Gardening can be as simple as finding a spot, digging a trench and filling it with a few plants. Voilà! But to a mindful gardener, the act of planting is one of greater responsibility. One that requires information about the past, an understanding of the present and most important, a regard for the future.
In 1913, like a mindful gardener, Frederick Todd planted the seed for Leaside to become a Garden City. Unlike a Garden Suburb (such as Rosedale), a Garden City was a design movement introduced by Ebenezer Howard, who was disturbed by the unhealthy and overpopulated cities of Victorian England. He set out to create a live/work town that was socially, economically and ecologically sustainable while living in harmony with nature. By forming a list of what he considered necessary requirements (the Garden City Principles) he essentially created the first “green” community.
Frederick Todd used these Garden City Principles to design the town of Leaside.
Geoff Kettel wrote an article in the January Leaside Life entitled “Celebrating Leaside Matters: The two-fold secret knock.” If you still have your January copy, it’s definitely worth a second read. You can also find it online at leasidelife.com. In his article, Geoff quotes Connor Turnbull of Leaside Matters, who said: “Change is afoot and there is a fear that Leaside will change in drastic ways. But we think that there is a thoughtful path available rooted in the DNA of Leaside’s design.”
The “change” that Connor refers to is the many new developments being imposed on Leaside. The “DNA of Leaside’s design” is the Garden City Principles that Frederick Todd used to design Leaside, and “the thoughtful path available” is for Leasiders to know these principles and use them to help us grow in a sustainable way.
By design, Leaside is indeed a Garden City and one that we should embrace and be proud of, but as Geoff points out, “Leasiders have disconnected from, or were never aware of, the roots of their placeness.”
Over the years, Leaside Life has provided countless articles about the history of Leaside, many of which included Frederick Todd. And since 2015, Connor Turnbull, with Leaside Matters, has worked hard to raise the awareness of our special Leaside identity.
But with an aging population, many long-time Leasiders are moving out as newcomers move in. Along with new developments, I fear that even more will be unaware of our Leaside heritage.
Whether you know anything about our Garden City or not, I’m sure you love and appreciate the abundance of nature within and surrounding Leaside and it may be the very reason you live here. But it’s important to know that this allowance and regard for nature was created by the good design of Garden City Principles, which can easily be destroyed by allowing bad design to take its place.
As a gardener, a designer and one who cares deeply about the environment, I believe this Garden City is worthy of greater recognition and prominence, and it’s more than possible that this single identifier could be the best way to connect all Leasiders to become aware of our roots – a proud sense of community that connects all of us to something that we can relate to in order to combat inappropriate development.
It wouldn’t take much to get the ball rolling in the Garden City direction. Currently we are considering new street signs, so why not include the Garden City? A few strategically placed Garden City historical plaques would work wonders too, but how about some Leaside history at our local schools? There could even be a Frederick Todd Day! Yes, the possibilities are endless. Let’s make Leaside a Garden City.
According to The International Garden Cities Institute, Garden Cities were founded on a series of principles developed by Ebenezer Howard which remain relevant today:
-Strong vision, leadership and community engagement
-Land value capture for the benefit of the community
-Community ownership of land and long-term stewardship of assets
-Mixed-tenure homes and housing types that are affordable for ordinary people
-Beautifully and imaginatively designed homes with gardens in healthy communities
-A strong local jobs offer in the Garden City itself and within easy commuting distance
-Opportunities for residents to grow their own food, including allotments