You have seen the sign. The former Leaside Town Hall at the corner of McRae and Randolph is for sale. But who would buy a former town hall attached to a fire hall, once the home of the Leaside Fire Department, then one of three East York fire halls and now one of 92 Toronto fire halls?
Although Leaside was incorporated in 1913, its fire department was not organized until 1929 by which time the town had a population of 605 residents and a total of only 15 industrial and commercial buildings. The Leaside Volunteer Fire Department was established at a ratepayer meeting held at Leaside, now Bess-borough, school. The 44 people who were present elected a chief, 3 deputy chiefs and 18 firefighters from among those attending.
The first chief was D.J. Bell, the father of the late long-time Leaside and East York Fire Chief Ernie Bell. His volunteer fire brigade held practices once every two weeks on Saturday afternoons. They recorded fire locations on a blackboard so that late arriving volunteers would know where to go to fight the fire.
The original fire equipment was all donated. Durant Motors, then on Laird, gave the first fire truck. The CNR donated the first fire hose. Canada Wire and Cable gave the first fire hose reel, as well as providing free parking for the fire truck in one of its garages at the corner of Laird and Wicksteed.
Unfortunately Canada Wire had a number of identical garages. Sometimes the truck was moved from one garage to another resulting in a significant delay answering an alarm while volunteer firefighters tried to locate the truck. The original fire alarm was a piece of railway track tied to a tree and struck by a hammer.
Between 1929 and 1941 the truck was stored in a number of different locations including: the corner of Laird and Markham, Chief Bell’s home at the corner of Bessborough and Parkhurst, and a metal garage at the corner of Hanna and Sharron across from Bessborough School. That was important because fire calls were made to the school caretaker who would run over to the garage to sound the siren mounted on its roof to summon the volunteers.
In 1941 the town purchased another fire truck moving both to the Supertest gas station then at the south east corner of McRae and Mill-wood. In 1949 the present fire hall was built as part of the town hall. At the time of the 1967 merger with East York, Leaside was employing 53 full time firefighters, all of whom became part of the East York Fire Department.
The town hall but not the fire hall was declared surplus in the late 1970s and sold to long time Leaside resident the late Herb McGroarty who subsequently stood for and was elected to East York Council.
The town hall has changed owners more than once but thank goodness the fire hall and our excellent firefighters are still there to serve and protect our community.