Riverside is a great example of a neighbourhood that has drawn on its history as the impetus for a new era of prosperity and growth. This everything old is new againapproach has been spearheaded by the Riverside Business Improvement Area. A renewed pride of ownership in the community is evident in the area’s award-winning beautification and revitalization projects that include new pedestrian lighting and façade restorations.Riverside has undergone a gentrification of sorts but it has still been able to maintain a gritty urban charm. Riverside includes some of Toronto's more remarkable century old buildings that have provided the perfect backdrop for the plethora of shops and restaurants that have recently sprung up in the area.
Some would describe the area as Bohemian due to the eclectic and artsy businesses along Queen Street and mingling of people from all walks of life.
When you are in Riverside it is hard to imagine you are just 2.5 kilometers from downtown Toronto. The railway corridor and the Don Valley that border this neighbourhood have resulted in a tightly knit community within a well defined area. Some notable neighbourhood landmarks include: the New Broadview House Hotel, Ralph Thornton Community Centre, The Opera House, Jimmy Simpson Park and Recreation Centre, Toronto's east chinatown located at Broadview and Gerrard, the recently revitalized Don Mount Court/Rivertowne mixed income public housing development, and last but not least De Grassi Street. This street was made famous by the popular CBC Degrassi series of television shows for youth. While largely filmed elsewhere the vibe of the show originated with this area and many exterior shots were filmed in this neighbourhood.
The Village of Riverside first appears on an 1882 map of Toronto titled: Goads Insurance Plan of the City. A nearby Toronto Base Ball Ground with a Grandstand is shown as a neighbourhood landmark. By 1889 an updated Goads map states that Riverside is now known as St. Matthew's ward and proclaims that it will eventually form part of Toronto. This was a foregone conclusion as Riverside had already been annexed by the City of Toronto in 1884.
Prior to annexation Riverside was mostly working class with many people in the area employed by the nearby railway or one of the local market gardens. Some of the original labourers cottages have survived from this time. Annexation would usher in a new era of prosperity for Riverside. It was during this transitional time from village to city neighbourhood that many of the beautiful Victorian and Edwardian homes that line the streets of this neighbourhood were built.The one negative impact of annexation for Riverside was a loss of identitiy. No longer a village it was now referred to as a municipal ward. Eventually Riverside would simply be referred to as South Riverdale, a part of the greater Riverdale beighbourhood. in 1980, South Riverdale
businesses embraced a new identity as Queen-Broadview Village, one of Toronto's first business improvement areas.
In spite of the name change, the neighbourhood refused gentrification, while neighbourhoods all around it basked in a revitalization and became trendy and hip destinations. In 2005 the local B.I.A. decided to look to its past as a guidepost for the future and changed its name to Riverside. Riverside is a shining example of how a respect for an areas history and architecture can revive an entire neighbourhood and turn its fortunes around.