Uncovering Riverside Blog #5: Easter in Historic Riverside

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

(Read all the Uncovering Series)

Time advances slowly with the turning of the planet and its path around the sun, day by day reported in the daily newspapers, then filed in the archives of various organizations. As is usual in this search for Riverside past, a question is asked or a request made that refers to the ongoing present, in this case the Easter season in Historic Riverside. What is remembered is most often a fragment, a word, an expression or an image that evokes an occasion. What is not remembered lies quietly awaiting the light of a new day, hoping for a sympathetic eye and an understanding heart. I went looking  for Easter, the changing dates in the changing seasons made this difficult, searches turned up hunts for coloured eggs and vestry meetings, but mostly hopes for spring’s warming.

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The WoodGreen Methodist Church, built in 1875 for 250 people, doubled in size in 1887. Then, incredibly, by 1890 this church was rebuilt four times as big as the original, located on the the west side of Strange Street at Queen Street East. The first picture was taken looking south from Boulton Ave with the sign for the library visible in the upper right. A search for Strange Street turned up this clip from The Toronto Star March 28, 1905.

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(G.T.R. stands for Grand Trunk Railway).

Baseball! Now that’s a spring thing in which I am always interested. Looking in the 1903 City directory for the address 58 Strange, I was tweaked by the name Robert Gard listed at that address. Where had I seen that unusual name before?

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Looking again at our 1901 photo of the Royal Canadian Base Ball Club, there he is:  George Gard, standing on the far right next to the 29 year old George Capps. When this photo was made, Lever Brothers were just building their Sunlight soap factory across Eastern Avenue from the Toronto Baseball Grounds, which would soon be called Sunlight Park as shown in this Dec. 4, 1902 clipping from The Globe.

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The interest the Royal Canadian had in a broad range of sporting endeavors is shown here, presaging the building in 1929 of the ice palace now known as the Royal Canadian Curling Club. At the time of this article the clubhouse was still at Dingman’s Hall, 4 years before the building of the Bicycle Clubhouse at 131 Broadview. Today it’s difficult to imagine the ballpark in the heart of this downtown neighborhood so here’s a bird’s eye view of both the stadium and the church, a bit of the open fields surrounding the little village of whose name, Riverside, was all but forgotten.

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(Read all the Uncovering Series)

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