Sunday, May 24, 2015

Toronto Walking Tour #4
Leslieville and My Boyhood Neighbourhood
May 23,2015

Today's walk is part "playing tourist in my home town" and part self-indulgent trip into the past.

Leslieville has been gentrified. So much so that they named it Leslieville. When I was growing up, (as pointed out by my sister-in-law) it was simply The East End.

Back then it housed lower middle class and working class people with the odd well-to-do remnants of founding families thrown in for good measure.

Today it's got an army of well-scrubbed professionals toting about their 1.3 children on bikes that cost more than my first car.

A little bit of everything that ever was still just costs more. Now we have high-end burger joints, quaint cozy cafe's, art galleries and wall murals.

 This building on the northeast corner of Jones and Queen was George Leslie's farmhouse.

You know it's going to be a good day when you look into the window of a record store (a RECORD STORE for goodness sake, do people even know what records are anymore?) and see the visage of and artist you've captured in concert over a 150 times.

No, not The Beatles, the other guy.
Here's the legendary Duke Tavern. Cece and I will be back here this evening to see Paul James rock the house. (ed note. He played 3 Dylan songs. The circle is unbroken.)
The touristy part of our day starts at  Memory Lane where the trunk of the tree that inspired the poem, The Maple Leaf Forever, stands outside the Maple Cottage.

The Maple Leaf Cottage, 62 Laing St.  The Silver Maple tree here was associated with “The Maple Leaf Forever,” a song written in 1867. The tree fell in a summer storm in 2013. The song was the unofficial national anthem for several generations of Anglo-Canadians.  One version of the legend has it that Alexander Muir was walking with George Leslie when a maple leaf floated down and landed on his sleeve – inspiring the song.  There is an historical plaque here.

Moving north along Leslie St we come across this sign of how much the neighbourhood has changed since I last walked these streets.

We didn't need no stinking books.
St.Joseph's Church. I used to go inside these buildings, not so much anymore unless they were built in the 1200's.

St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, 162 Leslie St.  Most labourers here were Irish Catholics who came to Canada to escape the Irish Potato Famine. They toiled for low wages in the market gardens and brickyards. To make ends meet, they also worked cutting ice and fishing.  St. Joseph’s, a combined mission church and school, opened here in 1863.  It wasn’t until 1888 that  a separate building for St. Joseph’s Church opened. .  There is an historical plaque here.


I attended St Joseph's School for Grade 1 and 2. The first day of Grade 3 they marched those of us who lived north of Gerrard up Jones Ave to St William's. This school yard always smelled of banana sandwiches. That's my memory.
A little further north we find the patrons of Leslieville Public School inviting you back next weekend.
I'd say Leslieville Fun is more than Fair.

Leslieville Public School, 254 Leslie St. The log cabin school that stood here opened in 1864. The first principal was Alexander Muir who composed “The Maple Leaf Forever”, but who was also well-loved as an innovative teacher who taught with love and did not strap or beat children.  A new brick school was erected in Leslieville in 1874.

And now we light upon the incredibly changed facade of Riverdale Collegiate.
They won some kind of school board lottery and expanded their footprint to double it's original size. A massive pool and no more lawn greens facing Gerrard for the student to lounge on.

 Win some, lose some.

It was open and I gravitated to that place I found myself so often.

Hello Mr Romney, I was sent here because....

And what's a high school visit without a row of lockers.
Here's a view of the north west corner of Gerrard and Jones.
Starbucks eh?
Now on to the corner of Gerrard and Marjory where, at 1020 Gerrard stood Paul's Barbershop and my boyhood home. The property to the right was Harry's Hardware and the Sushi place was Collegiate Lunch, or Marco's. Cece and I met at Marco's a month before our last year in high school.
(This part is for members of my family that might see this.)
For the record I don't like what they've done with the back of my boyhood home. It used to have a back yard and a fence. Now it looks like parts of rural Mississippi I've visited.
 The inside looks nice, if changed. The lady here is standing in the back part that used to be my room before they took the wall down. Notice the stairs at the back that lead up and the open door to the basement.
Moving on. Across the street is the old Bonita Theatre where I spent many a Saturday watching Abbott and Costello movies for 25cents. It's back in business doing some Simpson's thing.
Going east on Gerrard we pass the school again and head north on Leslie to Harriet Hill.
 I don't know if you can discern the grade of this's steep. Used to strike fear into the heart of every 12 year old who rode their bike down this incline.

And how did we get to Monarch Park to watch our football team. Through the underpass at the top of Woodfield Rd.

Pedestrian Underpass (Woodfield Rd & railway) From 1907 neighbours called for an underpass under the railway. Children were endangered crossing the tracks to go to school. Pedestrian traffic grew with the creation of Monarch Park across the tracks. The Roden Ratepayer’s Association demanded action. In 1924 this tunnel was built in the ravine of Ashbridge’s Creek’s west branch. The City put the Creek underground in a large sewer pipe.
Here's the other side of the underpass.
And looking into Monarch Park.
The next stop is outside Roden School, originally built in 1907, now a cement and glass monstrosity that was the '60's architecture. They do have this funky mural of a neighbourhood map.

151 Hiawatha Roden School In 1909 the City of Toronto annexed Midway, the area south of the Danforth between Greenwood Ave & the Beach. In the boom that followed developers rapidly subdivided the area. It became a working class suburb, a Little Britain.  The City built schools: the Roden School (1907), Duke of Connaught School (1909), Bruce Junior School (1923), & Riverdale Collegiate (1907). The Roden School was originally the Ashdale School. It was renamed after long-time school trustee & shoemaker Ephraim Roden.

 Turning up Greenwood we come across another artifact of an early founding family

Wagstaff Brickworks(Wagstaff Rd) Albert Wagstaff was a city alderman and important brick manufacturer. Around 1910 his brickyard here made about 3 million bricks a year. In 1912 one of his Martin brick machines could turn out 85,000 brick a day. Wagstaff built the Vera Apts, named after his only daughter. The corners are decorated with over-baked, vitrified brick or “clinkers”. The building faces his brick plant on Wagstaff Ave., the only brick plant remaining in Leslieville. The  Wagstaff home itself is buried behind factory additions, but can be seen from the Vera’s front steps. On his death he left his clay pit to his gambling & drinking buddy, Albert Harper, who turned it into Toronto’s biggest garbage dump. In 1956 it became the Greenwood Subway Yard.
Now we are in the area of one of the most peculiar streets in Toronto, Craven Rd. Notice the fencing along the west side of the street as we're looking north.

Not to mention that ominous note from JP Sartre.

Here's the same street looking south, more fences. Why you may ask?

Craven Road From 1900-1914 British immigrants poured in, drawn by cheap housing & jobs. A “Shacktown” grew here just outside City limits where taxes were low; services non-existent, regulations few. Edmund Henry Duggan bought land next door to the Ashbridge estate.  He was involved with the Toronto House Building Association which made a profit selling land to low-income families. Duggan’s holdings were laid out in very small lots on a narrow lane called Erie Terrace. There were no sewers; no garbage collection; no police or fire protection. The east side was packed with tiny houses. The west side wasn’t developed until after 1909 when it became part of the City of Toronto.Erie Terrace’s shacks were owner-built & lacked plumbing & toilets. A 1907 advertisement captures the essence of the street: $10 A FOOT—Erie Terrace, 100 feet north of Gerrard street cars, no money down, lumber supplied to build. David, 75 Adelaide east.Ashdale Ave was developed for more affluent homeowners who wanted nothing to do with Erie Terrace and cut a deal with the City. The City took part of their backyards to widen Erie Terrace (renamed Craven Rd) & Ashdale homeowners got a fence along the west side of Craven Rd to keep their poorer neighbours out.

South along Coxwell we come across the remains of the Shamrock Tavern, now a fitness club and bowling alley.

Like we said at the beginning, nothing is forever.

As we near the end of our walk we still come across a few landmarks.
The Toronto Gospel Lighthouse at 17 Rhodes Ave

This is the lot for the Lost Church, 1402 Queen St E. The remnants of a Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, built in 1859,  are hidden  here behind a 1920’s factory facade. The church measured 40×30 feet and seated 250. From about 1830 until the building of the chapel, the local Methodists held services in each others’ homes, especially the Ashbridge home.  

And a close up of the referenced windows.
We are close to the home of the premiere founding family of Leslieville, the Ashbridges'.

Ashbridge House, 1444 Queen St. E. Archaeologists dug here and found artifacts and ash pits dating to the Woodland period of First Nations history. The first Europeans to  live here were Pennsylvania Quaker Sarah Ashbridge and her family.  They arrived in Upper Canada in 1793 and built log cabins here a year later.  They farmed the land for over a century . In 1854 Jesse Ashbridge built this house, designed by Joseph Sheard. The house was renovated and modernized by his widow Elizabeth in 1899.  The foundation of the original log cabin became a rose garden. The ravine of Ashbridge’s Creek is still visible in the garden.  There is an historical plaque here.

The home could use a little work on the roof but it is a stately manor.

Just a couple more stops.
Thomas Beatty, 6 – 8 Cherry Nook Gardens This was originally the farm of Mary Ashbridge and her husband, Parker Mill.  After they died, the property passed to Capt. Brent Neville, except for a small area near Queen St.  Thomas Beatty bought it and built  the house of bricks he made himself.  This house originally stood at the north end of a farm lane running south down the “Kingston trail”.  Beatty, a Loyalist descendant from New Brunswick, arrived in Toronto in 1840. He was the Ashbridge’s farm manager until 1850 when he became a hotelkeeper. In 1859 he donated the land for the Methodist Chapel.  In 1865 he married Ella Winnett and in 1868 he “retired” and became a jack-of-all-trades.  Sadly, in 1877 two of the Beatty children died in this house  during a diphtheria epidemic that killed many children here.

  We missed the Coxwell Stables because we had meandered a little farther south and didn't want to go back uphill. That's for another day. On our way out we took the time to stop by Cece's (and my daughter's) first grade school.

Just to even out the memory making. 

Next up The Danforth and where Cece grew up.