484 Queen St. W.
George St. Leger’s Shoe Co. Ltd., circa 1879
Resting on the west wall, up near the cornices, of 484 Queen St. W. is a much aged clue to the Italianate beauty’s former life. The hand painted letters spell one word that, though weathered by more than a century’s worth of the elements, can still be read: Shoes. The shoes advertised would be those of the George J. St. Leger Shoe Co. Ltd. Originally operating out of a storefront a few doors to the east, the company opened in 1874.
George Johnston St. Leger, a boot maker, had come to Toronto from Belfast in 1871 and quickly set about making a name for himself in the trade. His success was such that in 1879, after just a few years in business, he moved into the newly built and much grander structure at the corner of Denison and Queen W - home today to The Hideout. It was from this building that St. Leger made his fortune in shoes until he decided to give local politics a go. He served three years on the city council from 1887 – 1889 before being elected as the second mayor of the Toronto Junction; in his day, a town of its own.
Whether he had tired of politics or the lure of the retail trade was too strong, George St. Leger returned to his shop at 484 Queen W. in 1894. He would go on to open a couple of other locations in the area, one of which would make the news in the Toronto Sunday World paper on January 13th, 1913. It appears that the very first parcel to be sent from the U.S. following the inauguration of the new parcel post system was received at St. Leger’s shop at 542 Queen W. The package contained six pairs of ladies dancing shoes. The news of this momentous delivery spread quickly and the shop was inundated with requests for the stamps and wrappings of the package itself. But the public was sent away empty-handed as the management (George Jr.) had opted to keep it for themselves.