leslieville toronto

What Leslieville looked like over the past century

Leslieville is a neighbourhood that's changed profoundly over the last 20 years. Known these days for its concentration of brunch restaurants and skyrocketing real estate values, it wasn't so long ago that signs of the area's industrial past were far more prevalent.

The neighbourhood's roots date back to the mid 19th century when George Leslie moved to the area and opened the Toronto Nurseries, which became the largest horticulture business in the country. The family also owned a general store near Queen and Jones that would become the area's first post office.

For the first part of Leslieville's existence, nurseries and brickyards were the primary sites of employment. Plants, trees, and bricks with origins here helped to shape the rest of the city.

At the turn of the century, two major trends shaped the neighbourhood. The area's residential makeup intensified, and it became home to a wider array of industry. Eastern Ave. was lined with tanneries and metal yards, while Carlaw Ave. became a manufacturing hub home to Wrigley and Palmolive amongst others.

In 1956, the year the Toronto Brick Company closed, Leslieville's residential footprint was similar to what it is today. Industry was booming at the southern and eastern sections of the neighbourhood and the character here was thoroughly working class.

You can still see signs of this heritage in adaptive re-use projects like the Wrigley Lofts and the warehouse buildings that line the west side of Carlaw Ave., but since the late 1990s, everything has changed in Leslieville.

leslieville history

Queen and Jones looking east, 1981.

As heavy industry moved out, the neighbourhood underwent rapid gentrification. In the mid 2000s, it was still viewed as an up and coming area, but the window to buy cheap here closed quickly. 

If you look at photos of Queen St. just before this period, you'll note a preponderance of auto shops and gas stations. This was a rough and tumble neighbourhood. As far as brunch was concerned, your best bet was the all-day breakfast at Jim's Restaurant, which closed last year.

Goo Rana's didn't open his Really Really Nice Restaurant until 2002, which at the time was a bold move given the utter lack of a dining scene. Over the next decade, Queen East went boom and the condos arrived. 

It's a far cry from gardens and brickyards these days. 

leslieville history

Logan's Brick Yards, 1917.

leslieville history

Carlaw and Gerrard streets, 1917.

leslieville history

Wrigley Building, 1917.

leslieville history

Palmolive site with Wrigley Building in the background, 1917.

leslieville history

Gerrard and Hastings Ave., 1918.

leslieville history

GTR railway crossing between Degrassi and McGee streets, late 1910s.

leslieville history

CNR railway crossing, Queen East, 1926-1928.

leslieville history

 Canadian Chewing Gum Company factory (maker of Chiclets) in 1928.

leslieville history

Conger Coal on Gerrard St., 1930.

leslieville history

Carlaw and Gerrard, 1930.

leslieville aerial 1942

Aerial view of Leslieville, 1942.

leslieville history

Looking north on Carlaw from Queen, 1948.

leslieville history

Greenwood dump (current site of the TTC yards), 1948.

leslieville history

Carlaw looking north from Natalie St., 1948.

leslieville history

Harrold's Coal, 1951.

leslieville history

Looking south on Carlaw towards Dundas, 1970s.

leslieville history

Thackery St. in the 1970s

Lead photo by

Toronto Archives


Join the conversation Load comments

Latest in City

Melania Trump has arrived in Toronto

Toronto might build an underground cable car on the waterfront

What Kensington Market was like in the 1970s

That time when Toronto was in love with Niagara Falls

That time when Toronto had the greatest playground ever

Sold! Hyper modern Toronto mansion goes for $6.5 million

Dancing cop now on Toronto Police's wanted list

A huge canoe museum is being built near Toronto