Riverdale is one of Toronto’s most desirable and varied neighbourhoods — ranging from the upscale homes of North Riverdale to the artists, galleries and film studios of South Riverdale, from the Greek enclave of The Danforth to East Chinatown, encompassing huge swaths of green space that have made Riverdale one of the city’s favourite areas for dogs.
Bordered roughly by Danforth Avenue to the north, the Don River Valley to the west, Lake Shore Boulevard to the south and Jones Avenue and the Leslieville neighbourhood to the east, Riverdale began its life in the 1850s when the Grand Trunk Railway line was built through the area, bringing industry and a housing boom to the neighbourhood. That boom continued in 1918, when the Prince Edward Viaduct linked north Riverdale to the rest of Toronto across the Don River.
Today, Riverdale serves as a microcosm of Toronto, encapsulating the city’s multicultural nature with several distinct ethnic sub-neighbourhoods, with the large homes on the quiet streets of North Riverdale, the restaurants, galleries and clubs along Queen Street and the artists’ homes and bustling hi-tech and film industry sites in South Riverdale. The mix — along with Riverdale’s proximity to downtown — has made the area heavily in demand for families, professionals and students, as well as musicians, artists and those seeking a combination of the bohemian and the laid-back.
And for those who grew up on Canadian television, DeGrassi Street — the South Riverdale road that gave its name to the hit show The Kids of Degrassi Street, Degrassi Junior High, Degrassi High, and Degrassi: The Next Generation — runs through South Riverdale, sparking a wave of nostalgia every time one passes it.
History and Social Profile
Riverdale — originally known as Riverside, a name still applied to the area of Riverdale centred around Queen and Broadview — was originally a small rural community. When the Grand Trunk Railway was built in the 1850s, the area began to grown as industries moved in to take advantage of the transportation. With the workers came the need for housing, and the construction of Victorian and Edwardian-style housing. Much of this housing, originally built as boarding houses to accommodate workers, has since been converted into large, single-family homes that still reflect the architectural flair of the 1800s, while fitting into the quiet tree-lined streets of North Riverdale. Riverside, with its name changed to Riverdale, was annexed by the city of Toronto in 1884.
With the construction of the Prince Edward Viaduct in 1918, bridging the Don River Valley and joining East Toronto to West Toronto, Riverdale underwent another boom, one that firmly established much of the character that marks the area today. That boom led to the construction of much of the housing that today is home to many of the families and young professionals that have turned much of Riverdale into the upscale, residential haven that make it so desirable today.
That character has also been indelibly stamped by waves of immigrants into the area. The northern part of Riverdale is bordered by Greektown, the Hellenic neighbourhood along The Danforth. Along Gerrard Street, centred around Broadview Avenue, lies East Chinatown with its many Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai businesses and restaurants. The area was established when many new Asian immigrants found themselves being priced out of the city’s original Chinatown along Spadina Avenue. Riverdale also borders Little India, located around Gerrard and Coxwell.
South Riverdale has also become a huge part of Toronto’s arts scene. The area along Lake Shore Avenue has become known as the Studio District, due to the many industrial warehouses that today are home to numerous production studios. As a result, the area is also home to many of those working in film and television. The area along Queen between Broadview and Carlaw has become a hotspot for local artists, with many having found work and living space in the renovated lofts that populate the street. In their wake, a number of well-respected art galleries have also been established along the street. And a number of live performance spaces — most notably The Opera House, at Queen and Broadview, a popular venue for alternative and metal bands — have made Riverdale a prime location for Toronto’s music community.
Adding to the area’s desirability is the many green spaces that mark Riverdale. Jimmie Simpson Park, near Queen and Broadview, features an indoor swimming pool, a games room and gymnasium, as well as outdoor tennis and basketball courts. It’s also home to the Royal Canadian Curling Club. Withrow Park, a 21-acre stretch which features one of the city’s largest and most popular dog runs, was built in 1910 and also features an ice rink, two baseball diamonds and a soccer field. And Riverdale Park, divided by the Don River, features fields used for soccer, baseball, and ultimate frisbee on both sides of the river. The Park also has a swimming pool, tennis courts, an outdoor hockey rink and a running track. The Bridgepoint Hospital borders the park, which also contains a monument to Chinese revolutionary Sun-Yat Sen. Riverdale Farm, the city’s only working farm and hugely popular destination for families, also neighbours the park.
- Bonjour Brioche
- Big Carrot Grocery and Juice Bar
- Ruby Watchco
- Prohibition Gastrohouse
- Factory Girl
- Riverside Public House
- Riverdale Perk
- Riverdale Collegiate Institute, 1094 Gerrard Street East, 416-393-9820
- Earl Grey Senior Public School, 100 Strathcona Avenue, 416-393-9545
- Quest Alternative School, 25 Bain Avenue, 416-393-9430
- East Alternative School of Toronto, 21 Boultbee Avenue, 416-393-8442
- Withrow Avenue Junior Public School, 25 Bain Avenue, 416-393-9440
- Jackman Avenue Junior Public School, 79 Jackman Avenue, 416-393-9710
- Frankland Community School, 816 Logan Avenue, 416-393-9720
- Queen Alexandra Senior Public School, 181 Broadview Avenue, 416-393-9535
- Eastdale Collegiate Institute, 710 Gerrard Street East, 416-393-9630
- Dundas Junior Public School, 935 Dundas Street East, 416-393-9565
- Pape Avenue Junior Public School, 220 Langley Avenue, 416-393-9470
- Blake Street Junior Public School, 21 Boultbee Avenue, 416-393-9415
- Danforth Collegiate and Technical Institute, 800 Greenwood Avenue, 416-393-0620
- Holy Name Catholic School, 690 Carlaw Avenue, 416-393-5215
- Broadview subway station
- Chester subway station
- Pape subway station
- Donlands subway station
- Queen streetcar
- Dundas streetcar
- Gerrard streetcar
- Buses run along Broadview, Carlaw and Jones