Riverdale can mean many different things to different people, even to those who live in the area.
At its most grandiose, “Riverdale” can refer to the entire part of old Toronto east of the Don River—between somewhere north of Danforth Avenue and the lakeshore in the south. This configuration of Riverdale can stretch as far east as Coxwell Avenue, taking in Leslieville and other east-end communities.
At its most modest, “Riverdale” refers to the smaller community immediately next to the Don.
For Streeter, our designation of the area is a compromise. Our Riverdale is the part of Toronto east of the river, straddling Danforth Avenue in the north but with the curving rail line forming a border on the southeastern flanks. This leaves out Leslieville and its neighbourhoods, which are covered by Streeter as their own area.
That’s the variably shaded green neighbourhoods in the map above.
A community of neighbourhoods
Playter Estates rests next to the Don Valley on the northern side of Danforth Avenue.
It is named for Loyalist settler Capt. George Henry Playter whose family built the farmhouse that became the Playter Mansion, since immortalized in countless television shows, commercials and films. The historic house went through a long and controversial renovation in the 2000s and 2010s but still stands as the neighbourhood’s centre piece.
In 2015 Toronto Life magazine named Playter Estates one of the city’s best neighbourhoods to live in.
Its proximity and ties to the Danforth community, which has a Greek cultural focus, characterize the area. The annual Taste of Danforth festival has brought a lot of attention to Playter Estates in recent years
Riverdale, sometimes called North Riverdale, is the smaller community of that name referred to above — on the east bank of the Don River, roughly between Danforth and Gerrard Street East.
Many of the homes in the area were built between the 1880s and the 1930s and the elaborate Victorian and Edwardian residences stand as monuments of the good times.
Artists, actors and musicians live among the professionals and other middle-class folk who call this area home, alongside some wealthier people seeking classic, original architecture.
Like Playter Estates, Riverdale’s association with the Danforth draws a lot of visitors to the area, especially during the Taste of the Danforth celebration.
Riverside comprises the neighbourhoods just south of Riverdale, wedged between the valley and the rail line separating it from Leslieville (though some claim it extends beyond the tracks). You can also hear Riverside referred to as South Riverdale.
Whatever you call it, this is a diverse area, generally less affluent than Riverdale proper to the north and including the colourful district of East Chinatown.
While Riverside is still working-class at its core, there is a significant creative class here as well, including filmmakers, musicians and artists.
Blake-Jones, south of Danforth between Pape and Greenwood Avenues, is known as one of the east end’s more affordable residential areas. Young families and established professionals live side by side in this culturally and economically diverse area.
Part of Blake-Jones, the neighbourhood between Jones and the TTC yards, is better known as The Pocket, so-called because three of its four sides of it are bound up, so you can get into it only from Jones on the west side. The Pocket is consequentially a close-knit community, proud of its activism and diversity.
Greenwood-Coxwell is, of course, the community between Greenwood and Cowell avenues. But it is an anomaly, as it only partly resides in the Riverdale area.
The southern two-thirds of Greenwood-Coxwell lies across the tracks in the Leslieville area and is better known for its diversity, featuring the Little India district among other interesting neighbourhoods.