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Consisting of a the area east of the Don Valley and bordered by the Danforth, Greenwood Avenue and Lake Ontario, Riverdale was annexed into Toronto in 1884. In the early 1800s the area had been farmland, and parts of it had been owned first by the Scadding family and then the Playters. When it became part of Toronto, however, the southern part of Riverdale had already changed dramatically with the coming of the industrial revolution. Like on the other side of the Don River in Cabbagetown, people settled in Riverdale to work in the factories that had clustered around the mouth of the Don River.

Throughout its history the fortunes of Riverdale had been linked to the other side of the Don River. Since the 19th century several bridges were built to connect the two sides of the Valley, but of the bridges that still exist today the first was the Queen Street Bridge, which was finished in 1911. Soon followed by the Prince Edward Viaduct, these bridges were crucial to the continued growth of the East End.

Like elsewhere in North American, after World War Two many of the factories that employed local residents began to close. For many parts of the community these changes were devastating and created further problems for a population that was already suffering from poor and crowded housing conditions and health problems caused by local factory-created pollution. Still, many residents loved their neighbourhood and relied on the friends and family members who lived nearby. Therefore, when the city began to suggest urban renewal as a solution to these problems local residents often resisted. This was most famously the case when the people who lived in the Don Mount area refused to leave their homes to make room for a housing project.

During the 1970s local organizers succeeded in building strong grassroots organizations to advocate for the needs of local residents. The Riverdale Community Organization was built during the late 1960s and early 1970s and eventually could claim to have an active membership of around 1,000 people. Unlike elsewhere in Toronto these organizations were often very multicultural and organized to combat racism and celebrate cultural diversity. Later on in the 1970s a group named the Riverdale Action Committee Against Racism formed to organize against the Ku Klux Klan, which had set up an office in the neighbourhood.

Today Riverdale is a rapidly changing place. While it still remains a multicultural neighbourhood, many of the working-class homes have been bought, renovated and occupied by people from the middle-class.

Julian Sher, White Hoods: the Ku Klux Klan in Canada (Vancouver: New Star Books, 1983)

Alan Walks and August, Martine "The Factors Inhibiting Gentrification in Areas with Little Non-market Housing: Policy Lessons from the Toronto Experience," Urban Studies. Vol. 45 no. 12 (2008): 2594-2625

Elizabeth Gillan Muir, Riverdale: East of the Don (Toronto: Dundurn, 2014)