Uncovering Riverside Blog #3: The Holiday Season in Riverside Past & Present

–by Barry Slater, Guest Blogger and Historian of the Royal Canadian Curling Club

(Read all the Uncovering Series)

Being asked for a sense of what the Holiday Season was like in Riverside, got me searching “December” in the newspaper files I’ve collected. A Globe article of December 27, 1880, describes the holiday festivities at a five year old “little” church that would grow.  That day the church was decked out in elegant festive décor (courtesy of Mrs. Potter), and had a good crowd come out for the service and hearty singing (led by Mr. Staples – not related to the famous Canadian painter, Owen Staples). The townsfolk were also feeling generous: the Reverend Ed. Ransford & lay reader C.J. Agar having collected $5.55 from the congregation that day, apparently “a large sum for so poor a parish.”

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This was the first St. Matthew’s Church, built in 1875 on the north east corner of DeGrassi Street and Grover (now Cumming Street).  From the history page of the church’s web site, “At the Easter Vestry Meeting of 1889 it was decided to build and move to a new location. The Church Wardens at the time were Mr. John Benjamin Vick and Mr. Noel Marshall, both of Riverdale Avenue and prominent Toronto businessmen.” I had seen the name Vick before. I went looking further through my files and there it was, a photo of the 1901 Royal Canadian Baseball team with George Vick sitting on the right of President John Maxwell and leaning on the right shoulder of Manager Bill Entwhistle.

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This thrilled me, to find a Royal Canadian thread to follow. Who was Mr. John Benjamin Vick?  In 1880 the only Vick listing in the city directory is a John Vick living in a boarding house at 33 Duke St (now southeast corner of Frederick & Adelaide St E). The following year he is listed as a stonecutter, working for Lionel Yorke, in a house at 48 McGee. Yes! This could be our Riverside man. From 1883 to 1889 he is listed as foreman at Lionel Yorke, still at 48 McGee, his brother James boards there and works at Lionel Yorke as a stonecutter.

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From Adam Mercer’s history, “Toronto, old and new”. . . , issued in 1891 as a memorial to the 100th anniversary of the founding of Upper Canada, speaks of Mr. Yorke and supplies a photo of the house he built on Smith Street in 1885 for Noel Marshall.  Lionel Yorke died around the time of the Easter Vestry Meeting of 1889, Warden Vick found new lodgings with Rev. Wm. Cleland on Winchester St.  Bells went off in my head when I read the name Cleland for it too is associated with the Royal Canadian.

Now having wandered from the main theme of this article…I invite you to come out and enjoy a Riverside Neighbourhood Holiday tradition in the present day: the Antler Breakfast Dec 18, this Friday at An Sibin Pub from 8 am to 11 am, where Santa will try to explain why Smith Street would be renamed Riverdale Avenue in 1907 and what this has to do with the Royal Canadian.     

Oh yes, and the Christmas Present you are waiting for is (drumroll)…the first newspaper article mention of the newly formed Royal Canadian Bicycle Club, in The Toronto World from December 25, 1891.

Ho, Ho, Ho! See you at the Antler Breakfast!

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(Read all the Uncovering Series)