The Way We Were: a century-spanning tour of Toronto’s most striking homes

The Way We Were: a century-spanning tour of Toronto’s most striking homes

Ardwold (Image: CP Images) 


Sir John Craig and Lady Flora Eaton lived in a 50-room estate on Spadina Road near Davenport, designed in 1911 by architect A. Frank Wickson. The Great Hall held this magnificent pipe organ, which Sir John loved to play. When Sir John died of pneumonia in 1922, Lady Eaton moved to her King City château and sold Ardwold in 1936. It was demolished a few years later, and Ardwold Gate, an upscale subdivision, was built on the site


Location: 78 Queen’s Park
Owner: Sir Joseph Flavelle, meat-packing magnate and philanthropist
Date: 1902
Architect: Darling and Pearson

At the turn of the 20th century, Torontonians offended by this magnificent Edwardian Geor-gian’s audacious size and excessive frills dubbed the place “Porker’s Palace.” Flavelle, who came from modest circumstances, made his fortune as co-owner of the largest pork-packing business in the British Empire and flaunted his success with the monumental Corinthian portico that fronted his home. The Baronial Hall (below) showcases both a love of classicism (a copy of Raphael’s School of Athens is prominently displayed) and a taste for the new (Gustav Hahn’s art nouveau frescoes would have been in fashion at the time). The Drawing Room (left) was dressed to impress, with an ornate moulded ceiling and intricately patterned walls. The house is now U of T’s faculty of law building.

(Images: City of Toronto Archives) 


Location: 1 Clarendon Ave. (at Avenue Rd.)
Owner: Henry Falk, a New York developer
Date: 1929
Architect: Baldwin and Greene

Between the wars, the Venetian palazzo–inspired Claridge Apartments defined upscale city living in Toronto. Though this building went up three decades after the Victorian era, it fuses such typical Victorian styles as Romanesque and Tudor Revival. The lobby (above) combines art deco chandeliers, Moorish casement windows, and Spanish-American and aboriginal motifs on the beamed, patterned ceiling, which were designed by Group of Seven artist J. E. H. MacDonald. The suite at left has English manor aspirations, with dark wood-panelled walls and a Tudor-style fireplace. The Claridge is in use today as an apartment building, and the MacDonald artwork is still visible.

(Images: John V. Gray Construction Co. Fonds/City of Toronto Archives) 


Location: Valecrest Dr., Etobicoke
Owner: Art Tateishi, founder and CEO of Seabreeze Electric Corporation
Date: 1951
Architect: Fleury and Arthur

This West Coast–inspired bungalow was built for Art Tateishi, a B.C. native of Japanese descent who moved to Toronto at 16 after being imprisoned in a World War II internment camp. Here, he made his money in electronics manufacturing. The Mies van der Rohe–like openness and central hearth—a Frank Lloyd Wright standby—are hallmarks of modernism, and a gently folding ceiling, punctuated by skylights and heavy timbers, evokes a Vancouver Island forest. The cork floors and copper fireplace hood would have been considered avant-garde, luxury materials. Tateishi, now 92, still lives in Toronto, but the house, which sat on a double lot, was torn down to make way for a McMansion.

(Images: Panda Photography Collection/Canadian Architectural Archives, University of Calgary) 


Location: Valleyanna Dr. (at Bayview Ave.)
Owner: James Crothers, a developer
Date: 1958
Architect: Gordon Adamson

Not only did this house have a Brady Bunch–worthy living room (below) and built-in movie theatre, but the indoor pool in the basement (right), complete with decorative mounted swordfish, would have been the envy of every kid in the city. The living room was as mid-century modern as it gets; the two black fabric–upholstered chairs (below) are by Danish furniture designer Finn Juhl.

(Images: Panda Photography Collection/Canadian Architectural Archives, University of Calgary) 


Location: Cabbagetown
Owner: Toller Cranston, the Olympic figure skater
Date: High Victorian, renovated in the 1970s and ’80s

Toller Cranston’s converted Victorian breaks all the rules and blends every style. Poppy-red and amethyst walls are the backdrop for a globally sourced collection of vintage and kitsch, including antique dolls, porcelain plates, plaster angels, gilded brocade salon chairs, and a Viennese art nouveau vase in the second-storey bedroom study (left). The dining area (above) includes red painted bamboo furniture, a Victorian chair inlaid with mother-of-pearl and a Roberto Carbone nude. In 1991, Cranston had the house painted white, auctioned off everything in it, and left Toronto for Mexico, where he became a full-time artist. Waddington’s Auctioneers and Appraisers hyped Cranston’s belongings as “highly important, eclectic and slightly mad,” and raised $400,000 in the sale.

(Images: Clive Webster Fonds/City of Toronto Archives)