Check out these fun facts that you may or may not have known about Toronto’s Riverside neighbourhood! This list touches on heritage, breweries, music, art and more…
The name ‘Riverside’ dates back to the 1880s: Riverside was established circa 1887, when the area was an industrial neighbourhood of brick workers, factory workers, and gardeners who lived in area. The Riverside neighbourhood extends north to Gerrard, east to the railway, south to Eastern and west to the Don Valley.
The Riverside Business Improvement Area is one of Canada’s first BIA’s, established in 1980: Situated along Queen St East from Davies Ave to just past the world-famous De Grassi Street. Riverside BIA is located between Leslieville to the east and Corktown to the west and is just steps east of Toronto’s downtown core. The Riverside BIA has over 120 unique restaurants, shops and services. The Riverside Business Improvement Area (BIA) is one of Toronto and Canada’s first BIAs, established in 1980 as the Queen Broadview Village BIA, then re-branded to ‘Riverside District BIA’ in the 2000s to re-establish its roots. Fun Fact: Toronto now has over 80 BIAs and the BIA model, started right here in Toronto, has been exported world-wide. The BIA’s mandate is to improve, beautify and promote Riverside as a business and shopping district through marketing, public programming and streetscape improvements.
Home to the ‘Riverside’ Bridge with famous quote “The River I Step in Is Not the River I Stand In” : The famous quote on the iconic bridge over the Don River is a variation on a quote from the philosopher Heraclitus and means that all things are in process and nothing stays still. You would not step twice in the same river twice – the river endures but the water flows and is no longer the same. This quote and the bridge art was added thanks to a capital project in 1995 by the Riverside BIA and City of Toronto as part of the ‘Time and a Clock Series’ by artist Eldon Garnet. In 2015, the BIA completed a $500,000 capital improvement project to illuminate the bridge art nightly, making it a truly iconic passage to Riverside and Toronto’s east end.
The world-famous De Grassi St is in Riverside: Alfio DeGrassi was the Lodge’s first Librarian, hence nearby DeGrassi Street. However, De Grassi Street was made famous after it inspired the TV series of the same name. Bruce Makey, one of the show’s producers, lived on the street and was inspired to write about the experiences of everyday youth and families, later becoming the cult-classic series ‘Kids of Degrassi Street’ and ‘Degrassi: The Next Generation’ which starred now famed international artist Drake, and ‘Degrassi: Next Class’.
Riverside is home to The Broadview Hotel: originally built in 1891 as a Romanesque style hall for Archibald Dingman (known as Dingman’s Hall) for public gatherings. With a 1907 ownership change it was converted to a hotel with rooming houses for men working in factories or on the rail lines around Toronto. Until 1884, the intersection of Queen and Broadview (then named Kingston Road and Don Mills Road) was the eastern entrance to Toronto and a tollgate stood here in the middle of the road. By 1986, when discount retail magnate Harold Kamin bought the property, its lower level was a strip club called Jilly’s with a rooming house above – named affectionately after Kamin’s daughter. Streetcar Developments, bought the property in 2014 and transformed this iconic building into a boutique hotel with the best views of the Toronto skyline in the city. Its stylishly lit facade was unveiled in October 2016, and the hotel opened to business in July 2017.
Riverside has two Breweries and Toronto’s first Cidery: In 2017/18, two breweries opened up in Riverside, including Eastbound Brewing Co, beside the Broadview Hotel, and the Saulter Street Brewery. Toronto’s first cidery, the Brickworks Ciderhouse, opened in early 2018 at the south east corner of Queen/Broadview.
Riverside was home to Toronto’s First Baseball Grounds and has a rich sporting history: Riverside was home to Toronto’s first baseball grounds, officially titled “the Toronto Baseball Grounds,” the place was also called “The Park Across the Don,” “The old Broadview Stadium,” and “Sunlight Park” after the lands its was on owned by the Lever Brothers Soap Works. The baseball grounds stood just south of the intersection of Broadview Avenue and Queen Street East on a flat lot that had been leveled in the 1850’s for use as a horse track. The area is currently being transformed into the Riverside Square development and a heritage plaque is on 655 Queen St East. In 2014 the Riverside BIA completed a mural on the side of 1 Munro Street (across from the former grounds) depicting the rich sporting history of Riverside including bicycling, curling, hockey and baseball.
Riverside is home to the Royal Canadian Curling Club: The Royal Canadian Curling Club or Royals as it is affectionately known, now in its 126th year, a curling club housed in a century-old building. Royals have been at Queen and Broadview since 1906, when it was home to the historic Royal Canadian Bicycle Club. Six sheets of ice were added in 1929. Curling, skating and hockey shared the rink for the next quarter century. Since 1953, the club has devoted itself exclusively to curling. The Royals is owned and operated by its members, and managed by a Board of Directors elected from its membership.
Riverside had east Toronto’s first public Library: On June 30th 1885, the Toronto Garrison Artillery Band marched over the Don to lead the procession opening the Poulton Block at Queen and Boulton. Present were Governor General Lansdowne, Toronto Mayor Alex Manning, and Premier John A. MacDonald. This grand structure contained the First Public Library and Reading Room in East Toronto. the Masonic Lodge occupied the second floor hall which had eighteen foot ceilings. Alfio DeGrassi was the Lodge’s first Librarian, hence nearby DeGrassi Street.
Famed Architects Designed Buildings that Still Stand in Riverside: In 1905, the firm of Darling and Pearsin designed the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce at Queen and Grant. Later, they would work on the Canadian parliament Buildings and Peace Tower after the great fire of 1917. Additionally, E.J. Lennox, who designed Toronto City Hall, also designed Postal Station G at 765 Queen St East (Queen/Saulter), opened in 1913, now The Ralph Thornton Community Centre and Queen/Saulter Library Branch.
Riverside’s The Opera House: Opened in 1909 at 735 Queen St East as a vaudeville stage, this establishment later became La Plaza Theatre (1930s) – then informally known as the Acropolis; it was a movie theatre through to the 1960s – Dundas (1962) & Cinema Ellas (1965); movie multiplexes started popping up in the 1960s and made the venue move to live music & it became the Opera House; fun fact: the venue never hosted operas. Originally intended audience was the working class– brick workers, factory workers, gardeners who lived in area. Current owners bought in July 1989, the venue has persisted for over a century through adapting to their environment and to the Toronto arts scene and hosted many world most famous bands such as Metallica, The Tragically Hip, Cindy Lauper, and Eminem.
The area was home to Scadding Cabin, Toronto’s oldest surviving house: is a 1794 log cabin . It was built by John Scadding and is the oldest known surviving house in Toronto. The cabin originally stood at the east side of the Don River just south of the present Queen St East. There is a plaque on the bridge telling its story. The structure was moved to the CNE in 1879 and is open to visitors.