Living in Hillside
Hillside is unique in that it is the only Toronto neighbourhood that is entirely incorporated as part of a public park. The Rouge Park is one of the largest urban parks in North America. This conservation park features woodlands and valleys, meadows and farmland. Hillside is a vital component of Rouge Park as it is the last place in Toronto where wide scale farming takes place.
When you drive through Hillside you will pass through furrowed fields anchored by time weathered barns, open meadows filled with frolicking birds and thickly treed woodlots brimming with rugged Manitoba Maple’s and majestic pine trees. Here you begin to sense how the pioneers must have felt when much of Toronto was in this state. As you keep on driving through this rolling countryside you will bypass creeks, streams and rivers, jockey over railway tracks and single lane bridges and if your lucky catch a fleeting glimpse of a red fox or a white tailed deer. Hillside truly is country in the city.
History of Hillside
The Hillside neighbourhood is named after “Hillside”, a Gothic style mansion built in 1872 by William A. Milne on the hillside of the Rouge River Valley. Hillside is still standing today at the corner of Old Finch Avenue and Sewells Road. The Hillside community has a long and proud farming tradition. The spiritual centre of this rural hamlet was the Hillside Church built in 1877 at Finch Avenue and Reesor Road. This historic church is still standing at 361 Old Finch Avenue. The Hillside Schoolhouse, built in 1872, is located on Meadowvale Road where it now serves as an outdoor education centre for the City of Toronto. Many of the old Hillside farms were expropriated in 1972 by the provincial government for the building of the proposed Pickering Airport which was never developed. In 1995 both the government and privately owned Hillside properties were incorporated into the “Rouge Park” conservation area.
Homes in Hillside
There are approximately eight-six homes in the Hillside neighbourhood of which about twenty are privately owned and the rest are owned by the provincial government. The Hillside properties owned by the government are managed by the Ontario Realty Corporation which rents them out to qualified applicants. Many of these applicants are farmers who must undergo a selection process that also involves the Ministry of Agriculture and Food. Non working farm applicants are put on a waiting list which currently includes about three hundred applicants who want to enjoy the feeling of living in the country while at the same time being only a half-hour drive from downtown Toronto.
The typical Hillside property is 1/2 acre to five acres in size however the larger working farms are generally fifty to two hundred acres in size. Most of the farm houses in Hillside are sixty to ninety years old. The rents here are lower than marketplace rents which is due to the fact that these are older homes and utility costs are generally higher, and even more significantly there are no city services available to this community. This means no water, sewers, sidewalks or street lights and plenty of bumpy roads. The Ontario Realty Corporation does however provide a general maintenance of it’s properties. There are a limited amount of private properties in Hillside that can be sold to the public however if you are looking for raw land to build a subdivision on you have come to the wrong place. The Rouge Park does not allow for any further residential development on these lands.
Lifestyle in Hillside
Hillside residents get to their shopping destinations by car. The most popular places to shop are the Pickering Town Centre and the Markville Mall at Highway 7 and McCowan Road.
Recreation in Hillside
The Hillside neighbourhood is part of the Rouge Park mosaic that includes a unique combination of woodlands, valleys, meadows, rivers and farmland that all combine to form Canada’s largest urban park. Rouge Park trails can be accessed at the Pearse House Interpretive Centre, located on Meadowvale Road, just opposite the Toronto Zoo. The Toronto Zoo which forms the southern boundary of this neighbourhood is situated on 710 acres of land and features over 5,000 animals. This Zoo features different theme parks including South America, Eurasia Pavilion, North American pavilion, African Pavilion, Indo-Malayan Pavilion and Canadian Animal Domain.
Transportation in Hillside
The Hillside neighbourhood is not serviced by public transit. Motorists can take Old Finch Avenue or Steeles Avenue east to Markham Road which links up with Toronto’s commuter highways. Downtown Toronto is approximately a half hour drive from this neighbourhood.