Aerial shot of Riverdale, 31 December 1941
Riverdale is a large neighbourhood of Toronto. Its boundaries are Lake Shore Blvd. (south), the Don River Valley (west), Greektown and Danforth Ave. (north), and the Jones Ave. section of the Canadian National Railway and GO Transit tracks in Leslieville (east).
It was annexed to Toronto in 1884, and has long been known as very multicultural. This was a neighbourhood many immigrants came to—Irish, Greek, Russian, Italian, German, Polish, Finnish, Ukrainian, British, Chinese.
Many Riverdale houses are Victorian and Edwardian, having started life as boarding houses for the proletariat in the 19th century. Sadly, since gentrification has struck, many long-time residents have been priced out and replaced by hipsters and the bourgeoisie.
Lower Riverdale contains the neighbourhood’s six original houses on the west end of Simpson Ave. They’re known as The Six Sisters.
29 July 1931, looking north on Carlaw Ave. at Gerrard St.
18 October 1912, Danforth Ave. at Don Mills Rd. (now Broadview Ave.), looking west
7 July 1913, northwest corner of Danforth Ave. and Don Mills Rd. (now Broadview Ave.)
Riverdale contains many sub-neighbourhoods:
Lower Riverdale (the oldest section, with many original houses)
Upper Riverdale (most likely to have modern, renovated houses)
East Chinatown (Toronto’s next-largest Chinatown)
Badgerow (contains a Sikh temple, the legendary Maple Leaf tavern, a Jewish cemetery, Gerrard Square’s shopping mall, and a Turkish cultural centre)
Studio District (southern area of South Riverdale, with many vintage Victorian houses; a major film, TV, and arts district)
Riverside (a.k.a. Queen Broadview Village) (in South Riverdale, with many historic buildings and cultural landmarks; now undergoing gentrification and becoming known as a district of restaurants, food and furniture retailers, and independent designers)
Blake-Jones (houses built from the 1870s–1930s, rather affordable but seeing an uptick in crime and unemployment)
The Pocket (located within Blake-Jones; said to feel like a village, and undergoing more gentrification)
29 February 1932, Danforth Ave. at Logan Ave., looking east
1 January 1930, southwest corner of Danforth Ave. and Logan Ave., Tony Greco and mother’s fruit stand
Riverdale contains many schools, including Riverdale Collegiate Institute, a high school founded in 1907 as Riverdale Technical School. Another historic school is Holy Name Catholic School, founded in 1913 by the Sisters of St. Joseph.
Parks include Withrow Park (with an ice rink, soccer field, and two baseball diamonds); Riverdale Park (with a running track, ice rink, swimming pool, three baseball diamonds, and tennis courts); Jimmy Simpson Park (with a community centre and tennis courts); the Royal Canadian Curling Club; Hubbard Park; and Kempton Howard Park (formerly East View Park).
Riverdale Park, looking south, Copyright Inkey
Broadview Hotel in 1945
Other landmarks include The Opera House (opened 1909); Bridgepoint Health (founded 1875 and going through many names); the Ralph Thornton Community Centre (opened 1913); Don Jail (opened 1864); the Cranfield House (built 1902); and St. John’s Presbyterian Church.
Don Jail, Copyright Nadiatalent
My characters Lena Yeltsina and Antonina Petrova settle in Riverdale with their newfound surrogate mother Sonya Gorbachëva when they escape Russia in 1920. Lena is soon reunited with her young son Yuriy, who’s been languishing in a Manhattan orphanage, and takes him back to Toronto under the ruse of Sonya being the mother.
In 1921, Lena’s little sister Natalya comes to America, and joins her in Canada as soon as possible. When their mother and two much-older sisters arrive in New York in January 1924, Lena explains their life is in Canada now, and that after so many years of separation, Natalya doesn’t know them.
Lena and Natalya stay in close touch with their mother and older sisters, and create a very happy life in Toronto. In 1927, they’re joined by Sonya’s niece, Naina Yezhova, and her best friend Katya Chernomyrdina, the daughter of Sonya’s own best friend.