Is Leaside losing its architectural character?
On April 23, 1913, Bill No. 55 of the provincial legislature officially incorporated the town of Leaside. As a product of colonial expansionism from Great Britain, the Garden City movement made its way into Canada and with the intervention of renowned American landscape architect Frederick Todd, Leaside’s intricate urban pattern came to life. The site comprised 1,025 acres, flanked on the north by the Don River and on the south by the Pacific Railway.
The urban fabric was somewhat elaborate, not following the grid pattern, but adding curvaceous main thoroughfares in different directions creating a sort of web.
Two grand sinuous boulevards crossed the site, McRae Dr. being the widest with 120 feet running to the east, followed by Bessborough Dr. with 110 feet heading north.
Only 68 houses were built by 1929, 324 by 1934, and by 1938 when a whopping 1,832 houses were counted in the census. The north part of the site was pretty much built right after the end of WWII. Now, counting only detached and semi-detached houses, there are over 4,000 houses in the neighbourhood, which are the emphasis of this article.
The housing design consisted of mainly four types of dwellings: single-storey bungalow, two-storey side hall, centre hall, and semi-detached. From the architectural standpoint the most prominent style was the Georgian Revival that had a profound influence on England’s emerging colonies wanting to emulate their fashion, while demonstrating patriotism and loyalty to the British crown. Other houses followed the Tudor Revival, and a few were designed in the Arts and Crafts and Cape Cod styles. This way, Leaside’s architecture with its understated elegance, offered residents a sense of stability and peace, so much needed after having been involved in both world wars.
The redevelopment of some areas by more affluent residents has changed their former atmosphere where larger lots allowed buyers to build bigger houses in different architectural styles that have diversified their presence. Killdeer Cres., Hanna Rd. and a portion of Broadway Ave. have been transformed with superior homes of transitional style. Rykert Cres. contains the prime major estates, fitting their ravine setting. Bessborough Dr. is a magnificent tree-lined street that still preserves a lot of the original magnetism of the community but has also been modified with improved residences.
McRae Dr. has pretty much retained the charisma of the earlier town, as owners do not want to overdevelop because of the lack of appetite for expensive houses located on a main street. The renovated houses on Glenvale Blvd. show a pattern of similitudes that go well with their initial structures. Thursfield Cres. and Beaufield Ave. feature a large number of semi-detached houses that showcase the lifestyle of the original residents, since semi-detached structures pose challenges for renovating purposes. The contemporary style is almost non-existent with only a handful of houses built this way.
In essence, Leaside now boasts a mix of architectural styles that have changed the architectural character of the neighbourhood but not its peaceful spirit. There are still some interesting parts that could be historically preserved as loyal guardians to show future generations the former glory of our beautiful town.