This walk is the eastern half of a pair of Central Leaside walks, and as such shares the same Introduction as the Central-West Walk.
Leaside is a designed cultural heritage landscape – it features Frederick Gage Todd’s town plan (streets layout), the tract development of the 1930s through to 1953, and a few stranded (extant) settler homes, set over the earlier Colonial grid.
However, Central-East Leaside, while predominantly residential like Central-West, abuts Todd’s Industrial zone, today’s Leaside Business Park, with Laird Drive as the divide. As a result, office and commercial development on Laird, and some of the residential development, was directly associated with the Industrial zone employers, for example, Canada Wire and Cable.
1. Start (and end point): McRae Drive and Laird Drive:
We start where McRae Drive, one of Leaside’s two diagonal streets (the other is Millwood) meets Laird Drive. The buildings on the west side of Laird at this intersection speak to how two key services – banking and food/drink – related to the Industrial zone on the east side of Laird. The history of banking in the area goes back to 1918 and food/drink services to 1940.
The first Imperial Bank of Canada (IBC) opened in Leaside in 1918, a one-storey stucco-clad building on the north side of McRae Drive between Randolph Road and Sutherland Drive, but it closed in 1919. In 1928 the Imperial Bank reopened a branch in the former Town of Leaside Bank at 352 McRae (between Randolph and Sutherland).
In 1935, the IBC moved to the Dominion Motors Ltd. Building at 134 Laird Drive. When the building was sold in 1941, new Bank premises were constructed, at the intersection with McRae (184 Laird Drive), to the designs of Marani & Morris, architects, and opened in November 1941. The Imperial Bank of Canada was rebranded in 1965 as the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce following the merger of the Canadian Bank of Commerce and IBC in 1962 and continued at that location to 2015 when the bank moved to the newly opened Leaside Village shopping centre.
The Local Public Eatery (180 Laird)
The Local Public Eatery represents a recent conversion (2015) to restaurant use, following a long history of the building (1941 to 2015) as the official bank for the Town of Leaside, located conveniently for the Industrial area businesses and employees.
In 2012 the property was bought by First Capital Realty, and following this, CIBC moved to First Capital’s new commercial centre at 85 Laird Drive. As such, the future of the property was uncertain, and the North York Community Preservation Panel (NYCPP), supported by the Leaside Property Owners Assn., nominated it for heritage listing. In 2018, the property was included in the Laird in Focus Cultural Heritage Resource Assessment (CHRA) and City Council approved its listing on the Heritage Registry on November 19, 2019. Its cultural heritage values included:
- -Design value: as a representative example of mid-20th century Bank architecture (built 1940-41);
- -Associative value: as the Town of Leaside’s Bank, and with the historical development of the municipality;
- -Contextual value: the development of Laird Drive as an industrial area( east side) and offices/residential (west side).
NOTE: As a heritage listed (but not designated) property its legal protection from demolition will be lost on January 1, 2025, unless designated in the interim.
The Leaside Pub (190 Laird)
The Leaside Pub property has a history as both bank, and food and drink services establishment. Now one property, it formerly comprised three properties (188, 190 and 200 Laird Drive). 188 Laird was the home of the Canadian Bank of Commerce until the merger with the IBC in 1961. And a bank vault door remains in place to prove it!
190 Laird has been home to food and drink establishments, serving workers from the Leaside industrial area since 1940, First, the Leaside Tea House (1940-1963), followed by the Leaside Restaurant and Tavern (1963 to 1999), the Fox and Fiddle Pub (1999-2014), and the (independent) Leaside Pub (2014 to present). And 200 Laird is the parking lot on the north side!
2. Laird Drive and Vanderhoof Avenue
Pease Foundry Company (211 Laird)
This property, on the SE corner of Laird Drive and Vanderhoof Avenue, was formerly occupied by the Pease Foundry Company, manufacturers of plumbing and heating supplies. It was heritage listed in 2010, and designated in 2012. Its cultural heritage value included:
- -Design or physical value as a representative example of a mid-20th century building designed for combined commercial and industrial uses in the Art Moderne style.
- -Associative value for its links to the practice of the Toronto architect Earle C. Morgan, who was named the architect of record (but not of fact – it was Peter Dickinson who had the primary role) for the landmark O’Keefe Centre for the Performing Arts (1 Front Street East, 1960) .
- -Contextual value for its historical link to Leaside’s industrial past.
We turn left at Parklea which (similar to Vanderhoof) was formerly occupied by a mix of bungalows and semi-detached homes, with the bungalows increasingly “topped up”, and/or replaced by two storey single family homes.
We turn left onto Sutherland Drive and walk south to Parkhurst.
3. Sutherland Drive and Parkhurst Boulevard
Site of former Hydro Transformer house (160 Parkhurst Boulevard)
This looks like any other house in the neighbourhood, and it is! However it is also the site of a former residential substation, a fake house built by Toronto Hydro to conceal what’s inside: a transformer that converts raw, high voltage electricity to a voltage low enough to distribute throughout the city. The substation at 160 Parkhurst Boulevard had a Cape Cod design, similar to the existing Hydro substation at 640 Millwood (just west of Bayview) and another Leaside substation that was formerly located at 25 Malcolm Avenue. 160 Parkhurst was demolished and replaced with a handsome regular house in 1990.
There are currently 90 substations in the City, down from around 150 originally. All were designed to blend in seamlessly with the neighbourhoods in which they were built.
We continue on Sutherland and walk to McRae.
4. Sutherland Drive and McRae Drive
Perrem and Knight General Store (322 Sutherland)
The Red Mulberry health store (vacant) on the SW corner of McRae and Sutherland, was originally Perrem and Knight, the first grocery store in Leaside, opened in 1928.
NOTE: 322 Sutherland Drive was listed on the Heritage Register in September 27, 2006. However as a listed property, 180 Laird’s legal protection from demolition will be lost on January 1, 2025 unless designated in the interim.
We turn right on McRae and left on the (unnamed) lane, after passing the WW2 Army vehicles at the corner.
Lane #1 between Sutherland and Airdrie
Notice the character of the lane (such as width, tree cover etc) and compare with the second lane (between Randolph and Sutherland) that we will visit!
We turn left on Stickney Avenue and cross Sutherland observing the Canada Wire and Cable (CWC) homes at Sutherland and Stickney
5. Canada Wire and Cable Homes
CWC homes are a significant house form in Central East Leaside – of three designs – 2 distinct semi-detached styles, and a lesser number of single detached (with gable facing the street). Most of the semi-detached homes display a pyramid hip roof line with other semi-detached models having an open gable roofline. 68 homes were built from 1918 to 1925 and almost all survive, likely as most are semi-detached.
Lane #2 between Sutherland Drive and Randolph Road
After crossing Sutherland turn right into an (unnamed) lane. Observe the laneway house on the left (east side).
Laneway house (rear of 158 Randolph Road)
This laneway house comprising a two storey structure and carport is the first laneway house approved and built in Leaside as a result of new zoning permissions under the Expanded Housing Options in Neighbourhoods (EHON) initiative.
6. Randolph Road, Kenrae Road
At the end of the lane, turn left on Lea Avenue, then turn right on Randolph Road, and swing left on Kenrae Road. There is a row of semi-detached CWC homes on the east side of Kenrae.
7. Kenrae Road and Laird Drive
At the corner of Kenrae and Laird observe the commercial buildings on both sides of Laird, particularly the east side, north of Canvarco.
43-53 Laird Drive
This row of “solid” two storey buildings have metre thick “blast walls” which were built in 1924 for the storage of explosives. They are associated with the Canada Varnish Company (hence the street name Canvarco). Unfortunately they are not listed on the Heritage Register.
TELUS Data Centre – 73 Laird Drive
The TELUS building presents a dramatically different “face” in every way from 41-53 Laird Drive – in height, setbacks, materials (and technology!).
Walk north past a number of commercial buildings including Naan Kabob (Afghani restaurant).
8. Lea Ave. and Laird Drive
Olde Yorke Fish and Chips – 96 Laird Drive
The property at 96 Laird Drive (former Osmond’s Restaurant) is located at the north-west corner of Laird Drive and Lea Avenue, and was constructed as early as 1923. Known as the CNR Restaurant in 1926, the building has been in continuous use as a restaurant for almost a century. The two-storey house-form building originally contained a restaurant at grade with residential accommodation on the second floor.
The restaurant first appeared in the City Directories, and on Goad’s map in 1924, indicating a construction date of 1923. It was owned by John Osmond from 1923 until 1945 and served as the Osmond’s family’s home and place of business. The directories frequently noted Alice Osmond as the proprietor. It was identified as a lunch room/confectionery and a cafeteria indicating its importance as a facility for the workers at the local industries.
Extensions have been added to the property, including a single storey extension
to the north (c.1942), and an addition with a skylight to the west facing Lea Avenue. The original building had a raised stone foundation with red-brick cladding (still evident on the upper floor of the west elevation) but is now over clad in a stucco-type material.
The cultural heritage values of Osmond’s Restaurant (Olde Yorke Fish and Chips) include:
- -Design value for its unusual representation of a vernacular Georgian style in a house-form typology, which is rare in Leaside. The elements of the style are present in the two-storey, rectangular-plan, hipped-roof massing, the stucco cladding and the symmetrical composition of the principal, south, elevation.
The form and details are indicative of its early date and its unique role in the history of early Leaside.
- -Associative value as one of the earliest buildings constructed in Leaside, and with its primary function as a restaurant associated with the railway at Leaside Station and the local industries on the east side of Laird Drive including Canada Wire and Cable Company, and Durant Motors, which were the nucleus of the development of Leaside.
- -Contextual value as it represents the early history of Leaside and Laird Drive’s development in the 1920s as an industrial centre. The restaurant’s domestic scale and architectural character represents those services which grew to support the employees and local community.
Its distinctive house-form, stucco cladding and details identify its historic significance as it continues to be a local community landmark.
NOTE: 96 Laird Drive was listed on September 27, 2006. However, as a heritage listed (but not designated) property its legal protection from demolition will be lost on January 1, 2025, unless designated in the interim.
9. Stickney Avenue and Laird Drive
We proceed up Laird Drive to Stickney Avenue and observe the redevelopment and residential intensification of the west side of Laird Drive which we call “The Mid-Rise March down Laird”.
126-132 and 134 Laird Drive consists of two related developments on either side of Stickney Avenue (126-132 Laird and 134 Laird). 126-132 Laird was a former automobile service station and 134 Laird was an automobile showroom.
The property located at 134 Laird Drive was originally owned by Imperial Oil and formerly occupied by a service station from 1929. This is significant for Leaside as a Garden Suburb where the car along with the railway were a part of its creation and growth. The first 1929 building was replaced in c.1945.
The building was considered during Laird in Focus Study by City Heritage staff in 2019 but not listed; however they recommended that some historic interpretation of the relationship between garden suburbs, service stations and automobiles be included for this property as part of Public Realm improvements to Laird Drive. The developer of 126-134 Laird has in fact agreed to commemorate the cultural history with a plaque and bench at the NW corner of Laird and Stickney.
Durant Motors Headquarters Building (150 Laird Drive)
The building at 150 Laird Drive was the administration building for Durant Motors extensive automobile manufacturing complex. It is being re-developed for a seniors’ rental retirement living complex with integral recreation and support facilities.
The Durant administrative building is a heritage designated building. The approved plans for the site include the preservation of the south, east and north walls of the building with new interior construction. The area of the existing building will form a plinth to the upper storeys which are set back from the three retained walls. This is intended to create a three dimensional understanding of the scale of the original building.
Floor areas behind the preserved walls will be reconstructed to serve the new layout of retirement suites, with amenities and services.
We turn left on Stickney Avenue and then right on Randolph Road and proceed to the intersection with McRae Drive.
10 Randolph Road and McRae Drive
Former Leaside Town Hall (235 McRae)
The former Leaside Town Hall (now a child care facility) is associated with Henry Howard Talbot, a prolific builder in Leaside, and later Mayor of the Town of Leaside from 1938-47. As Mayor he stressed the development of the Leaside Industrial area, and was champion of development of the municipal building at Randolph and McRae.
The Leaside Town Hall (235 McRae) and the Leaside Fire Hall (231 McRae) were each heritage designated in 2004.
McRae Drive between Sutherland and Laird has received modest intensification in the 2000s with multiplex apartments on the north side and town house development on the south side (east of Randolph).
And we turn right to take us back to Laird and McRae, our starting point.
Walking Tour credits: Geoff Kettel, Mitch Bubulj, John Naulls, Ted de Welles, Jeff Hohner and Jane Pitfield “Leaside”.