Leslieville History: Greenwood Park Area 1900-1950
Bricks and Soccer Balls.
Our neighbourhood (and city) changed a lot in the first half of the 20th Century. Our east Leslieville nucleus, Greenwood Park, opened in 1922. Prior to being a park it was the Joseph Russell Brickyards. Across the street was the John Price Brickyards (South side). Many of the bricks that were used to build our homes were made by these family run operations. The name of the fabulous new cafe at Greenwood and Gerrard “Brickyard Grounds” is a double entendre as it sits on the grounds close to where the brickyards once stood, and serves delicious coffee grounds. How clever! At one point as many as 10 Brickyards and Quarries existed in Leslieville, you can see a lot of them on this industrial heritage map. The greenwood park area was rich with clay*. The John Price family home still stands (100 Greenwood Avenue). It’s the most significant original home in the immediate neighbourhood in terms of square footage with the exception of the Ashbridge House which perhaps is larger. (Both of these homes are referenced in my earlier blog post about possible ghostly hauntings in our area.) All of the lands east of Greenwood to Woodbine were once part of the Ashbridge Estate which was slowly sold off as the population density increased and more residential homes were needed.
What many Leslieville locals don’t know is that a legendary soccer stadium once stood east of Greenwood Avenue and north of Dundas: Ulster Stadium. All that is left as evidence of its existence is the “Ulster Arms Tavern” on Gerrard Street East, a closed down neighbourhood dive bar that locals are hopeful will have a trendy reboot. The last time I was there for cocktails with friends I actually walked home to get ice cubes as the bartender informed me that the bar didn’t have an ice maker. “If you don’t have a working ice maker, do you have a working dishwasher?” I asked. I won’t tell you the answer. In its heyday it was the place to go for the footballers and the girls who loved them. One interesting note to point out: due of the previous land grading, many homes in the area had a fantastic view of the soccer (football) games. Perhaps if it was never torn down we could have had our own little Toronto version of the rooftops across the street from Chicagos Wrigley Stadium. See here if you don’t know what I mean. Watching a TFC game from your living room would have been quite the event!
Check out this map of of Fire Insurance Map of East Toronto from 1914, very interesting and in high rez. Is your house on here? This is a pretty fantastic map, I may make some copies. If you would like one please email me Ben@leslieville.com If you right click and save it you should get it as a high resolution file.
Many area homes are not built yet – and many street names are different.
A few points to note: Dundas East doesn’t even exist yet Dundas=Doel(formerly Audley), No mention of Hiltz Avenue yet, Glenside = Glencoe, Gerrard is listed as Formerly Ramblers Road,Woodfield=Moberly, Pape Avenue is formerly Robinson,Applegrove Avenue is there (Doesn’t currently exist), The “Maple Leaf Skating Rink” sits on the current site of Matty Eccler community centre”, Vancouver Ave is formerly Ashpost or Ashport (hard to read), Dagmar Ave is formerly Birtle Ave, Sandford is formerly Cheltenham.
Buildings in red are brick, buildings in yellow are stick (frame).
Here are some great photos of the area from 1900 to 1950, the period of time leading up to and including the Greenwood Parks opening as well as the following years. Notable photos include Ulster Arms Stadium, Ulster Arms Tavern, Classic Theatre (Now the Zero Gravity Circus building), Leslieville streetscapes from the immediate area, Greenwood Park’s grand opening event, and early (non-horse drawn) TTC Gerrard streetcars.
Here is some background on the Ulster Stadium:
“Before World War Two, Ulster Stadium was the home of Ulster United, one of Toronto’s most famous sports teams. The team was founded on Wednesday January 13, 1914, at the Occident Hall on Bathurst Street, by a group of Irishmen, and began play later that year in the Toronto and District League. The team won the Third Division championship in its first year, then the Second Division the following year, and in 1916 the championship of the Toronto Senior League. The Red Handers, as they were known, won the Brigden Cup in 1916, 1917 and 1920 and the championship of the Inter Cities league in 1921, 1922 and 1923, and the first of three national championships in 1925. In 1926, Ulster, along with Montreal Carsteel, were instrumental in forming the National Soccer League, the first professional league of any significance in Canada and won the Atholstan Cup, the championship, five times. In addition the team won the Ontario Cup three times, the Consols Cup ten times and the International Soccer League in 1926. ”
Ulster Stadium was famous for hosting the Glasgow Rangers in 1930. Take a look at this fantastic video which also gives us a small video snapshot of our neighbourhood and the people that lived here in 1930.
In 1950 Ulster Stadium was demolished and a residential home development replaced it. If you live on Highfield, Athletic, Billings or Hertle Avenue your home might very well sit on the land that once was home to where one of the top Football Stadiums in North America once stood. If you are digging up your yard you might just find an old Ulster United Artifact!
Take a look at these photos from around 1950 that show the land after the stadium had been demolished as they were preparing it for the new homes to be built.
I hope you enjoyed this little historical montage. We love stories about the area. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any stories or photos that you may have about our community and I would be glad to share them. If you want to leave a quick note, please do so below.
Happy new year friends and neighbours!
Expert realtor and novice historian.
*One clay bed, believed to be deposited by the ancient Lake Iroquois, was about 5 meters deep. Clay deposits in the Greenwood Park area are described by one writer: “The top layers of the peaty clay have been leached of any lime and consequently, the brick burns to the bright red colour.”
Greenwood Avenue’s history of bricks, by Gene Domagala