When I was growing up in Toronto, the city was divided in my mind into the following areas: the SkyDome, the Eaton Centre, the CNE, Yorkdale, and Maple Leaf Gardens (yes, I’m dating myself). As far as I was concerned, those were the neighbourhoods of Toronto.
Toronto, I have since discovered, is a city of 140 neighbourhoods. And as far as Leaside resident and artist Brandon Steen is concerned, “it’s time that Leaside gets a chance to celebrate its uniqueness” in a way that other Toronto areas already do.
Travel around Toronto and in many neighbourhoods, you’ll notice colourful street signs indicating the name of the area, with catchy slogans and bits of history. Corktown. Little Portugal. The Junction. Each has its own history, and they all boast street signs reflecting their identity or story. Corktown’s signs indicate the fact that it was an original part of Old Town Toronto as laid out in plans by John Graves Simcoe in 1793. Little Portugal’s neighbourhood signs have green on the left side and red on the right to mirror the Portuguese flag, while The Junction’s signs sport railroad tracks to indicate the intersection of four railway lines in the area.
Leaside, Steen proposes, should have its own street signs to celebrate its history and identity. And he’s gone one step further: the artist has created a design with green as the main colour to pay homage to the tree canopy of Leaside along with the date of 1829, the year William Lea settled and built his home. (Steen does acknowledge, though, that the year on the signs could be 1880, the year that Leaside became a postal town, or 1913, the year in which Leaside was incorporated.)
If this project is to take flight, a number of steps would need to be taken. While the city would most likely not provide funding for such a project, Councillor Burnside is definitely interested in the proposal. He is currently working with Steen to determine if there is sufficient interest in the signs and if the funds necessary to have them produced could be raised through either private or public sources (or a combination of the two).
Toronto is absolutely more than the sum of its parts. It’s a city which has been ranked #4 in a list of the most livable cities in the world. But the parts which make up this great city are each special and unique.
Leaside has a wonderful identity, character, and history that we should all be so grateful to be a part of. Brandon Steen proposes that we shout our pride from the rooftops. Or at least through our own unique street signs.