Leslieville is a neighbourhood that has been coming into its own over the past few years and is continuing to grow, becoming the home of more and more families looking for affordable and comfortable living just east of downtown Toronto. With its new restaurants, bars, pubs, and shops cropping up, it's quickly becoming not just family-friendly, but also one of the newest hip neighbourhoods. So much so that a recent New York Times article called the area “the new Queen Street West.” Leslieville has quickly become a destination for Torontonians looking for great cafés and brunch options as well as vintage furniture and fashion.
Found east of the Don River along Queen East, the neighbourhood is bordered by the Canadian National Railway line to the north as it stretches west to meet Empire Avenue. The eastern and southern boundaries are Coxwell Avenue and Eastern Avenue, respectively.
Leslieville had its beginnings growing up around the Toronto Nurseries as a small village around the 1850s, named after the nurseries' owner, George Leslie. At this point, the key industries for the area were gardeners for the nurseries as well as a brick-making factory that took root in the area.
Soon the neighbourhood would become the centre for the light industry, with manufacturers sprouting up along Eastern Avenue. Following shortly after were several metal processing plants and tanneries. These businesses have since been abandoned, and with that, the area saw an influx of middle-class homeowners, causing considerable gentrification of the neighbourhood from 2000 onward.
Taking over where the foundries left off, several film studios have opened up in the area, such as Cinevillage, Pinewood Toronto Studios, and Showline Studios.
- The first principal of the Leslieville Public School was Alexander Muir, who also composed the song “Maple Leaf Forever.” The public school itself was one of the first buildings erected in the village. The song was inspired by a maple leaf from a Leslieville tree falling on his jacket. The tree since became a historical landmark for the neighbourhood and sadly fell on July 19, 2013.
- The street signs along Queen Street in Leslieville are green and white, symbolic Leslieville residents' renewed pride in their neighbourhood.
The Good News
Leslieville is truly one of the up-and-coming neighbourhoods, providing family-friendly parks and restaurants as well as new and hip pubs and bars that continue to grow throughout. Leslieville is quickly becoming a destination for local Toronto visitors as well as many new families and artists taking part in the newly acquired night life.
The Bad News
There are several large public housing complexes in the neighbourhood that were erected in the 1960s and 1970s. Sadly, due to poor original design, they have fallen into some disrepair, but the City of Toronto is working to renovate these buildings as soon as possible.
As well, the Ashbridges Bay Wastewater Treatment Plant lies to the southeast of the neighbourhood. The odours are mainly self-contained, and seldom are the surrounding neighbourhoods bothered by its presence.
Homes, Architecture, and Real Estate
The older homes in the neighbourhood can be found along Queen Street East and to the south of Eastern Avenue. Here the homes were built in the late 19th century, with architectural styles ranging from the Ontario Cottage style to Second Empire row homes. You will also be able to find Victorian houses in the area.
A second generation of homes built in the early 1900s can be found north of Queen Street, consisting of detached and semi-detached homes. Also be on the lookout for the area's bungalows, typically the smallest in the city.
Who Is Your Neighbour?
Because of the comfortable nature of the neighbourhood, Leslieville feels like a small village within a big city. The majority of Leslieville residents are middle-class, with working-class and creative workers inhabiting the southern area. The tree-lined streets and increasing number of quaint stores bring serenity to this once industrial neighbourhood.
Parks and Green Spaces
There are several parks in the neighbourhood — some of the largest and most visited in the city.
- Greenwood Park: This park has it all — a playground, baseball diamonds, a soccer pitch, and an ice rink. A wonderful place to stay active.
- Maple Leaf Forever Park: The park that contained the very tree that inspired Alexander Muir to write the song from which the park gets its name.
- Jonathan Ashbridge Park: Connecting Queen Street East and Eastern Avenue, this park features two outdoor tennis courts, a wading pool, and a children's playground.
- Matty Eckler Playground: Here you will find a ball diamond, basketball court, wading pool, and children's playground. The Matty Eckler Community Recreation Centre can be found at the west side of the park.
- Hideaway Park: A smaller park in the neighbourhood, featuring an off-leash dog area, a wading pool, and a children's playground.
- Jimmie Simpson Park: One of the neighbourhood's larger parks, this one has a ball diamond, a multi-purpose sports field, a lighted ball hockey rink, tennis courts, basketball courts, a wading pool, and a children's playground. You will also find the Jimmie Simpson Recreation Centre here for more recreational features.
Recreation and Culture
There are several recreational areas, allowing residents to get out and exercise and drink in what the neighbourhood has to offer.
Greenwood Park contains not only a playground, but also a pool, an ice rink, and three baseball diamonds.
To the south, Jonathan Ashbridge Park has two tennis courts, a wading pool, and a playground. It also offers access to Ashbridge’s Bay Yacht Club and the bay itself, giving residents a fantastic view of the lakeshore.
The S.H. Armstrong Recreational Centre (56 Woodfield Road, 416-392-0734) also has a gymnasium, a fitness room, an indoor pool, and craft and meeting rooms.
The neighbourhood also boasts several places of worship.
- Queen Street E Presbyterian Church (947 Queen Street E, 416-465-1143)
- St. Matthew's Cathedral (875 Queen Street E, 416-465-2880)
- Living Hope Community Church (8 Boston Avenue, 416-465-7667)
- St. Anargyroi Old Calendar Greek Orthodox (281 Jones Avenue, 416-463-9664)
- Glen Rhodes United Church (1470 Gerrard Street E, 416-465-3755)
- Toronto Formosan Presbyterian Church (31 Eastwood Road, 416-778-9615)
Schools, Colleges, and Universities
The area is serviced by many schools, making this a wonderful neighbourhood for families:
Morse Street Junior Public School (180 Carlaw Avenue, 416-393-9494)
Bruce Junior Public School (51 Larchmount Avenue, 416-393-0670)
Duke of Connaught Junior and Senior Public School (70 Woodfield Road, 416-393-9455)
Leslieville Junior Public School (254 Leslie Street, 416-393-9480)
Riverdale Collegiate Institute (1094 Gerrard Street E, 416-393-9820)
Equinox Holistic Alternative School (151 Hiawatha Road, 416-393-8274)
St. Joseph Elementary (176 Leslie Street, 416-393-5209)
Arts and Entertainment
Several arts venues and galleries have popped up in the theatre, featuring ongoing exhibits from local artists as well as live theatre and performances.
Red Sandcastle Theatre (922 Queen Street E, 416-845-9411)
T.O. Dance Co. (911 Queen Street E, 416-904-1555)
Opera in Concert (947 Queen Street E, 416-922-5935)
Inde-Art Design House (388 Carlaw Avenue, 416-543-4495)
i2i Art Inc. (17 Sproat Avenue, 1-888-277-7200)
Heliographics Gallery & Studio (1238 Queen Street E, 416-466-2685)
3DPhacktory (1134 Dundas Street E, 416-462-0994)
No visit to Leslieville would be complete without a stop at the Leslieville Farmer’s Market. Found in Jonathan Ashbridge Park, you can peruse fresh produce and baked goods every Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. from late-May to late-October. Full details are available at leslievillemarket.com.
Many boutique shops can be found along Queen Street East, most of which are locally owned and small enough to cater to residents' specific needs.
Not only can you find several bistro-style restaurants and pubs along Queen Street East, but also look along Gerrard Street East. This area, known as Little India, features some of the best Indian restaurants and Indian grocery stores so you can create your own curries at home.
Aprile Bambina Cucina (1054 Gerrard Street E, 416-352-6969)
Belmonte Raw (1022 Queen Street E, 416-340-1218)
Com Tam Dao Vien, (1018 Gerrard Street E, 416-916-6432)
Ceili Cottage (1301 Queen Street E, 416-406-1301)
Ed’s Real Scoop (920 Queen Street E, 416-406-2525)
Bombay Chowpatty, (1386 Gerrard Street E, 416-405-8080)
Leslieville Pumps (929 Queen Street E 416-465-1313)
McGugan’s Scottish Pub (1058 Gerrard Street E, 416-901-9859)
Public transit services the neighbourhood with several buses and streetcar routes along Carlaw Avenue, Greenwood Avenue, Jones Avenue, Eastern Avenue, and Coxwell Avenue. Queen Street and Gerrard Street are also serviced by streetcar, providing a direct link to the subway stations on the Bloor-Danforth line, including Pape, Donlands, Greenwood, Coxwell, and Woodbine stations.
Drivers will delight in being so close to downtown — only minutes away. Access to the city is provided by Lake Shore Boulevard and the Gardiner Expressway. Access to the Don Valley Parkway also provides access to midtown Toronto and the 401.
Medical Centres and Doctors
Leslieville is also home to several doctors and medical centres.
Toronto East General Hospital (825 Coxwell Avenue, 416-461-8272)
Queen Street Dental Centre (930 Queen Street E, 416-469-5261)
South Riverdale Community Health Centre (955 Queen Street E, 416-461-1925)
East End Community Health Care (1619 Queen Street E, 416-778-5858)
Coxwell & Gerrard Medical Centre (343 Coxwell Avenue, 416-469-0002)
- 55 Division, 101 Coxwell Avenue, (416) 808-5500
- Toronto Fire Station 326, 30 Knox Avenue