This style of home became a standard common for the large homes of the Annex. The architect designer had designed a home that blended the bulk and solidity of Romanesque style with the nimbleness of Queen Anne. This stylish home with its aura of stability along with a fashion sense for the period was perfect for late Victorian suburban homes. Throughout the Annex one can see many variations of this style including rock faced stone, rich red brick, decorative terra-cotta tile and intricate wood work. This house was built between 1888-1891.
This is one of the more exciting and appealing homes in the Annex. While built on a smaller lot the interesting angles and overhanging second storey make the house appear larger than it is. To complement this feel the use of wooden shingles flowing from the roof provide a comforting feel. The house was first owned by James Watson president of E.S. Currie Ltd. neckwear manufacturers. The house was built in 1901-1902.
When this part of the east Annex was being developed in the 1870's, Second Empire was the height of fashion in Toronto. This style of home was described in magazines of the day as befitting "aspiring gentlemen". It was a sophisticated urban style home that used yellow brick as the preferred construction material perhaps to approximate the colour of expensive stone. The home was built 1877-1878.
A delightful Annex home combining the Romanesque with Queen Anne styles. Perhaps this fine homes most endearing quality are the porches gracing the first and second storeys. This home was constructed some time in the late 1890's.
This large gracious Georgian style home was the home of a wealthy hardware merchant named Noah Piper. This very late Georgian design was heightened with colourful Victorian brick detailing. The house was built in 1875.
A wonderful Gothic Revival home built around 1880. The centre gable with barge boarded fascia, windows framed by shutters and raised brick continue to reinforce this homes Victorian heritage.
The Church of St. Alban the Martyr was designed and modeled after the great St. Alban's in England. It was begun with high hopes in the 1880's as the cathedral church of the Diocese of Toronto. But funds ran out after only this small section had been built. Today we are left with one quarter of the planned cathedral. However, it is still a sight to behold--this large Norman style chancel looming over the surrounding Victorian homes of the Annex.
This large and grandiose double Annex home is a prime example of Toronto's popular Bay-n-Gable form representing a marriage of Gothic revival with some Italianate forms and styles. This stylish pair displays the projecting polygonal end bays and lively barge board that soon began to sprout up on semi detached homes of the period across the city.
A significant part of the professional Realtor's job lies in understanding the uniqueness of the neighborhoods he or she serves. For our Web browsers we have produced pictorial historical tours of some of Toronto's most exceptional downtown neighbourhoodsin hopes of giving you a glimpse of the exciting and unique citywe live-in. We look to you our viewers to direct us in shapingfuture tours. We value your comments and will take them into considerationin designing new tours. We will start with this authors favouritepart of Toronto and the neighbourhood he calls home--Toronto’s Annex community. Before we can do this a brief introduction into the history of Toronto and the Annex is necessary.
(adapted from "Toronto Architecture" by Patricia McHugh, author)
Toronto was first settled by the French in 1688 at a trading post that was named Teiaigon. Teiaigon was the meeting place for three trade routes-the Indians from the north, the French from the east and British from the west. The first actual building was the construction by the French of a block house, at or near the mouth of the Humber river in 1720. In 1750 the French built a larger more fortified structure, Fort Rouge. The fort's location was three miles east of the Humber river and was marked in 1887, by a monument that stands on the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition and was called ' El fort royal de Toronto'. The next 40 years swathe French leave and the British move in. By 1793 the British had begun their development of the site. The young military town was chosen for its good harbour and remoteness from the American border. A geometric gridiron of ten square blocks was laid facing the bay at the eastern end of Toronto's harbour. The first structures that lined the unpaved streets of muddy York as it was now renamed, were unassuming detached wooden dwellings. In 1834, York (Toronto)was incorporated as a city and had a population of 9000. Now we turn our sites from this brief introduction of Toronto's history to an examination of it's fine neighbourhoods beginning with the Annex.
Uniquely situated in the centre of Toronto, close to the University of Toronto, Queen' s Park (Ontario's provincial governments seat)and some of the city's best shops the Annex is a family oriented residential neighbourhood with a deep sense of community coupled with a very unique architectural character.
Toronto's Annex community has a proud heritage which dates it origins to 1796, when the area was little more than sparse scrubland near Bloor Street. It was the custom of the time for the Governor to give lands to prominent local families. Four of these families were given 100 acres each of the lands that were later to become the Annex - lots 22, 23, 24 and 25 which today comprise the present Annex as well as Yorkville and Seaton Village.
Through a combination of death, inheritance and marriage Dr. William Baldwin received title to most of the Annex lands. Baldwin saw in the lands much potential profit through speculation. He built Spadina house on Spadina Hill (near Casa Loma) and a road, Spadina(from the Indian meaning "sudden rise of land"), which became his private road. Upon his death and through subsequent generations, his inheritors saw fit to divide the land and sell it for profit.
From 1890 to 1920 the old Baldwin estates were carved up and sold to wealthy merchants, lawyers and doctors who built large homes, forerunners of Rosedale mansions. This was an age when Avenue Road from Bloor north to Dupont was lined with big homes. Sunday was church day and most Annex residents worshipped at the Bloor Street United (c.1886), Walmer Road Baptist (c.1892) and St. Alban’s Anglican (c.1886). In 1890, Huron Street school opened with a first year enrolment of 618 pupils.
One of the area's first subdivisions in 1880 was on Walmer Road near Bloor Street which was divided into 13 large multi-acre estates. The following year S.J. Janes bought all the land from St. George to Spadina north of Bloor for $1000 an acre. His gamble was that the new horse drawn street car line of Yonge and the one planned for Bloor would make the area more accessible to the town of old York. His plan met with some success and opened up a variety of new opportunities which led to substantial community changes.
Most major changes to the Annex occurred after 1920. The large homes made way for many Annex developments still with us. The huge Lowther Ave. mansion of the Parker family came down to make way for an apartment building. The Medical Arts building at St. George and Bloor rose on the site of the old Blackstock home.
Commercial in this period began with light industry near the tracks along Davenport. With this commerce came the blue collar worker and the average citizen which led to housing development of the north and west sectors of the Annex and Seaton Village.
The 1930 depression forced many Annex owners to sell to absentee owners who used the large homes as rooming houses to defray high upkeep costs. These absentee owners plans were largely speculative. They would hold these large homes and plots of land until resale to developers, who would build large multi-unit dwellings. The Annex was the hardest hit of all downtown communities by this form of development, as the size of the homes and their proximity to the business core made the area ideal for the transit worker. Thus home ownership declined and area once considered Toronto’s most prestigious began a downward spiral.
The downward spiral stabilized in the 1960's and the Annex began its renaissance in the 1970's. The combination of affordability, proximity to downtown, government, the university, and elegant large affordable homes began what continues to day - a pilgrimage of largely suburban dwellers to the downtown. Many educated, upper-income earners with young families began to stimulate a gentrification of the neighbourhood.
This process has accelerated through the years and continues to this day. Today's Annex represents an eclectic, heterogeneous mix of peoples. The Baldwin's and their contemporaries would marvel at our Annex - a unique example of urban renaissance.
We refer constantly throughout this tour to various architectural styles. These styles refer to not only physical and stylistic qualities of a structure but also to the period of time it was constructed. Stylistic labels vary from city to city and country to country. A Gothic revival home in Chicago is not identical to one in Toronto. The definitions supplied are specific to Toronto structures.
Some of Toronto's oldest homes were originally located on Davenport Hill in the Bathurst and Davenport area. Once an Indian trail some of York's (Toronto's name of old) wealthiest citizens first settled here in the late 1700's and early 1800's. It was believed that Davenport Hill, or the "mountain" as it was sometimes called provided many health related benefits. The Davenport area was blessed with clean air, stunning mature mixed forests and a special ravine with a stream--Castle Frank stream and a special panoramic view of the growing Town then city.
Perhaps the most celebrated homeowner of Davenport fame was Sir Henry Pellat of Casa Loma. On April 7, 1903 twenty-five town & villa lots on top of Davenport hill were sold to Mrs. Pellat. This acquisition included most of the lands required to build his castle, stable, greenhouse, garden and deer park. Early in 1914, work on the interior of Casa Loma had reached the point where Sir Henry and Lady Pellat were able to occupy it. The outbreak of the war that summer prevented completion as many fixtures were imported from Europe. The house was never finished. The soaring costs of maintenance and war time taxation imposed an insupportable burden on Sir Henry to which the depression added its toll. In the spring of 1923, his city taxes in arrears Sir Pellat began selling off his garden and deer park, and the following year, after the death of Lady Pellat he abandoned the castle entirely.
The Gothic Revival style first appeared in England in the late1700's. The styles appeal then blossomed with the Victorian’s who saw it as a way to recapture both medieval romance and a sense of national relevance. Still much in tune with British styles of the day Toronto was quick to embrace this elegant style. Three forms were revived: Early English-squat high steeped with masonry cladding and pointed single light windows; middle pointed, featuring windows of a curvilinear design; and attenuated Perpendicular, marked by slender spires, elongated pinnacles and crenellations. Late high Victorian Gothic homes usually featured two colours of brick, usually red with yellow for decoration, heavier ornaments especially barge board.
Italianate style was initiated first in England as a revival of early Renaissance forms. Italianate houses may be symmetric or asymmetric. They sometimes feature a tall off centre tower and often a long veranda. Cladding is usually yellow brick. Roofs are flat and low pitched with extended eaves. Windows are round headed with projecting window heads or flush arches.
A local blending of styles very visible in many of Toronto's semidetached homes of this period. This style represents a combination of Italianate and Gothic Revival. Characterized by polygonal end bays atop of which spring pointy gables edged in decorative bargeboard.
This unique style combined the rock faced solid appearance of Romanesque with the asymmetry and detail of Queen Anne.
This style represented a mix of Italian Classicism (symmetry) and Dutch picturesqueness (red brick, curly gables). Utilizing an abundance of towers, turrets, gables, dormers and bay windows representing an asymmetric form. Cladding is complicated, combing stone, red brick, terra-cotta tile and wood. Roofs are high or gabled. Windows are generally single pane sash, transoms and round arched toplights.
This descriptive label refers to the re-introduction of classical Roman architecture. Victorians revived the form calling it the ‘round arched style’. Structures may be symmetrical or asymmetrical. Cladding is smooth looking brick or stone. Windows and openings are all arched.