IDENTITY THEFT!!! Is Leaside losing its architectural character?
By Alex Pino, Broker
On April 23, 2013 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, today’s Leaside intricate urban pattern came to life. The site was comprised of 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 on the contrary adding curvaceous main thoroughfares in different directions creating a sort of web that continues to boggle non-residents trying to find their way in or out.
Two grand sinuous boulevards crossed the site, McRae Dr being the widest with 120 feet running to the east, followed by Bessborough with 110 feet heading north.
Only 68 houses were built by 1929, 324 by 1934 and it took a good impulse by 1938 when 1,832 houses were counted in the census. The north part of the site was pretty much built right after the end of WWII and now counting only detached and semidetached houses there are over 4,000 in the neighbourhood, which are the emphasis of this article.
The housing design was comprised of mainly four types of dwellings: single-storey bungalow, two-storey side hall and centre hall and semidetached. 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 built with Arts and Crafts and Cape Cod designs. This way, Leaside’s architecture with its understated elegance, balanced proportions and simplified lines offered its 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. Kildeer 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 also has been modified with improved residences. McRae Dr has pretty much kept the charisma of the earlier town, as owners do not want to overdevelop, due to 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 have a large number of semidetached houses that showcase the lifestyle of the original residents as having semidetached structures pose challenges for renovating purposes. The contemporary style is almost non-existent with only a handful of houses built this way, which somehow demonstrates the conservative demand of the community when housing styles are called to action.
In essence, Leaside now has a mix of architectural styles that have changed the architectural character of the neighborhood 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.