500 Comanche Rd., Mississauga
Asking price: $4.495-million
Taxes: $36,947.42 (2011)
Agent: Loretta Phinney (Royal LePage Real Estate Services Ltd.)
The back story
Harold Shipp was 19 years old and just out of high school when he became a real estate developer. He bought three lots for $250 each, had three houses built, and sold them for $7,700 each. His profit was $1,500.
"You've proved yourself," his father, Gordon S. Shipp, told his young son as he made him a 50-per-cent partner in the family building business he had founded in 1923.
Shipp Corp. became one of Canada's most prolific builders in the years after the Second World War. In 1951, it built Applewood Acres on the south side of the Queen Elizabeth Way, then built many more suburban houses in Mississauga and beyond.
Last month, Harold Shipp, who holds the title of chairman, celebrated his 66th year at the corporation.
He also took some time to reminisce about the Mississauga house he built for his late wife June and their three children.
Mr. Shipp recalls that it was 1966 when he purchased five lots along the Credit River.
He hired an award-winning architect and talked to him about what the family would like in the house. But when they saw the plans, the foyer in the proposed building didn't have anywhere for winter garments.
"It didn't have a cloak closet let alone a cloak room," he says.
His relationship with the architect fizzled out and he turned to an engineer at Shipp Corp. to draw up some plans.
He and the family moved into the house - with its sizable cloak room - in 1967. It also has six bedrooms and eight bathrooms.
All told, the house has 7,850 square feet on the main and second floors. Another 2,950 square feet on the lower level includes a large recreation room with sliding doors opening to the garden.
One black-glazed brick inscribed with the words "Shipp-built" is set down low in the wall just outside the front door.
"That was our trademark," Mr. Shipp says. "Not a week goes by that someone doesn't say, 'I was raised in a Shipp-built house,' " he says of his encounters with people today at his clubs and charity functions.
The house today
Visitors who walk in the front door of 500 Comanche Rd. immediately have a view to the river as they approach the sunken living room with its large expanse of glass.
Throughout, the house has kept its 1960s vibe, from the pink fixtures in the master bathroom to the perfectly preserved metallic wallpaper in the living room.
In the long hallway, a curving staircase leads up to the second floor and another leads down to the lower level.
The family room has a two-storey cathedral ceiling and opens to a sun room.
Mr. Shipp was also unusually generous with storage. He had a very large cedar closet built on the second floor. "My dad built cedar closets up on Forest Hill Road in 1933," he says.
The kitchen has a built-in barbecue grill and a restaurant grill in the island.
"Did you ever see such a big kitchen in your life?" wonders real estate agent Loretta Phinney of Royal LePage Real Estate Services Ltd.
In the butler's pantry is a servery with a restaurant-style heat lamp.
"My late wife was a great one to study House & Garden and all the magazines. The butler's servery was her idea."
The family used it to lay out dishes for Christmas, Thanksgiving and buffet dinner parties, he says.
The couple held frequent parties, Mr. Shipp says, and the evening usually began with cocktails in the sunroom or on the pool deck. Then the guests would be led back in to the foyer, where the Shipps would ceremoniously open the doors to the formal dining room and say "dinner is served."
For other more solemn guests, the bar was hidden behind stained glass. "Sliding doors closed off the bar because you don't want to offend your church people," Mr. Shipp says.
The large master bedroom suite has a bathroom with sunken tub, walk-in closets and a study. Sliding glass doors open to a deck.
Mr. Shipp points out the pool wing, which has boys' and girls' change rooms, a sauna and a laundry room. A separate entrance means visiting kids never have to traipse through the house on their way to the pool.
After all these years, he can't think of anything about the house he would have done differently, Mr. Shipp says. "I don't think we forgot very much. I'm a stickler for detail."
The best feature
When Mr. Shipp purchased five lots along the Credit River, he selected the best one for his own house and later sold the others. The lot he chose was the only one with access to the water, he explains.
Before the area was developed, the land belonged to a farmer who had planted his apple orchard along the river banks. He carved out a route down to the river so that he could drive his equipment down.
"The farmer could go down and pump water from the river and take it up to water his trees."
That gentle slope still provides access today.
The Shipp family used the river for canoeing in the summer and skating in the winter. Elite rowers and dragon boat crews can often be seen training on the river today. Swans, turtles and deer frequently wander by.
"I still have a canoe down there," Mr. Shipp says.