The Cultural Heritage Landscape of Leaside Walking Tour invites you into a thriving midtown suburb of Toronto, Ontario, to see, experience, understand, and appreciate Leaside’s distinctive physical and social character that is derived from its natural environment, its settlement history, and planned development. Today’s residential Leaside is a composite of the natural and pre-settlement landscape, the settlement landscape, the “model garden city” design of Frederick Todd (1912), the establishment of the Town of Leaside, the residential development in the late 1930s to the 1950s, through to its modern and contemporary development. To begin your tour on the Driftscape app click here.
Leaside is the geographical equivalent of discovering that the friend you thought you knew as pleasant, if a bit bland, in fact has a far more dramatic past background. Today, it’s one of Toronto’s foremost residential communities – a short hop to downtown, chockablock with modern single family detached homes and lush green parks. It’s the kind of place people always describe as ‘a great place to raise a family’ – because that’s true. But do a little urban archeology, and you discover a different past history filled with drama, excitement and change. Founded in the early 19th century by the William Lea family, Leaside has at various times been an industrial hub, , the site of one of Canada’s largest World War One pilot training centres (a 220 acre facility including airport); a car manufacturing centre (owned by a Canadian who briefly controlled General Motors); and connected to then-distant Toronto by a railway line. Today, most traces of that are gone – though if you know what to look for, you can see that some remaining apartment buildings were built for use by companies that wanted to house all of their factory workers in the same place. A walk through here is always pleasant in and of itself – and also a reminder that the past is always present in some form – and not always what we presumed it to be.