55 Division

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101 Coxwell Av., Toronto, ON , M4L 3B3
Phone: 416-808-5500
Fax: 416-808-5502

Community History

Historically 55 Division patrols 6 communities The Danforth, Leslieville, Riverdale, China Town East, the Beaches and Little India.

Click on each of the community headings to read more about them.

Little India

On Gerrard Street East between Greenwood Avenue and Coxwell Avenue, there are many Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Afghan and Sri Lankan restaurants, cafés, videos/DVD stores, clothing shops, electronic goods & home decor stores catering to the South Asian-Canadian communities. Along with Jackson Heights in New York and Devon Avenue in Chicago, it forms one of the largest South Asian marketplaces in North America. The area has never been home to a large South Asian population, rather it has served for several decades as commercial centre for South Asians living in the Toronto area. Today, it attracts visitors from the Toronto area, and from elsewhere in Canada and the United States. It celebrates the annual Festival of South Asia in late August.

A group of Hindu and Sikh merchants have formed the "Gerrard India Bazaar Business Improvement Area" (BIA). The BIA sponsors events that appeal to the different South Asian groups that shop in the area: in 2004, Diwali, the Hindu and Sikh festival of lights, and Eid ul-Fitr, the Islamic feast day that marks the end of Ramadan, occurred around the same time in November. The BIA held a joint Diwali-Eid festival. The area is also commonly referred to as "Little India", Little Pakistan, or little South Asia.

The neighborhood originated in 1972 when businessman Gian Naaz purchased the Eastwood Theatre and began to show Bollywood films and also Pakistani films and dramas. This attracted large numbers of Indo-Canadians from across the GTA. This large traffic led to a number of other stores in the area to be created to cater to the South Asian community. The area expanded rapidly and features houses some 100 stores and restaurants and has spread over almost the entire length from Greenwood to Coxwell. While originally shop owners mostly spoke Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, and Bengali. The Gerrard India Bazaar was able to develop without a corresponding South Asian enclave because the vacancy of businesses in the area came before residential vacancies that could attract South Asian settlement in the area. In recent years a wide array of Pakistani stores have opened in the western part of the neighborhood (near Greenwood), which is closely linked to the large Muslim community in the East Danforth area just to the north.

The above information is credited to Wikipedia

collage of photos from Gerrard India Bazaar Festival of South Asia


China Town East

As property values increased in downtown Chinatown, many Chinese Canadians migrated to Toronto's east end in the Riverdale area. A second, somewhat smaller, Chinese community was formed, centred on Gerrard Street East between Broadview Avenue and Carlaw Avenue. Chinese-Vietnamese and mainland Chinese immigrants dominate this district. East Chinatown is somewhat smaller than Toronto's main Chinatown, but is growing. At the northernmost corner of East Chinatown (northwest corner, Broadview Avenue and Gerrard Street) is the Riverdale branch of the Toronto Public Library. This branch is bilingual in Chinese and English.  Construction on the Toronto Chinese Archway began in the western end of East Chinatown on November 24, 2008 and it opened to the public on September 12, 2009.

The above information is credited to Wikipedia

collage of photos from Chinatown Dragon Fest


Riverdale

A large eclectic neighbourhood in east Toronto stretching from the Don River valley in west to Pape avenue in the east and south of the Danforth to the lakeshore . Riverdale has a fantastic mix of Edwardian era homes, stores and industrial buildings.

The neighbourhood features three large recreational parks; Riverdale Park, adjacent to the Don River, Withrow Park, in the north east of Riverdale, and Jimmie Simpson Park, in the southeast.

Known by many Torontonians as a thriving residential neighbourhood, from the strong arts community that caters to independent galleries, designer furniture stores and upscale restaurants on Queen St, to the large corporate film studios along the waterfront.

There remains a strong working class element south of Gerrard Street. Its tree-lined side-streets are complemented by the various styles of Victorian and Edwardian residential architecture, primarily built between the 1880s and the Great Depression. The area has a large number of Industrial buildings that have been converted to lofts and condominiums. The neighbourhood has seen the rise and fall of prosperity over the past century. The grand homes built on some streets are a testimony to prosperous times. Despite this rich housing stock, the area was considered to be down-and-out in the 1970s. The Area has had an up swing in recent years with gentrification.

The above information is credited to Riverdaletoronto.com

photo of Riverdale public library entrance


Leslieville

Leslieville is a neighbourhood in Toronto, Ontario, Canada east of the Don River bounded by the Canadian National railway line and Gerrard Street to the north, Empire Avenue to the west, Eastern Avenue to south, and Coxwell Avenue to the east.

This quiet east-end neighbourhood forms part of the broader neighbourhood of South Riverdale. Leslieville began as a small village in the 1850s, which grew up around the Toronto Nurseries owned by George Leslie and sons, after whom the community is named. Most of Leslieville's residents were gardeners or were employed at one of the brick-making factories in the area.

Alexander Muir, the composer of The Maple Leaf Forever, was the first principal of the Leslieville Public School, one of the first buildings in the village. Muir was inspired when a brilliant maple leaf fell on his jacket from a Leslieville tree. That tree is still standing today and has become a famous landmark in the community.

For decades, South Riverdale was home to light industry, particularly along Eastern Ave. south of Queen St. Metal processing and tanning were notable industries which, along with other industrial activity, left Leslieville and South Riverdale with a legacy of contaminated land. In 2000, the A.R. Clarke Tannery went up in flames, burning for days and unleashing toxic ash on the surrounding neighbourhood. Almost all these industrial areas have now been abandoned and are awaiting redevelopment.

Leslieville once mainly housed those who worked in the factories, and their departure has greatly changed the area. The reduction in air pollution and fumes have made it much more appealing to members of the middle and creative class. Leslieville is a neighbourhood in which the process of gentrification is beginning. It is commonly referred to now as an up-and-coming neighbourhood, with new restaurants, shops and cafés slowly cropping up in the area. However, it is still a largely working-class and middle-class neighbourhood. In some of the former industrial areas large film studios have opened, including Cinevillage and Showline Studios. Just to the south, in the Port Lands area, the massive new Pinewood Toronto Studios.

The above information is credited to Wikipedia

photo of a wall on a building in Leslieville painted with leslieville ornaments


The Danforth

Danforth Avenue in Toronto, Ontario, Canada was named after Asa Danforth, an American contractor who was commissioned in 1799 to cut the Danforth but didn't actually build it. The Don and Danforth Plank Road Company built Danforth Ave in 1851, connecting it to Broadview Ave and creating a viable route to the more populous surrounding communities down near Queen St East and Kingston Road. With the barriers of the Don Valley and Don River, the Danforth started out as a remote area. It was remembered as "a dusty country road - a sleepy byway that ran through open fields, market gardens, brickyards, scattered houses, the odd church, and occasional hotel or roadhouse, where Torontonians would go for weekend revels." In the early 1790s just north of the Danforth, industries began settling along the east bank of the Don Valley to take advantage of the water power potential of the Don, and later to exploit the valley's rich clay deposits for brick-making purposes.

In the late 1800s, as the City of Toronto grew because of an increasing immigrant population, the City decided in 1884 to annex the previously un-serviced lands south of the Danforth, north of Queen St East and east of the Don to Greenwood. The lands north of the Danforth and east of Donlands Ave, and Chester Village were later annexed to the City of Toronto in 1909.

The Danforth area began to prosper as a result of major transportation improvements that created more access to the area.

In 1888 the Toronto Street Railway established a streetcar line along Broadview Ave from Queen St East to the corner of Danforth Ave and in 1913 the Danforth line of the municipally-owned Toronto Civic Railways began service east of Broadview Ave.

The single most important event in the Danforth's history came in 1919 with the completion of the Bloor Viaduct bridge over the Don Valley, finally connecting the Danforth to the City via Bloor Street.

Initially the bridge was called the Bloor Street Viaduct, but on September 11, 1919 Toronto's City Council unanimously agreed to rename it the Prince Edward Viaduct to honour Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) who had received an enthusiastic welcome a few weeks before on his first visit to Toronto. First inhabitants to the new lower middle class suburb of Toronto were mainly immigrants from England, Ireland, and Scotland. In the 1950s an influx of Italians came to the area, followed by Greeks and other immigrants in the 1960s. In the mid-1970s second generation Greeks and Italians moved to the outer suburbs, while children of Anglo-Saxon suburbanites, attracted by low real estate prices and closeness to downtown Toronto (the Bloor-Danforth subway line opened in 1966), returned and launched a major wave of home renovations and restoration in the area.

The above information is credited to The Danforth BIA

collage of photos from Taste of the Danforth


The Beach

Originally a heavily wooded area dotted with private homes and swampland, the current shoreline and the Kew Gardens private park grounds were appropriated by the Toronto Harbour Commission in the early 1900s. The current beach was artificially enlarged and made continuous in 1930 with the use of wooden groynes.  The public boardwalk and facilities were officially opened to the public in 1932.

The beach is diminishing as the sand continuously migrates from east to west. Although sand is replaced by new sand generated by the erosion of the Scarborough Bluffs to the east, this source of sand is itself diminished due to municipal efforts to reduce erosion of the bluffs in an effort to preserve homes at the crest of the bluffs.

The commercial district of Queen Street East lies at the heart of The Beaches community. It is characterized by a large number of independent speciality stores. The stores along Queen are known to change tenants quite often causing the streetscape to change from year to year, sometimes drastically. The side streets are mostly lined with semi-detached and large-scale Victorian, Edwardian and new-style houses. There are also low-rise apartment buildings and a few row-houses. Controversy has risen in recent years over new development in the neighbourhood that is changing the traditional aesthetic, with denser housing causing some residents to protect the traditional cottage-like appearance of the homes with heritage designations for some streets. There are several parks just a few steps south as well as a ravine that bisects the neighbourhood from North to South. Kingston Road is a four-lane road along the northern section of the neighbourhood. Woodbine Avenue is a four-lane road originating from Lakeshore Boulevard at the Lake Ontario shoreline, running north. It is primarily residential.

The Beach itself is a single uninterrupted stretch of sandy shoreline bounded by the R. C. Harris Water Treatment Plant (locally known as the water works) to the east and Woodbine Park (a small peninsula in Lake Ontario) to the west. A long boardwalk runs along most of its length with a portion of the Martin Goodman Trail bike path running parallel. Although it is continuous, there are four names which correspond each to approximately one quarter of the length of the Beach (from east to west): Balmy Beach, Scarboro Beach, Kew Beach and Woodbine Beach. Woodbine Beach and Kew-Balmy Beach are suitable for swimming.

The above information is credited to Wikipedia

collage of photos from Queen Street Jazz Festival