East end history re-discovered

Three delightful pieces of history collected on the recent Jane’s Walks in the Greenwood Coxwell Corridor (Little India) worth posting:

1. Footage of a soccer game in 1930s at the Ulster stadium, formerly located east of Greenwood and south of Gerrard St. East:

The Toronto Ulster United versus the Rangers.

Apparently the stadium was behind the Ulster Arms (nicknamed the Empty Arms by locals), for about 20 years and torn down after the war to build housing. There had been a football field and dog racing track too.

This picture from the Toronto Archives of 1940s Leslieville shows a racetrack along the very eastern edge of the photography, which is Highfield. (Dundas Avenue has not yet been extended through the neighbourhood, and a dirt path crosses what is now Greenwood Park.)

2. Denny Manchee collected this story from local historian, Joanne Doucette. Jane Farrow passed it on:

In the 1880s, real estate developers started marketing tiny lots 10 ft. wide to very poor people. The Ashbridges family owned the west side of Craven Road, which was still farmland, but the east side became this string of shacks called Shacktown. The developer was the same company that created Parkdale. Shacktown had the reputation of Regent Park did – drinking, guns, drugs. The shacks had no running water, no toilets, no police or fire protection, no schools.

Inevitably, people got sick from lack of sanitation (some died), so in 1909 the City took over that area and insisted people install running water. Many couldn’t afford it so they were evicted. Houses were condemned by the health authority and about half the people were turfed out. The fence was part of the cost the City had to pay when it expropriated a good portion of the west side to the street. It was erected to keep the riffraff away from the wealthier folk on the west. The street was named (rebranded!) Craven Road in 1923.

Joanne is a font of local lore and does a lot of guided walks for both the Toronto Field Naturalists and Lost Rivers.

3. The flat-roofed homes on the corner of Walpole and Woodfield Avenue were some of the first ones built in the neighbourhood and now house the fourth generation of the same family. The current residents explained that when their ancestors settled in the neighbourhood, the two brothers dug a hole in the ground, put sod over the top and stayed there until their homes were ready. Farm fields lay to the east, and Natives who worked the fields, lived in teepees to the west. They built many other homes in the neighbourhood, as well.

Also, the City of Toronto Archives has posted historic photos of Leslieville on Flicker.

A Neighbourhood by Any Name, 2009

Greenwood-Coxwell Jane’s Walk, 2009

Cynthia’s Walks, 2010

Toronto’s Little India: A Brief Neighbourhood History, Ryerson, 2010

Greenwood Avenue’s History of Bricks, Gene Domagala, Beach Metro Community News, 2012

Toronto Ulster, United F.C., Scots-Irish / Ulster-Scots blog, 2012

Tiny House Society of Craven Road, Spacing Magazine, 2013

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7 Responses to “East end history re-discovered”

  1. Such interesting tidbits! Urban history and built form is so facinating.
    Have you seen the book ‘Stroll’? It gives ‘psychogeographic’ tours of major Toronto streetscapes. Totally reminded me of Jane’s walks.

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  2. I am currently writing a number of short stories about the kids that grew up on Athletic, Greenwood and Gerrard in the 1950s. As a kid, Athletic ended at the top of a hill that would get stairs down to hertle at a later date. I one point we found a metal sign at the end of the street. It was painted with one word: Ulster; We assumed it was at one time the entrance to the Ulster dog track

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  3. At one time East Riverdale existed on the south side of Queen Street, west of Coxwell. It served as a boys and girls club but was never called that. It was a two story structure located in something like a park. One floor was below grade and the second was up a flight of steps from the entrance. It sponsored boy’s baseball in the summer and games were played on the big diamond in Greenwood Park. A very rough form of floor hockey was played on the second floor, where columns were set in the middle of the floor. My question is simply, what ever happened to East Riverdale as a club?

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  4. As a 2 year old, my family moved to Hertle Ave near the bottom of the stairs from Athletic Ave. Each spring the frost would heave up a post through the asphalt in the middle of the driveway and my Dad would have to repair it. It was an annual ritual. My father explained that it was one of the goal posts from Ulster Stadium, at the north end. We still own the house today. Great neighbourhood to grow up and play in, especially with a dead end street and being steps to the park.

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