Deep in the heart of the Leaside neighbourhood in Toronto lies The
Leaside Business Park, a vibrant centre for business and manufacturing.
The area also has an almost forgotten military past.
World War I, Canada Wire and Cable opened a munitions production
factory, creating the subsidiary company, Leaside Munitions Company, to
oversee shell production. In May 1917, the Federal Government
constructed an airstrip, named Leaside Aerodrome, on about 220 acres of
land between Wicksteed Avenue and Eglinton Avenue. The Royal Flying
Corps Canada established a training school, one of three in the Toronto
area, for training of pilots, mechanics and maintenance crews, as well
as the School of Artillery Cooperation. The aerodrome featured nine
hangars, instructional and repair buildings, a mess hall and a hospital
building. Student pilots received instruction on the basics of flight,
aerial reconnaissance and aerial combat.
The Leaside Aerodrome
was also the destination point of the first "Air-mail" delivery in 1918,
having originated in Montreal. George Lighthall and Edmund Greenwood
of the Aerial League of the British Empire, arranged for the airmail
delivery. A plaque commemorating this event sits at the corner of
Broadway and Brentcliffe, what was once the north-west end of the
After the World War I, the airfield was taken over by
the Toronto Flying Club, making it the first flying club in Canada to
have their own aerodrome.
The aerodrome closed in 1931 and the Toronto Flying Club moved to a new flying field at Dufferin Street and Wilson Avenue.
World War II, the property was used by the Royal Canadian Air Force as
No. 1 Radio Direction Finding School from June 1942 - March 1944, and
the station was briefly known as RCAF Station Leaside.
years the area was redeveloped with new manufacturing, retail and
residential homes taking over the land. The last remaining aircraft
hangar was demolished in 1971 and today, not the slightest trace remains
of the Leaside Aerodrome. As a nod to the area's aviation past, one of
the streets in the area is named Aerodrome Crescent.
emerge years later that first "Air-mail" delivery flight in 1918 also
has the dubious distinction of being the first time liquor was smuggled
aboard an aircraft in Ontario. In reality, the true purpose of the
flight was a scheme by pilot Brian Peck to get a free round-trip flight
from Toronto to Montreal to visit his family. He managed to organize an
aerial demonstration at an
airshow in Montreal using his Curtis JN-4 (Jenny) aeroplane by
convincing the managers of the Leaside Aerodrome that it could
be a valuable publicity flight for the recruitment of pilots into the
Royal Flying Corps Canada.
It was on the return flight,
officially carrying a bag of mail, that the aeroplane was crammed with
so many cases of Old Mill scotch, that Peck was only able to keep it
about 40 feet in the air. Peck's mechanic, Corporal C.W. Mathers, was
forced to sit atop some of the cases, intended to be used in a wedding
celebration for a certain stores lieutenant at the Leaside Aerodrome.
Adding to the weight issues Peck faced, a strong wind caused the
aeroplane to burn more fuel than usual and he had to make an unscheduled
stop to refuel (first in Kingston, then Deseronto as Kingston had the
wrong kind of fuel). The "history-making" flight was so hastily
arranged that even Toronto Postmaster Willliam Lemon, was not made aware
of the flight until the plane had landed at Leaside. area's aviation past, one of the streets in the area is named Aerodrome