A Brief History of Leaside

The name LEASIDE came from the Lea family. John and Mary Lea and their son William arrived from Lancashire, England via the United States in 1819. John Lea purchased 200 acres of timberland and a farm with a log cabin on lot 13 Concession 3 from the bay and he became a successful farmer. They had 2 more children born in Canada, son John Jr and daughter Mary Margaret who later married Richard Ellerbeck Playter. In 1829 they built a larger brick house to replace the log cabin. It claimed to be the first brick house built in York township.

When John Lea Sr. died in 1854 at age 81, the farm was divided. The brick home and 110 acres were left to John Jr. and 90 acres were left to the eldest son William. In 1841 William bought an additional 130 acres to the south and built an octagonal home which he named LEASIDE. It was located close to the present site of the Leaside Memorial Gardens. He also built a tomato cannery and maintained a large apple orchard. A laneway called William Lea's Lane connected the property to Yonge Street.

In 1881 William sold a parcel of land to the Canadian Pacific Railway for a train station and gave 1/2 acre to the Anglican Church for the original St Cuthbert's Church on Government Road (now Bayview Avenue).

William Lea was elected as township councillor and held office for 7 years and was appointed a Justice of the Peace. When he died in 1893 at age 78 his eldest son Joseph took over the cannery and lived in the octagonal house. The house was abandoned and in 1913 was burned down.

William's brother, John Jr. built a house near St Cuthbert's Church in 1870 where Humphrey's Funeral Home now stands. He had two sons and a daughter. The first son, James, built 201 Sutherland Drive in 1909. It became a nursery school from 1939 to the 1950's and is now a residence which was recently renovated.

The Ontario and Quebec Railway purchased a few acres from William Lea for the line to Peterborough and Ottawa. When they encountered financial difficulties the railway line was taken over by Canadian Pacific in 1884 on a 999 year lease.The Don branch was built in 1892 and the Leaside Junction Station built in 1894. This is when LEASIDE became a name and a location on the map. The Leaside Station was destroyed by a fire in the 1940's and was rebuilt in 1946. It was one of Toronto's busiest stations for 75 years.

The Canadian Northern Railway planned an expansion and its principals Sir William Mackenzie and Sir Donald Mann accumulated land to build a large residential community--amodel town to be the new upper class residential area of Toronto (the new Rosedale). Plans were drawn by Frederick Todd separating the residential and industrial areas and the TOWN OF LEASIDE was incorporated in 1913 with a population of 43. The mayor was Randolph McRae and there were 4 councillors.

In 1913 Canada Wire and Cable became Leaside's first industry and subsequently opened the Leaside Munitions Factory during WW1. In 1917 an airfield was added for pilot training. Industry prospered and the town was built later to house the workers. Canada Wire and Cable built 60 homes on Airdrie, Rumsey and Sutherland for its workers after the war. The first air mail delivery in Canada was to Leaside on June 24, 1918 and a commemoratave plaque is located at the intersection of Brentcliffe and Broadway.

In 1919 under the Ontario Housing Act the Leaside Housing Company received a provincial loan to build working class houses but building was stalled until the 1930's due to transportation problems. In 1927 a high level bridge the LEASIDE VIADUCT was built across the Don Valley and an underpass was built below the railway line. Residentail construction began in the 1930's and continued to the 1950's.

In 1956, Eglinton Avenue was extended eastward across the Don Valley to Don Mills and Scarborough and traffic volumes increased to problem levels.

In 1967 The Town of Leaside was amalgamated with East York to become THE BOROUGH OF EAST YORK and in 1997 was amalgamated into the new megacity of TORONTO.

In spite of this, Leaside has retained its sense of community and its real estate is highly valued particularly amongst young families who value its schools and recreational facilities.

Much of the information for this brief history was taken from Jane Pitfield's book LEASIDE and J.I. Rempel's book THE TOWN OF LEASIDE. Additional historical information can be found in East York Tidbits.

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