As part of our ‘Riverside BIA 40 Years, 40 Stories’ series we’re pleased to share this story from Toronto’s Riverside neighbourhood.
Stories can come from unexpected places and sometimes now innocuous things have a deeper history, waiting to be told. Look at 808 Queen Street East, a space that has not been used as a commercial storefront for many decades. However, the mysterious but lasting Riverside sign on its facade remains as a reminder of the space’s legacy from the 90s involving some of Riverside’s local movers and shakers.
Ron Fletcher, the co-founder and first President of the Riverdale Historical Society, took us on a trip down the memory lane, sharing, “Stan Jones and I were business partners in Riverside Gallery, an art gallery and bookstore that we ran in the late 90s.”
Ron – who is also a historian, author, and a former Chair of the Riverside BIA – recalled Stan’s contribution to the creation of the sign. He said, “Stan designed the script and made the sign himself out of solid wood, using woodworking tools. The sign was in two pieces that Stan joined and then hung above the door on the front of the building.”
There’s a lot more to the story though: Ron himself also played a significant role as BIA Chair in renaming the original ‘Queen-Broadview Village BIA’ to ‘Riverside BIA’. Talking about that Ron says, “We chose the name Riverside because it was the historic name of the community until 1884, when it voted to join the city of Toronto.” The name Riverside can be seen on 1880s historic maps in the Toronto archives, along with neighbouring Leslieville.
Ron’s contributions to the BIA have continued over the years, as a tour leader of Riverside history, architecture and film & TV tours in partnership with the Riverside BIA through Doors Open Toronto, and Heritage Toronto.
Yet another important contribution of Ron and Stan was the Art Studio Tours they ran in their first few years of business with the Riverside Gallery. The tours eventually morphed into the Riverdale ArtWalk.
Now, in its 22nd year, the Riverdale ArtWalk is a public fine art exhibition which has been voted the best outdoor art show in Toronto. Until this year, the ArtWalk has been a free two-day public fine art exhibition at Jamie Simpson Park and Recreation Centre. In the current time of COVID-19, the Riverdale ArtWalk is launching as a virtual online art show running June 6th-30th! There will be over 2000 original pieces of art to enjoy and purchase, all from the safety of your own home. Find the perfect piece to add some beauty to your space.
With lots of Riverside businesses now open, don’t miss taking a physically distant stroll down to the Riverside sign at 808 Queen E, and check out some nearby shops such as the famed Arts Market and tons of great local takeout. A big thanks to Ron and Stan for all their community contributions and thank you for supporting local!