Gardens subdivision built by realtor and contractor H. Addison Johnston.

Leslie Nurseries 1884 I’ve added notes and marked where the creeks were.
George Leslie attributed to John McPherson Ross ca 1907. John McPherson was a poor Scottish boy when George Leslie took him on as an apprentice. He rose to become foreman of the Toronto Nurseries and Leslie’s right-hand man. After George Leslie died, his sons made unwise investments, became embroiled in scandal, and lost the Toronto Nurseries. Most of it become housing, but a small portion along Eastern Ave continued under the ownership of John McPherson Ross. Caroline Avenue at the west side of Leslie Gardens is named after George Leslie’s first wife.

George Leslie died on June 14, 1893. George Leslie left a large estate with considerable real estate, including properties on Queen Street East, on Jones Avenue, on Curzon Street, on Eastern Avenue, and on Leslie Street, worth almost $115,000 in 1893. Not long after George Leslie died most of the Nurseries was sold. Before long most of the land was mortgaged to the Gooderhams and sold off around 1910. Some Leslie descendants still remember the grudge against the Gooderhams who “took” their land; others remember how like prodigal sons, John Knox and his brother George Leslie Jr., between the two, spent like millionaires, gambled, drank and womanized. The Leslie family’s loss was another family’s fortune.

Success Came by Giving People Made-to-Order Homes, The Canadian Builder and Carpenter, April 1916
H. Addison Johnston had made a name for himself building high-end homes in the Beach. He gained a reputation quality — “honestly built”… “genuine Johnston-built homes.” Toronto Star, March 1, 1919
The economy was still in the grip of a depression and Toronto City Council was hesitant about incurring more costs to provide work. Councillor Gibbons nailed it when he said, “These men are going hungry. We have been at this since last September and nothing done.” The municipality had few choices: make-work projects, welfare (the dole) or hungry, angry veterans who had already demonstrated that they could and would riot. But Council took a risk and agreed to put the sewers for Leslie Gardens out to tender. Addison Johnston was a canny man and an experienced builder and developer. Toronto Star, February 2, 1922
Leslie Gardens sat on the easternmost section of George Leslie’s Toronto Nurseries. A semi-bungalow was a house with a second story with slanted walls to the rooms –not full head-height walls. Globe, December 16, 1922
Globe, January 24, 1923
The Roaring Twenties was beginning to roar finally after the economic downturn that followed World War One. Globe, February 27, 1923
Leslie Gardens School construction, Globe, March 20, 1923
City Council approved laying the sewer system for Leslie Gardens at a cost of $63,618. Globe, April 17, 1923
Addison Johnston’s house-a-day plan explained. Larchmount was a new street in 1923 and built up quickly as was the rest of Leslie Gardens. Johnston used pre-fabricated or kit homes and an assembly line approach to putting them up. The fact that they were put up quickly does not mean that the construction was shoddy. However, because Leslieville Gardens was built on an old marsh at the edge of Ashbridge’s Bay, some of the houses may have settled and/or may have problems with wet basements. The black wet marsh mud was great for George Leslie’s nursery but didn’t necessarily make for the best residential building sites. Globe, May 10, 1923
Sales Larchmount Avenue Globe June 4, 1923
Globe, July 31, 1923. A building boom took off in the spring of 1923 after a short but sharp post-war depression and houses at 66, 68, 72 and 84 Larchmount Avenue sold quickly.
Looking east on Moseley Street with the Leslie Gardens Service Station on the left.

“The market for small house properties continues to be very active.” Toronto Real Estate News Aldridge and Leslie Gardens, Globe, July 21, 1923

This is a photo of the Leslie Gardens gas station on Eastern Avenue and Mosley Street, just west of Leslie Street. The view is looking east towards Leslie Street. The Leslie Garden’s Service Station’s address was 780 Eastern Avenue
42, 60 and 70 Larchmount Avenue were sold. The lots were narrow with 16 feet of frontage on the street but long at 100 feet. Toronto Star, July 26, 1923
photo from the 1970s
Globe, July 31, 1923
Leslie Gardens Service Station, Imperial Gasoline, ca. 1929
Toronto Star, August 13, 1923. Most of the new home buyers worked in the factories along Eastern Avenue and up Carlaw. To supplement their income and pay a portion of the mortgage, many let rooms or took on boarders.
Globe, August 17, 1923
Leslie Gardens, 1970s
The school was completed but the Board of Education needed to level the playground and parking area. Globe, October 31, 1923
Leslie Gardens, 1970s
Leslie Gardens school opens, Globe, December 4, 1913
Leslie Gardens School, 1923 (probably on the opening day) and Bruce Public School, 2014
Leslie Gardens 1924 included the east side of Caroline Avenue, Larchmount Avenue, Berkshire Avenue, Rushbrooke Avenue, Marigold Avenue (now Marigold Gardens) as well as the triangle of land at Eastern and Leslie Street.
Building the infrastructure of the Roaring Twenties, Toronto Star, January 18, 1924
photo from the 1970s
Leslie Gardens house for sale, Toronto Star, June 13, 1924
Leslie Gardens School was renamed Bruce Public School, June 28, 1924
Globe, July 1, 1924
Leslie Gardens, 1970s
Globe, October 2, 1924
Leslie Gardens, 1970s
For rent Globe, October 29, 1925. Some of the houses in Leslie Gardens were built for investment income and rented out.
Leslie Gardens, Toronto Star, March 11, 1926. In the early days of subdivision development, an investor or group of investors or sometimes a real estate company bought up a block on land and sold sections of 6-12 houses to builders. This was not true for Leslieville Gardens. Most of the houses there were built for and by Addison Johnston. However, 570 feet of street frontage was a sizeable amount of land enough for 20-30 houses.
Leslie Gardens, 1970s

Leslieville News: December 31 The Toronto Viaduct

Union Station and the Viaduct Toronto Star, December 31, 1924
Union Station and the Viaduct Toronto Star, December 31, 1924
Union Station and the Viaduct Toronto Star, December 31, 1924
Canadian Railway and Marine World September 1913
Toronto Star, Friday, July 11, 1924
Viaduct work, destruction of stores, Queen & De Grassi. – December 9, 1925
Viaduct work, destruction of houses, Strange St.. – December 9, 1925
Viaduct work, fill on east back of Don. – December 24, 1925
Viaduct, Riverdale, trestle for fill. – October 7, 1926
Construction Toronto Viaduct Toronto Star Oct 9 1926
Construction Toronto Viaduct Toronto Star Oct 9 1926
Viaduct construction Globe, Oct. 20, 1926
The first train on the new viaduct, Globe, September 24, 1927
Viaduct opening, Canadian National Railways crew: Brakeman Ryckman, Baggageman Cox, Conductor Huff, Engineer Brown, Fireman Franks. – January 21, 1930

Leslieville News: December 30

A pulmonator, 1913 being used to revive a victim
Carbon monoxide poisoning, McGee Street Toronto Star, December 30, 1941
Carbon monoxide poisoning, McGee Street Toronto Star, December 30, 1941
Old Coal furnace photo by Peter Baer ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Carbon monoxide poisoning, McGee Street Toronto Star, December 30, 1941
Carbon monoxide poisoning, McGee Street Toronto Star, December 30, 1941
Carbon monoxide poisoning, McGee Street Toronto Star, December 30, 1941
Eastern Avenue Bridge, December 30, 1932

The Difference Between a Local Historian and an Academic Historian

By Joanne Doucette

Do you enjoy reading local history? Would you like to know more about the past of your neighbourhood? If you do, please read this.

Most, but not all, people who research and write about the history of neighbourhoods do not have advanced academic degrees, such as the very Harry Potterish picture of Professor John Ashley Soames Grenville, historian, taken in 1950 (Public Domain) featured above. The local historian is, like me, an amateur not a professional.

Many academic historians look down on local historians as muddlers who don’t get the big picture. And sometimes that is true, but often not.

Local history is a very democratic kind of practice, drawing on community histories (e.g., in the local history collections of our branch libraries), family history, genealogy and oral history. The best local history relies on meticulous and careful use of original and secondary sources as well as ongoing discussion with professional historians. But local historians have limited resources. Not everyone has the money to get those letters behind the name. We do not have access to the records, the peer-review process, conferences and journals of the academic historian. We rely on sources and our works are published informally – on blogs, Facebook groups, etc. My peers are those who read my posts and blogs and respond. And I am very grateful to you. But I rely on sources and sources are not always right.

There are basically two kinds of sources – primary sources and secondary sources.

A Census is an example of a primary source.

Primary Sources

Primary sources are things like newspaper accounts, letters, marriage licenses, death certificates, baptismal certificates, tax assessment rolls, etc. They are usually reliable but have to be “handled with care”. Sometimes original sources contain simple mistakes. Sometimes the originator actually lied. Sometimes they didn’t know what they were talking about. Not so different than today. Usually, the records are biased in ways that we now recognize – racist, sexist, etc.

This is an example of a secondary source. The writer of the caption was not there in 1783 when King George presented the fire engine. Fire Engine, Maclean’s, September 1, 1929

Secondary Sources

Secondary sources are records written after the event. The writers rely on records that they might not understand or they may not have researched adequately. Or they too can intentionally distort the truth, often with “little white lies” that romanticize things – the “good old days”, etc.

The story of my family’s mixed MI’kmaq and European ancestry is oral history passed down by word of mouth through the generations depicted here. Family photos: Susan Brewer (nee Doucette), Thomas Leo Doucette and Agnes Lucy (nee Devenish) and Thomas Vincent Doucette.

Oral History

And then there’s oral history. Memories fail and stories passed down often begin to stray from the facts though there’s usually a core that can be verified through researching primary and secondary sources – which leads me back to where I wanted to go.

An original baptismal record confirming the Indigenous roots of my family

Why am I saying all this?

When the Leslieville Historical Society wrote up a plaque to the Underground Railroad two years ago, we made a mistake. The quote didn’t begin to appear until 2007. We relied on secondary sources, even a leading U.S. politician, and the Harriet Tubman Monument and other apparently reliable sources for the following quote:

A contemporary illustration of Harrriet Tubman

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” -Harriet Tubman (1822-1913)


The Harriet Tubman Monument, Beaufort, South Carolina, from a Global News report


But, as a Toronto historian brought to my attention, Harriet Tubman said no such thing.

Here’s the back story. We did our best three years ago in terms of due diligence, believing our sources were valid and checking with various authorities, including some friendly folks with PhDs. We also ran the wording by the Ontario Black History Society which suggested some changes which we duly made. They shared generously of their time and sent representatives to the unveiling. While they gave us the go-ahead, the responsibility lies with us and more particularly me.

Here’s a quote from Harriet Tubman in a book from 1869 that we could have/should have used.:

“When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven”.

Harriet Tubman

Sometimes, as when I wrote a small paragraph about Black World War one hero, Jeremiah Jones seven years ago, I did not have access to primary sources. I found nothing in the news of 1914-1920 about him and could not access his military records as they were not digitized yet.

So, I followed the lead of the CBC and noted that he was wounded at Vimy and Passchendaele. The journalist apparently relied on family history as recounted by a descendant, Adam Jones.


Jones was wounded at Vimy Ridge but not the other battle. (Yesterday I downloaded his military records online and double-checked.)

The Historian as Detective by Matt (CC BY-NC 2.0) FlickR

We work diligently to uncover lost histories but ask for fairness and respect for the work we get right and the service we provide to our communities. It is fair to ask for some courtesy when our sources fail us.

Public shaming is far from helpful and comes across as an attempt to silence. If local historians were to be silent, then the stories of ordinary families on ordinary streets would be lost. And I for one think that would be a shame because all families are extraordinary and all streets have stories to tell. We need to respect each other.

To quote a perceptive article:

“The academic historian is the discipline expert. They therefore have a responsibility to provide leadership. They should inspire amateur historians to increase their standards of scholarship. This needs understanding, trust and encouragement from academics. Not paternalism.”

The Conversation, April 3, 2012


This photograph is from the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America and has no known copyright restrictions.


A Local Historian & Oral History

Biography: Kathleen Adams, a graduate of Atlanta University in 1911, taught in the public schools of Atlanta for about 34 years, and also at the Carrie Steele Pitts Home, an institution for the care of orphans. She retired from teaching in 1957. A member of one of the prominent Black families of Atlanta, Mrs. Adams showed an early interest in history. She has preserved the history of her family in documents and memorabilia and has made tapes for the local historical society on the history of the Atlanta public schools. At the time of her interview, she was the historian and oldest active member of the First Congregational Church in Atlanta. 

Description: The Black Women Oral History Project interviewed 72 African American women between 1976 and 1981. With support from the Schlesinger Library, the project recorded a cross section of women who had made significant contributions to American society during the first half of the 20th century.

Photograph taken by Judith Sedwick 

Repository: Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America. 

Collection: Black Women Oral History Project”

Back to photostreamSchlesinger Library on the History of Women in AmericaFollow


November 9: Leslieville’s History

In the distance can be seen the Canadian Chewing Gum factory, makers of Chiclets. The photographer took this shot from the railway line into the backyards during the construction of the raised railbed that they called “the Toronto Viaduct”.
This scene shows the raised rail bed under construction and the old rail bed next to it, as well as two women taking a dangerous but commonly-used shortcut.
Disputing their property taxes seemed like an annual game in the old East End, including Leslieville. Globe, Nov. 9, 1895
Rolph Clark Stone’s employee newsletter, November 9, 1948

The Firefighters of Toronto, The Canadian Magazine, Vol. 20, no. 1 (Nov. 1902)

Horse-drawn fire wagon with water tank, Bloor Street West. – 1912\
Fire Hall # 12 Bolton Avenue
Three of the many firefighters killed in the line of duty, The History of the Toronto Fire Department, 1924
Horse-drawn fire reel, Bloor Street at Queen’s Park Crescent. – [1912?]
Horse-drawn fire wagon with hose and water tank. – [1910?]
Three of the many firefighters killed in the line of duty, The History of the Toronto Fire Department, 1924
Three of the many firefighters killed in the line of duty, The History of the Toronto Fire Department, 1924
Horse-drawn fire reel, Avenue Road. – [1908?]
Horse-drawn fire wagon on Avenue Road. – [ca. 1908]
Horse-drawn fire wagon with ladder. – [ca. 1907] Item consists of one photograph, possibly showing North Toronto Fire Department on Montgomery Avenue. *** Local Caption *** Item consists of one photograph, possibly showing North Toronto Fire Department on Montgomery Avenue.
HORSE-DRAWN LADDER WAGON courtesy of Chuckman’s Other Collection

The Wrigley Factory: Carlaw Avenue

Palmolive site with Wrigley Bldg & Rolph Clark Stone background. Aug. 2, 1917. Library and Archives Canada.
North Wrigley Building, Dec. 5, 1916. Library and Archives Canada.
South Wrigley Building. No date. Probably spring, 1916. Library and Archives Canada.
Goad’s Atlas, 1923. Dundas Street was not built through the East End until the mid-1950s.

Leslieville Roots: The Roothams

I wonder how many in our neighbourhood have Red Seal builders in their family trees?

There is a small clue in this rather mundane article from the Toronto Star of October 25, 1917.

Lewis Rootham was a contractor who built many of the houses on the lower of Woodfield, Connaught and neighbouring streets. But he wasn’t just any old kind of contractor: he was a Red Seal builder. (see article below)

Toronto Star, May 27, 1935

Some years ago, I had the opportunity to speak with one of his descendants and here is a transcript of part of that conversation:

“Lewis Rootham built the house in the early 1900s. He talked about the area being like old English countryside at first with grass and creek that ran into Ashbridges Bay. His dad and uncle used to swim there. He talked about Ashbridge who were said to be United Empire Loyalists with connections to royalty. The Ashbridges were deeded a lot of land, but my dad thought Jesse Ashbridge a bit odd because he cut the grass in the rain. My dad said the whole atmosphere of the neighbourhood changed with the relentless advance of civilization. He cited three major steps in the area’s development. First, stores opening on the south side of Queen Street, bringing more people to the street. Next, came the building of the TTC car barns and yard. That changed the atmosphere from that of the English countryside to mechanical. Then, the building of the big school north of the Ashbridges place, the Duke of Connaught, started a building boom. The Ashbridges kept 200 feet of frontage [on Queen Street]. He described the houses on one side of Woodfield Road (the Rootham house is at 42 Woodfield Road) as being low-class row houses, but said the other side had pretty good houses. He said his grandfather’s house was big, but unique in design because it had multiple levels. Master, living and front hall were on one level, but you went down two steps to dining and kitchen; up to bath and two bedrooms and up again to two more bedrooms. It was a great big house with only one bathroom. He remembers the fireplace as marvellous and the wood panelling and brickwork, all in classic English styling. He said times were tough later and his grandfather replaced the backyard with garages he could rent out to people with automobiles to have some money. He said the driveway was cinder and he was always getting hurt on it.”

Toronto Star, May 27, 1935

Balmy Beach Postcards

By Joanne Doucette

I love collecting these old postcards. Most are from my collection though some are no longer in my file of old fragile paper things. Due to the rarity many go from that drawer in my desk to libraries and archives. Some I also give away as Christmas stocking stuffers for friends. I should also note that in many cases, rips, tears, fingerprints etc. have been carefully removed. In my youth retouching photos was one of my occupations. Joanne

Balmy Beach Toronto 1900

There was no colour photography as we know it at the beginning of the 20th century. Postcards were carefully hand-painted, usually by women. While this makes every postcard a little different, it also means the quality of painting varied greatly. Some were pretty slapdash; others meticulously done. Most of these postcards have lived quite a life after they left the painter’s easel. Some were put away in drawers and, in 2021, are pristine. Most were left in sunlight and yellowed as the cheap paper they were printed on acidified. Some were handled more or less lovingly, with worn corners, tears, fingerprints and smudges. Others were mailed and got worse handling and all too often have traces of postmarks on the front. It is one of the most inexpensive but enjoyable of hobbies.

Balmy Beach Club, Balmy Beach Park, foot of Beech Ave., 1900

This is the actual black and white photograph from which the postcard was produced and it is easy to see “how much was lost in translation.”

Postcard Balmy Beach Club 1920s
It seems that painter was not up to the challenge of the dog in the centre or was interrupted. I think of this as “The Ghost Dog of Balmy Beach”, gone but perpetually happy and wet.

Goodbye to a local land mark

By Joanne Doucette

Leslie House at Jones and Queen (north east corner) torn down Telegram October 20, 1923
Globe, May 6, 1893 showing a separate entrance for his office
George Leslie’s house at the north east corner of Queen and Jones (undated, but probably early 1920s). The verandah and main entrance faced on Jones. Originally the main entrance was on Queen Street.
The stores that replaced the Leslie house, 1986
Goad’s Map 1910. I have added labels.

October 14: more deaths and soon come the anti-maskers, etc.

By Joanne Doucette

Edvard Munch, Self-Portrait of the Artist with the Spanish Flu (1919)
More Flu deaths at the training camp at Niagara-on-the-Lake, The Gazette, October 14, 1918
Personal protective devices, home-made by medical staff themselves
Flu deaths in Ontario The Gazette, Oct. 14, 1918
Medical authorities warned the public…
…but early on the information was not always correct, undermining credibility
American anti-mask rally, 1919 Public Domain
Edvard Munch, The Scream
Sled dogs rescue man Globe, February 1, 1919
Andrew Coulter, 128 Curzon St Toronto Star, March 12, 1919
Andrew Coulter, 128 Curzon St Toronto Star, March 12, 1919
Many simply stayed home and coped as best they could
People wiped surfaces rigorously with strong disinfectants, Saturday Evening Post, March 29, 1919
Promises, promises
Statistics deaths in Toronto for 1918, Toronto Star, May 15 1919
In this the second wave, hospitals quickly filled up again and the shortage of nurses was again acute.
The Pandemic’s impact on the supply chain, Globe, January 2, 1919
Flu back in Toronto The Gazette, Jan. 12, 1920
Mixing different kinds of vaccines to combat the Pandemic, The Canada Lancet, April, 1919
The official voice of Canadian doctors, Canada Lancet, supporting vaccination, November 1919
Dr. Charles Hastings, appointed by the Province of Ontario and not answerable to Toronto City Council, strongly supported vaccinations
Anti Vaccination League, Toronto Star, November 18, 1919 Dr. Hastings, the City’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, supported compulsory vaccination. Vaccines against influenza had been invented but were not widely available.
Anti-vaccination Rally on the Steps of the Toronto City Hall
Globe, November 20, 1919
Globe, November 20, 1919
Edvard Munch, Self-Portrait of the Artist after the Spanish Flu 1919
Inside cover, Maclean’s, April 2, 1955: a cartoon criticizing people who diagnosed themselves and picked and chose new medicines according to their misconceptions

October: The Month from Hell

page 1033 of Ontario Sessional Papers, 1919, No.26-41 Public Domain

If you lived in Toronto in the fall of 1918, you probably had a great sense of hope for a better future. The Great War to end all Wars seemed to be coming to an end. The Allied forces, including Canadian battalions, were sweeping back Germans along the Western Front.

Canadians returning victorious from The Battle of Courcelette, September 1916, Library and Archives Canada

Yet the men in the trenches were worn out. Casualties, both dead and wounded, were still high. The country was split over conscription and recruitment and training were ongoing. Men packed into military camps and aboard troop ships to Europe just as returning soldiers, mostly wounded, packed ships heading home.

First aid being rendered to wounded at Courcelette September 1916

Conditions for civilians “Over There” were horrendous as refugees tramped the roads, families cowered in basements and starvation stalked the towns and countryside.

The Survey April-September 1920, p 350 Public Domain

And rumours of a new mystery illness had been appearing in letters from overseas and in the newspapers since the previous winter. China was diving into an epidemic and sick soldiers were beginning to die — Americans, British, Canadians, Australians, Indians, Africans, Russians, Germans, Austrians, Italians. The new illness seemed to be a form of the flu that once it took hold often progressed to a deadly pneumonia in an age without antivirals or antibiotics.

Globe, Jan. 5, 1918
Globe, January 17, 1918

In Toronto, cases of pneumonia began to appear here and there in the papers. Often the victims were young and healthy with no preexisting conditions. These cases were not yet identified as influenza. But those who read the paper knew something dark was on the horizon. The military would be the vector, flu’s main line across the globe and to Toronto.

Flu kills Ulster team player Toronto Star May 13 1918
Riverdale Camp, 1915
Camp Kosciuszko, Niagara-on-the-Lake
Flu in Polish camp at Niagara Globe, Sept. 18, 1918

In mid September cases of influenza began to appear among the Polish soldiers at the Canadian Military training camp at Niagara-on-the-Lake. “Lieut.-Col. Le Pan does not anticipate any serious results from the epidemic.” Authorities seem to take the deaths of Josef Zabezyk and Kazinners Kolonaki, both Polish Americans, the first deaths, lightly. But were officials simply trying to reassure the public? This was wartime and the army authorities knew full well what was going on in Europe. Propaganda was “part and parcel” of war.

Some propaganda was worse than others,: a lot of it was sexist and much of it was racist, though Canadians of European ancestry wouldn’t have seen it that way at the time. Indigenous people maybe not so much. I wonder what the Cree syllabics say.

A week later the flu was in Toronto, but no deaths had yet been identified. Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Charles Hastings, offered guidelines to help prevent infection and spread of the new illness. Some are familiar to us 103 years later: avoid crowds, wash your hands, get outside (breathe pure air). Others seem downright weird: breath through your nose, chew your food well, “don’t let the waste products of digestion accumulate” (don’t be full of shit), avoid tight shoes. But the Pandemic of 2020-2022 offers advice just as useless and more dangerous: inject yourself with chlorine bleach, take pills vets prescribe for cows and horses, don’t get the COVID vaccine, diagnose and prescribe for yourself and your family, etc.

Toronto Star, Sept 23, 1918
Toronto Star, Sept 23, 1918

By September, Toronto had its first official flu death. Some schools were in quarantine as were some military centres in the city. Dr. George W. Ross was prescient.

Keep Away From Coughers Take No Chances, Cough Drop ad to prevent flu, Public Domain

People tried everything they could think of including cough drops to prevent getting the flu. They opened windows on streetcars and in homes, but dark jokes began to spread.

We opened the winda

And in flu Enza.

Masks were initially not recommended and then medical recommended them and soon political authorities mandated them. And some resisted.

Illustrated Current News, 1918, Collection National Library of Medicine Public Domain
Public Domain

Growth was exponential as Toronto entered the October from Hell.

Triaging in Toronto, Vancouver Daily World, Oct. 7, 1918
Flu makes orphan Ivy Avenue, Toronto Star, Oct. 11, 1918

October 12, 1918 Toronto’s Day from Hell

By October 12, the hospitals were triaging, turning away patients they thought might have a chance of survival or just accepting patients on a first-come-first-served basis. Doctors and nurses were not seeing those we would think would be least likely to survive: elderly, frail people and young children and infants. Those who were dying were, overwhelmingly, young and healthy men and women, in all neighbourhoods including older areas in the East End such as Riverside, Leslieville and Todmorden and new neighbourhoods spreading across the farm fields of the Ashbridges, Charles Coxwell Small, the Sammons, Cosburns and others. Even the new cottage communities along the Beach were not spared.

October 12, 1918, Toronto’s Day from Hell, began.

Influenza spreads across Toronto, Influenza deaths Toronto Star, Oct. 12, 1918
Some of the many deaths from influenza at the Niagara Military Camp and the Toronto General Hospital on College Street.

Like now, there simply were not enough trained and qualified doctors, nurses and other staff to care for the seriously ill. Voluntary in this case did not mean unpaid. Those doing the hands-on work of cleaning, feeding, and caring were then and now paid low wages and themselves falling prey to the Pandemic of their time.

Appeal for Volunteers Flu Toronto Star Oct 12 1918
The Gazette, Oct. 12, 1918

A temporary lockdown began.

Lockdown begins, Dr. Hastings, Toronto’s Chief Medial Officer, The Gazette, Oct. 12, 1918
Deaths rise Toronto, The Gazette, Oct. 12, 1918

Dr. Hastings arranged for supplies and beds for overflow facilities. Big business began to move to combat the Pandemic.

No more movies, The Gazette, Oct. 12, 1918
Calgary Herald, Oct. 12, 1918

Even the deeply religious no longer relied on prayer alone.

Baptist Convention cancelled The Gazette, Oct. 12, 1918 1
Record of influenza death at the Niagara Military Camp, October 13, 1918, Burial at St. John of Norway Cemetery

This man kept Thanksgiving by travelling to Toronto and playing billiards on arrival. He read the newspapers…and caught a chill.

Diary entries of Edward G.R. Ardagh, October 14-17, 1918, Archives of Ontario Public Domain
Globe, October 15, 1918

More emergency measures put in places and more volunteers called for.

Toronto Star, October 16, 1918
Ontario Emergency Volunteer Health Auxiliary, October 16, 1918 Archives of Ontario Public Domain

People began confronting those who refused to wear masks in public.

The Evening Star, October 16, 1918 Public Domain

A vaccine was available at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Dr. Mayo wasn’t sure if his jab would work for everyone and seemed unaware of side effects when he said, “We are not absolutely sure, except that we know the inoculation can do no harm.” Facilities couldn’t make it fast enough to give everyone the vaccine, but Dr. William James Mayo downplayed the flu, reassuring those who couldn’t get it or couldn’t afford it. Dr. Michael Mayo treats COVID patients today.

Influenza vaccine, Mayo Clinic, Toronto Star, October 16, 1918

You could buy insurance against influenza, but how high were the premiums?

Toronto Star, October 16, 1918
Globe, October 18, 1918

People quickly came up with new and supposedly improved masks.

Flu mask, Globe, October 18, 1918 Montreal inventor
Toronto Daily Star, 23 Oct 1918 chart

And the numbers continued to rise, but, like now, statistics were hard to gather. But arrangements could be made for free delivery of free sup0plies to the home.

Toronto Daily Star, 23 Oct 1918

Quack cures and fake news abounded, mostly by word-of-mouth. Although the main stream media accepted ads like this, reporters were careful to adhere to the journalistic standards of the day. By and large, their stories were accurate.

Toronto Daily Star, 23 Oct 1918 false news remedy

A lot of people repurposed their Ultra-Violet home machines in 2020-2021. They bought them to disinfect the tubing, parts and masks of their CPAP machines safely and quickly. But many CPAP machines were also repurposed to become ventilators with new computer chips and the addition of oxygen.

Ultra violet machine, Globe, October 28, 1918

They believed the First Wave had crested and November would be better.

Preview(opens in a new tab)


October 6: I hear the train a-coming…about 20 feet above me!

This series of photographs will take you on a trip from downtown Toronto to Main Street on the new Toronto Viaduct, a raised railbed that lifted the train high above the city streets, eliminating several of the most dangerous level crossings such as the one at Queen near DeGrassi Street.

Plan of the Toronto Viaduct (raised railway line) to Logan Avenue, 1913
Leslieville businessman, teacher and contractor won the race to become Mayor based in part on his commitment to get the long-awaited Toronto Viaduct built. He kept his promise.
Creator: Alfred J. Pearson Date: December 5, 1926 Archival Citation: Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 4646 Credit: City of Toronto Archives http://www.toronto.ca/archives Copyright is in the public domain and permission for use is not required.
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October 6, 1926, looking east from Woodbine Avenue
Grand Trunk Railway, International Flyer running between Montreal and Chicago; looking east between York Station & Woodbine Ave TPL
Main Street bridge, looking east, April 26, 1915
York Station, from the Main Street bridge looking east

October 4th in history

It was a fine autumnal morning (October 4th) when I put my equipage in motion from Queenston towards York, accompanied by a friend and a favourite pointer.

Map from Travels in Canada and the United States in 1816 and 1817, 1818

The diary of traveller Lieutenant Francis Hall as he travelled from Queenston (near Niagara-on-the-Lake) to York, published in 1818. This British army officer had served in some of the bloodiest fighting of the Napoleonic Wars with in the 14th Light Dragoons.

Officers of the 14th Light Dragoons
Hamilton Hotel, Queenston (Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario), painted in 1913 by Owen Staples
Twelve Mile Creek (St. Catharines, Ontario) painted 1913
American Woodcock, 1835, by John James Audubon
Forty Mile Creek later became Grimsby, Ontario, postcard from 1910
Stoney Creek, photo, 1933
The Bay, Hamilton
Humber River, looking south to Lake Ontario. Toronto, Ont., by William Arthur Johnson, 1867
Credit River, 1796, by Elizabeth Posthuma Simcoe
LAKESHORE Boulevard West, looking west across Humber River, showing Charles Nurse’s hotel, south side Lakeshore Boulevard West, west side Humber River, 1891
Near Toronto (Swansea) by Mary Collenya Russell Morgan
Looking north from near Lighthouse, Centre Island as it was in 1817 by William Armstrong
Looking south towards Gibraltar Point, showing firing of salute, 1793 by Elizabeth Posthuma Simcoe

October 1 in history

Queen Street East – Old track – October 1, 1913 Looking west to Logan Avenue (Coca Cola sign on side of drugstore)
Queen Street East – Old track – October 1, 1913
Rolph Clark Stone Oct 1, 1948
Leslie Grove Playground October 1, 1913
The Canadian Engineer, Vol. 27, (October 1, 1914)
Lost Creeks 1909 Topo map with labels

September 28 in history: Bridges

The bridge to Leslieville through Riverside, over the Don River: Queen St bridge September 28, 1910
Queen St bridge September 28, 1910
Queen Street – King Street – Don River bridge looking east Sept 28 1910
John McPherson Ross painted a landscape scene looking east along Queen Street over “Ashport”, the tiny creek at today’s Vancouver Avenue. The old 1811 Ashbridge House is in the distance. This digital painting was done using a black and white photograph of the original painting from about 1910.
Rainy day, Austin Avenue, September 28, 1916

There are lost bridges (buried under fill and pavement in Leslieville. One of those lost creeks crossed at the end of Austin Avenue. City of Toronto Creek Locations 1912

Goad’s Atlas 1903
Looking east along Gerrard Street from the top of the railroad bridge at Carlaw Avenue. The boys are sledding on the banks of that little creek that crossed Austin and Badgerow. Another branch of the same creek crossed Gerrard just east of the firehall. Photo – February 20, 1904
This photo shows the bridge over that little lost creek.
Gerrard At Carlaw, 1964 – Unknown Photographer

The Blake Street Subdivision Lot 11, Concession One from the Bay, Subdivision Plan 154

Someone graciously shared a digital copy of this original subdivision plan which I have adjusted to make it a little straighter and easier to read.

Auction Leslieville, Saturday, August 12, 1882
Lot 11, Concession One, Subdivision Plan 514 1884 Goad’s Atlas
Subdivision Plan 514, Blake Street area, Goad’s Atlas 1890


Little Iron Man: Austin Avenue’s “Teddy” Morris

We received this interesting note!

Allen “Teddy” Morris from the Canadian Football Hall of Fame

Thanks for pulling this information together. It appears that Allen Morris, listed as the son of policeman Gordon Morris of 59 Austin Ave in the 1911 and 1921 censuses, was Canadian football Hall of Famer “Teddy” Morris, real name Allen Byron Morris, who won 3 Grey Cups playing for the Toronto Argonauts (1931-39), and 3 more Grey Cups as their head coach (1945-49), becoming one of the giants of Toronto sports of the middle third of the twentieth century. I research Argonauts history and am working on a biography of Morris. He was famous for being tough as nails despite a small stature – they called him “Little Iron Man” – and it sounds like he grew up in a tough neighbour hood.

Dr. James Fraser
University of Guelph

For more about Teddy Morris go to:


What does Pape Avenue have in common with bees, dragonflies, and basketball?

Pape Avenue looking north from Eastern Avenue – March 25, 1957
Location, location, location. Pape Avenue stretched south to the shore of Ashbridge’s Bay at Eastern Avenue.
1884 Goad’s Plan – Willow Street is now Pape Avenue from Eastern to Queen Street
(some modern street names have been added to help viewers orient themselves)
Willow Street Auction sale property, Globe, September 26, 1885
Pape Avenue looking north from 8 – March 25, 1957
Ashbridges Bay, by John Wilson, 1900, looking west towards the city of Toronto near the foot of Leslie Street
Sandbar Willow, USDA, 2011
Beaverpond Baskettail dragonfly (from the Master Naturalist course I attended at Lakehead University’s Orillia campus)
Bumblee pollen basket on leg
Women’s Basketball, Globe April 18, 1895
Ashbridge’s Bay with tall grass and willows, looking east towards the foot of Leslie Street from around the foot of Pape near Eastern Avenue.
Anibhnaabe families, including the KIchigos, frequented Ashbridges Bay up until World War I, according to oral history. Basket Makers, Mount St. Hilaire, Quebec, ca. 1870
Mi’kmaq child and woman weaving a basket, Whycocomagh, Nova Scotia, no date
(where some of my ancestors came from and no doubt weaved baskets — JD)
Hanging Baskets George Leslie, Globe, May 31, 1873
Basketmaker, Globe, Sept. 25, 1925 (Fleet Street is now part of Lakeshore Blvd. through Leslieville. Some of my ancestors came from Sussex in England where baskets like these, called trugs, are made. JD)
Willow renamed to Pape, Toronto Star, June 25, 1925
The gardener for whom Pape Avenue was named.
Willow Branch changing room Leslie Beach Globe & Mail, 07 July 1938
“You don’t know what you’ve lost till its gone…” Joni Mitchell
Ashbridge’s Willow, photo by Joanne Doucette, May 18, 2009