Leslieville in Toronto, Ontario, Canada lies east of the Don River, is bounded by the Canadian National railway line and Gerrard Street to the north, Empire Avenue to the west, Eastern Avene to the south, and Coxwell Avenue to the east.
This quiet east-end neighbourhood forms part of the broader neighbourhood of South Riverdale. Leslieville began as a small village in the 1850s, which grew up around the Toronto Nurseries owned by George Leslie and sons, after whom the community is named. Most of Leslieville’s residents were gardeners or were employed at one of the brick-making factories in the area.
For decades, South Riverdale was home to light industry, particularly along Eastern Ave. south of Queen St. Metal processing and tanning were notable industries which, along with other industrial activity, left Leslieville and South Riverdale with a legacy of contaminated land. In 2000, the A.R. Clarke Tannery went up in flames, burning for days and unleashing toxic ash on the surrounding neighbourhood. Almost all these industrial areas have now been abandoned and are awaiting redevelopment.
Leslieville once mainly housed those who worked in the factories, but since they have left, the area has changed dramatically. The reduction in air pollution and fumes have made it much more appealing to members of the middle and creative class. Leslieville is a neighbourhood in which the process of gentrification is beginning. It is commonly referred to now as an up-and-coming neighbourhood, with new restaurants, shops and cafés slowly cropping up in the area. However, it is still a largely working-class and middle-class neighbourhood. In some of the former industrial areas large film studios have opened, including Cinevillage and Showline Studios. Just to the south, in the Port Lands area is Pinewood Toronto Studios.
The neighbourhood still has some challenges. A fortified site along Eastern Avenue was the main Toronto base of the Hells Angels until it was raided by police and confiscated in 2007. A number of large public housing complexes built in the neighbourhood in the 1960s and 1970s suffer from bad design. Just to the southeast of the neighbourhood is the massive Ashbridges Bay Wasterwater Treatment Plant, Canada’s largest. Concerted efforts have been made to eliminate odours for the benefit of local residents, but they still do sometimes waft over the area.
However, Leslieville, after many years of playing the role of little brother to more developed Riverside to the west, has emerged as Toronto’s hippest place to dine, drink, shop and live, or so proclaimed a 2005 articel in the the New York Times that also anointed the neighbourhood as the new Queen Street West. Historically home to light industry and the Film District, it’s now more known as one of Toronto’s best brunch destinations and features some great cafes, vintage furniture, fashion and design stores.
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