Leslieville has easily given Queen Street West a run for its money when it comes to the trendiest shops, restaurants, cafés and bars. It’s slowly stolen the crown as the place to live and be seen, with an eclectic selection of homes, a burgeoning condo development market and an easy streetcar ride into the heart of the city. Its buzzing neighbour to the east, The Beaches, is also seeing some competition as Leslieville offers a sleepier, less “touristy” neighbourhood young families and couples are anxious to call home.
Leslieville is a large, desirable area of Toronto flanked by the Don River to the West, Coxwell to the East, the lake to the south and Gerrard Street to the north. In its earliest days, Leslieville consisted of lots owned by some of Toronto’s original families running to the outskirts of Scarborough. Leslieville was named after George Leslie who came to “York” in 1827. He founded Ontario’s first horticultural society in 1834, the same year the City of Toronto was established. In 1836 the first tavern was built at the northwest corner of Boston Avenue and Queen Street East and between 1836 to 1837 Kingston Road was “planked” to make travel a little easier.
In 1842 Leslie signed a 21-year term lease for 20 acres. He opened a seed store in the King and Yonge area, but moved it in 1845 to Kingston Road. At the time it was considered one of the best built frame structures in Toronto. Part of Leslie’s Yonge Street property was purchased by Toronto to make way for a new road, Colborne Street.
In 1859 Kingston Road was split with the south side becoming part of a Toronto ward. and the North remaining part of the Township of York. The same year, Leslie moved to a large, new brick house at Jones Avenue and Queen. By 1860, Leslieville was home to nine brickmakers and the population had blossomed to 400. It wasn’t until 1862 that Leslieville got its name, when George Leslie Jr. became postmaster at the Leslie Post Office.
Some familiar names began to populate the area including John Greenwood who opened a hotel at Greenwood and Queen. In 1874 the opening of the Woodbine racetrack began to draw people to the area which helped provide business for local bars. As the area became more popular, so too did the need for public transportation. As a result, in 1875 the Kingston Road Tramway offered passenger service on the Leslieville Streetcar.
With the introduction of the Henry Martin brick machine in 1871, brick production changed in the area. At the same time businesses were needed to feed the growing population. This drew a group of Irish Catholic butchers to the area who bought land to keep their livestock and open shops to sell their meat.
In 1884 the city annexed the territory north of Queen Street and south of Danforth Avenue, from the Don River east to Greenwood Avenue which became known as St. Matthew’s Ward. Shortly following the annexation, properties were subdivided making way for new homes. Another area was annexed in 1887 on the north side of Queen Street East from Greenwood Avenue to the Beach. As home construction expanded so did the streetcar line running along Broadview Avenue from Queen to the corner of Danforth Avenue.
By 1889 Leslieville boasted several hotels and the following year another 35 acres was annexed by the city running north on the east side of Greenwood Avenue. In 1895 The Grand Trunk Railway introduced a new pick-up stop at the old Kingston Road crossing near Leslieville.
As brick making became more industrialized shale pits were carved out on both sides of Greenwood Avenue between the train tracks and south of Danforth Avenue. By 1900 Leslieville’s main source of employment was brickmaking. A hydro-electric generating station was approved on the Canadian side of the Niagara River to provide affordable hydroelectricity to the growing number of factories in Leslieville.
In 1901, Queen Street East was paved from the train tracks to the Don Bridge and by 1903 the area had 10 major manufacturers as well as 60 master brickmakers. The original lot owned by the Ashbridges was subdivided in 1907 to make way for more housing.
As more property became available, architect Gustav Stickley published a catalogue of Craftsman homes in 1909 which accounts for many of the bungalows built in the area. More land was annexed by the city at this time leading to a boom in residential construction including the Monarch Park subdivision on Ashbridges’ land, as well as a 55-acre brickyard sold by Joseph Russell. The area became so busy Greenwood avenue was also widened at this time.
In 1925, Lakeshore Boulevard East provided further access to Leslieville. Leslie Gardens was built in the mid-1920s featuring lovely bungalows along Larchmount, Berkshire, Rushbrooke, and Marigold. The area continued to see highs and lows with well-off families leaving their homes as the expansion of industry created less than perfect living conditions. Two world wars and depression lead to large family homes becoming rooming houses to provide homes for the growing number of poorer families in the area.
The face of the area changed in the mid-1960s when the city approved the development of a high-rise and town house complex on the east side of Greenwood south of Felstead.
In 1987, Leslieville became an official Toronto neighbourhood with Leslieville street signs installed throughout the area. As young professionals and families realized there was gold in them thar streets, affordable homes were snatched up and renovated. Growth in the area spurred the emergence of local shops, bistros, and other businesses attracting trendy homebuyers looking to get in on the excitement.
There’s no doubt that Leslieville’s location has made it one of the most popular areas for families and young professionals. A short streetcar or bike ride to the west finds you at the Yonge subway line, the Eaton Centre and Bay Street. Should you need to travel out of the city, the Don Valley Parkway takes you north in minutes. Despite its easy location to the city, Leslieville sits apart as a self-contained community with a quirky small-town feel. It’s close to the beach as well as the Leslie Street spit and Tommy Thompson Park, not to mention the tail end of the Kew Beach Boardwalk. It’s ideally situated for people who like to stay active and there’s plenty of smaller parks found throughout the neighbourhood. It’s very bike friendly with safe streets that make it a popular choice for the eco-conscious home and business owner. You’re a moment’s walk to some of Toronto’s hottest restaurants and cafés as well as an eclectic collection of boutique shops and services. You want for nothing when living in Leslieville.
The below average rents and selection of reasonably affordable homes have been a major attraction for young families for the past several decades. The parks, safe streets and community spirit is attracting young professionals as well thanks to the eclectic mix of properties you can find on the market. You’ll still find some older homeowners on the northern borders of the neighbourhood keeping watch over their changing community.
The Best Part
This is a foodie paradise where new restaurants and well-known landmarks abound. Leslieville is where quirky meets elegance and pretentions are left to the far west of the Don. Unusual views from condo windows overlook the Don River, graffitied bridges and Toronto’s Industrial past, while tranquil side streets offer peace and quiet from the main drag at Queen.
The Worst Part
Leslieville is on the rise demand-wise so it can be harder to find homes selling well below the average Toronto home price. As well, enrolling kids in the closest school to their home can be a challenge as parents continue to flock to this family-friendly community.
The Real Estate
Thanks to Leslieville’s rich history there’s no shortage of home types to be found here. From some of the original brick homes to the 1920s arts and crafts bungalows and from more modern renovations and townhouses to contemporary condo towers, you have a choice of not only styles, but prices. Its edgier properties include repurposed lofts and there are also some very unusual choices such as repurposed churches and one of a kind builds dispersed throughout the neighbourhood. Reasonably priced semis are in high demand here, and prices range from about $555,000 for a townhouse to $1.6 million for an upgraded detached. For the more industrious entrepreneurs you can also find some interesting residential/commercial combinations if you’re considering opening a shop, café or restaurant.
Leslieville has a good assortment of local schools including:
Leslieville Junior Public School, 254 Leslie Street, (416) 393-9480
Morse Street Junior Public School, 180 Carlaw Avenue, (416) 393-9494
Duke of Connaught Junior and Senior Public School, 70 Woodfield Road, (416) 393-9455
Bruce Public School, 51 Larchmount Avenue, (416) 393-0670
St. Joseph Catholic School, 176 Leslie Street, 416-393-5209
Roden Public School, 151 Hiawatha Road, (416) 393-9555
Riverdale Collegiate Institute, 1094 Gerrard Street E, (416) 393-9820
Monarch Park Collegiate Institute, 1 Hanson Street, (416) 393-0190
Are you thinking about calling Leslieville your new home?
Contact us today, and we can get started on finding you a home in this one-of-a-kind Toronto neighbourhood