In this Riverside blog series, we’re taking you on a journey across the various landmarks, architecture and artworks of Toronto’s Riverside neighbourhood. Check out our Instagram or this page to discover historical landmarks, architecture and artworks each week!
The Riverside Neighbourhood
#GetToKnowRiversideTO – “Where’s Riverside?” On August 19, 1880, a Toronto Evening Globe clipping revealed the Dominion Government named the growing and enterprising area just east of the Don River “Riverside” and this name first shows up in a Goad’s Atlas of 1884. Fast forward to 1980, the Riverside BIA was formed (originally as the Queen/Broadview Village BIA), as one of the original dozen BIA’s in Toronto, and now part of a family of over 80 BIAs in Toronto and growing. Just over 40 years later, the Riverside BIA has 100+ local small businesses who work together along with the the City of Toronto, Councillor Paula Fletcher, and many, many other community partners to improve, beautify, and promote the area as a whole. Thank you to all the incredible collaborations that make this an amazing community in Toronto!
The World-Famous De Grassi Street
The world-famous “Degrassi” rings a bell for most, but did you know it all began right here on De Grassi Street (Yep, spelling’s a bit different!)? De Grassi Street was named for soldier Filippo “Philip” De Grassi (1793–1877), an Italian soldier in the Rebellion of 1837 in Upper Canada, De Grassi street runs one-way northbound from Queen Street East north to Gerrard Street. In the 1880s, workman’s cottages were constructed for those in the many manufacturing companies that operated around these parts, and still represent the architectural character of De Grassi Street today. Fast forward to the 1980s, De Grassi Street got its fame from the stories of its residents. Bruce Mackey Park, located on De Grassi Street, just north of Queen Street East, was officially dedicated to a founding friend and supporter of what became the hit Degrassi TV series in its early day. Bruce Mackey opened his De Grassi Street home to young filmmakers, Linda Schuyler and Kit Hood, who were making a short children’s film from which the Kids of Degrassi Street was ultimately born. His enthusiasm for this diverse neighbourhood led to many local families, De Grassi Street homes, and local parks and schools being featured in the early episodes of the ‘Kids of Degrassi Street’. Take a walk down De Grassi Street to see it for yourself!
Riverside Laneway Art Corridor
Take a fresh air tour of public art in this 4-block corridor in #RiversideTO’s Laneways! Explore #WomenPaintRiverside ‘Currents of Change’ and other amazing public art. Find 20+ different unique murals spread across 4 blocks in the laneway north of Queen E from Carroll Street to Grant Street. Each art piece is accompanied by a plaque and has a different story to tell. Many of these murals are part of the ‘Women Paint Riverside: Currents of Change’ project completed in 2021 by diverse local artists to celebrate our environment, our waterways, and the traditional keepers of those waterways. Also, find murals from Girls Mural Camp 2020 and 2021 and other incredible public art.
Public Art at Riverside Square
#GetToKnowRiversideTO – You simply can’t miss this striking 150 ft. mural located on the Riverside Square construction hoarding while passing by 677 Queen Street East! This public art piece is “meant to reflect Riverside’s human, animal, and urban diversity, through bright colours, dynamic shifting scenes and a variety of styles” as shared by lead artist Nick Sweetman. No stranger to the area, Nick, a local resident, previously created ‘A Time for Pollinators’ Mural in 2016 at 777 Queen St East which paid homage to one of the BIA’s original founders Albert Edelstein and the theme of ‘Time’ which runs strong through our area’s artistry. This new mural is an amazing work of public art you can take the time to explore, thanks to Nick and all the incredible supporting artists @steampaints @cmazzulla @chrispperez @_________moises ahayahison elicserelliott Thanks to streetcar developments for the funding support and collaboration with Paula Fletcher and Riverside BIA This photo captures a glimpse of the mural – be sure to check it out it in its full glory, alongside our Riverside community map!
The Queen Street Viaduct
#GetToKnowRiversideTO – The Queen Street Viaduct has long been an iconic landmark gateway into Riverside, thanks to many years of collaboration & innovation. The bridge over Don River & Valley dates back to 1803 when it was originally made of wood and was at the level of the river. After many iterations over the years, engineering advancements upgraded it in 1911 to the elevated steel truss bridge seen today. In 1996, the Riverside BIA (then called Queen Broadview Village BIA) along with the City of Toronto, envisioned and commissioned the implementation of the ‘Time and a Clock’ series by Eldon Garnet (among others). Part 1 of this series of three metal artworks is the memorable phrase on the bridge that reads “This River I Step In, Is not The River I Stand in.” This is rooted in the Greek Philosopher Heraclitus’ notion that you cannot step into the same river twice. The art transformed an unremarkable passage into the east of Toronto, into a much pondered, enjoyed, and of course, a photographed landmark in the decades following. Fast forward to the 2010s, the Riverside Gateway Bridge Lighting Project was envisioned to illuminate the art and bridge. After three years of planning, the dream was realized through a capital cost-share project between the Riverside BIA and the City of Toronto, and the generous support of many local supporters. Colourful wayfinding banners were also added just west of the bridge, thanks to artist Rebecca Jane Houston. The bridge was lit up and new wayfinding art was unveiled for the first time on June 5th, 2015 to be enjoyed nightly in all its vivid colour. Whether you’re driving, walking, bussing, or bicycling, don’t miss experiencing this Toronto landmark on Queen St E.
The Riverside Common Park
#GetToKnowRiversideTO – The Riverside Common Park (657 Queen St. E) is a new city park located in #RiversideTO, steps east of the Don Valley. Officially launched on October 17th, 2021, this park is just beginning its journey of bringing the community together through regular activations! Designed by the City of Toronto and Street Car Developments, so far, the park has hosted markets such as the Riverside Common Market by the Leslieville Flea, and the Holiday Market that took place in collaboration with the Scadding Court Women’s Entrepreneurship Hub. Both these markets livened the new park space with talented musicians and local vendors. Most recently, on December 5th, 2021, Councillor Paula Fletcher joined the community and the Riverside BIA in lighting up the park – thanks to the beautiful decor by City Parks staff (p.s. you can still check out the lights!) There is no doubt many many more amazing things to come in Riverside Common Park’s future!
Queen East and Broadview Ave
#GetToKnowRiversideTO – How times have changed in Toronto’s Riverside neighbourhood! Until the 1880s, the intersection of Queen and Broadview (then called Kingston Rd & Don Mills Rd) was an eastern entrance to Toronto and a tollgate stood here in the middle of the road. The money from tolls – which came in pennies and half pennies – was gathered by the county and used to maintain and expand the road network, which was often surfaced with planks and in need of constant upkeep. Dingman’s Hall – today The Broadview Hotel @broadviewhotel – was opened in 1891 and would have seen the tollgate for a few years before the elimination of tolls in 1895. Fast forward to this photo from 2020 where we see the modern TTC street car crossing in front of the transformed Broadview Hotel in Riverside.
The Broadview Hotel
#GetToKnowRiversideTO – Located at 106 Broadview Ave, The Broadview Hotel is a modern yet historic boutique hotel located in the heart of Toronto’s Riverside neighbourhood at the northwest corner of Queen/Broadview. It was originally built by Archibald Dingman in 1891 as a Romanesque-style hall for public gatherings. Over the years, this building changed from a rooming house called The Broadview House Hotel for people working in factories and on rail lines to clubs named Kicker’s and later Jilly’s. In 2014, the original heritage features of the exterior of this iconic building were restored and the interior was transformed into @thebroadviewhotel, with a rooftop patio with the best views of Toronto’s skyline
#GetToKnowRiversideTO – Located at 709 Queen St E is Brickworks Ciderhouse. The name Brickworks is a tribute to Toronto rising from the ashes following The Great Fire of 1904. This story of resilience is also what inspired their first official cider – Batch: 1904. Find them at the south east corner of Queen and Broadview right here in Toronto’s Riverside neighbourhood.
The Riverside BIA Brand
#GetToKnowRiversideTO – we love this neighbourhood and our brand puts our local Riverside pride on display! You can’t miss it as you explore Queen Street East from the Queen Street viaduct to just past De Grassi Street. Here’s a bit more of the story behind it… The Riverside BIA has always had a strong sense of place with its initial history and branding dating back to the 1980s, when it was the ‘Queen-Broadview Village BIA’. With the help of then BIA founders, the brand was expressed through street banners, planters, and BIA swag. In the early 2000s, the BIA underwent a name change to reflect the neighbourhood’s original roots as ‘Riverside’ dating to the 1880s. In 2004, the name ‘Riverside’ was officially adopted as the BIA’s new identity. This name change was reflected with updated branding which showcased a water theme. By 2017 the Riverside BIA had become diversified as a vibrant and growing mixed commercial and residential community, which prompted our 2018 rebrand to represent Riverside’s uniqueness, passion, and heart. With the help of the Riverside BIA Board, Marketing Committee, and designer George Conidis of GeoCDesign, the Riverside branding was transformed through bold and beautiful hues of hot pink, purple and blue; bringing character that palpably brought out the personality of Riverside. Alongside the new branding, the Riverside BIA underwent an innovative shift with new creative technologies such as branded poles wraps. In 2019, the brand was recognized with an award from the Toronto Association of BIAs (TABIA).
#GetToKnowRiversideTO – Did you know the area around Woodgreen Place/Queen E has a long history of compassionate community service? ⠀
It’s the former location of the Woodgreen Methodist Church in the 1880s. @woodgreendotorg has since expanded throughout Toronto with a network of locations and programming designed to tackle homelessness, food insecurity, education, and they 37,000 people each year from 36 locations, including at 650 Queen E in Riverside. ⠀
This adjacent area has been home to @fontbonneministries, Sisters of St. Joseph, Toronto which was founded in 2000 to carry on the Sisters of St. Joseph’s tradition of caring for neighbours. Since their beginnings in France in 1648, the Sisters of St. Joseph have offered food and shelter to those in need. When Sister Delphine Fontbonne and three other Sisters arrived in Toronto in 1851, they continued this legacy of compassion. For example, their Mustard Seed location here at 791 Queen E saw an immediate need when the pandemic hit and started up a Lunch Program serving anyone in the community 3 days a week.⠀
The Opera House/The Hub
#GetToKnowRiversideTO – Located at 735 Queen St E, this building was originally known as the La Plaza Theatre, an Edwardian vaudeville stage seating 900 people. Over its 125+ years, the building has transformed itself many times from a cinema to, since 1989 The Opera House @operahouseto music venue, and over the pandemic has become The Hub in Toronto @thehubintoronto a full broadcast + content capture studio. THE HUB offers a low risk, high value, full-service approach that is designed to support all levels of innovation. Concerts, keynote speeches, product launches, comedy shows, information sessions and content capture are just a few of the flexible options that this venue can provide.⠀
Stephan Caras Int’l Headquarters
#GetToKnowRiversideTO – This heritage building at 744 Queen E first opened In 1905 as the Canadian Bank of Commerce. Much has changed over the years and it’s been the now longtime headquarters and fashion house of internationally renowned Canadian designer, Stephan Caras @stephancaras.
Riverside Sports Heritage (2014) & Legacy Mural (2015)
#GetToKnowRiversideTO – You can find the Riverside Sports Heritage (2014) & Legacy Mural (2015) at 1 Munro Street by artist Monica Wickeler (@monicaonthemoon) on the side wall of Oma Chiropractic and Wellness. The lower portion (seen in the photograph) of the mural illustrates Riverside’s rich history in bicycling associated with the former Royal Canadian Bicycle Club (now Curling Club), and also baseball, as Riverside was home to Toronto’s first baseball stadium, the Toronto Baseball Grounds ‘Sunlight Park’. A colourful upper portion of the mural was added during the Pan Am Games.
Riverside Wayfinding Art (2015)
#GetToKnowRiversideTO – The bright way-finding art that is just to the west of the steel truss bridge over the Don River was designed and created by artist Rebecca Houston, as part of the Riverside Bridge Lighting Project completed in 2015. The weather vane sign moves with the wind, shows direction, and provides wayfinding to other Toronto landmarks such as City Hall and The Broadview Hotel.