43 DUNN ST., OAKVILLE, ONT.
ASKING PRICE: $5.5-million
TAXES: $21,579 (2013)
LOT SIZE: 104 by 135 feet
AGENT: Alex Irish (Re/Max Aboutowne Realty Corp.)
The back story
The Victorian mansion at 43 Dunn St. was built for Cecil Marlatt in 1880. Mr. Marlatt was the owner of the Marlatt and Armstrong Tannery and a well-known supporter of the Royal Canadian Yacht Club.
The original property stretched to the edge of Lake Ontario to the south, with an orchard of fruit trees in front of the house. A greenhouse, playhouse, stables and two fish ponds also occupied the surrounding land. Afternoon tea was served in a summer house that overlooked a cricket pitch and a lawn tennis court, according to real estate agent Alex Irish of ReMax Aboutowne Realty Corp.
Over time, more houses were built on the streets of Olde Oakville. The house at 43 Dunn is about one block from the water and two blocks from the centre of downtown shopping in Oakville.
The current owners, Clive and Hilary Maile, lived on the waterfront in the late 1990s when they went for a walk through the undulating streets of Olde Oakville and saw a “for sale” sign in front of No. 43.
Mr. Maile astonished his wife by blurting out, “we have to buy it.”
The couple had not been planning to move but Mr. Maile, who grew up in a Victorian house in the seaside town of Brighton in England, thought that the opportunity to buy such a prominent local residence was too rare to pass up.
He also admired the elaborate corbels, herringbone and other patterns of the brick exterior.
The Mailes arranged to see it right away.
“We knew as soon as we walked in,” says Ms. Maile. “This is meant to be.”
The house today
The couple loved the interior of the three-story house but it was in need of renewal, say the Mailes, who spent two years overseeing a complete renovation. Fireplaces had been bricked up in years past and some of the decor was tired.
The renovation allowed the couple to replace the wiring and heating systems and to add modern plumbing and air conditioning.
“We gutted it completely,” says Mr. Maile. “To the bare brickwork.”
They also found historic photos of the home, which allowed them to replicate original elements such as the wide front porch, intricate brick work, wrought iron accents and gingerbread fretwork.
“The original porch was rounded so we took it back to that.”
Throughout the house, the Mailes restored the plaster mouldings, stained glass windows and Victorian hardware. They searched antique shops in Britain and France and throughout North America for fireplace mantles, period chandeliers and door handles. A marble-topped commode imported from France was turned into a vanity for the main-floor powder room.
Mr. Maile says they made few changes to the original layout, but they opened up some rooms and maximized the amount of daylight coming in.
“They get it so right in a Victorian home,” he says of the space and volume in the principal rooms. “In this house you feel the continuity as you walk through.”
Visitors entering the front door immediately see the floating staircase, with detailed floral scrolling and carved newel posts. Stand at the base and look up and you can see all the way to the top of the third floor.
Carved oak pillars mark the transition from living room to dining room. Beyond that, a conservatory leads to the garden.
Mr. Maile worked closely with the Oakville Historical Society, he says, to ensure that the addition would fall within the heritage conservation rules that preserve Olde Oakville.
“You’ve got to keep the character. That’s what’s so beautiful about living downtown.”
At the rear of the house, a large kitchen and its adjoining keeping room have views of Lake Ontario.
The Lacanche range was imported from France. The cabinets were made by an British-based firm who sent a craftsman over to do the installation.
“For weeks he was here,” says Mr. Maile.
The house has nearly 10,000 square feet, so there is plenty of room for the seven bedrooms, nine bathrooms and six fireplaces. It also includes a shoe polishing room, a dog washing station and a packing room with built-in cupboards custom-built for suitcases.
An elevator fitted with Victorian hardware glides between the four floors from basement to attic.
A one-bedroom suite in the coach house can provide living quarters for a nanny or inlaws.
Ms. Irish says she has never listed a property that has inspired so much curiosity. She can tell by the flood of traffic on her website as visitors click through the photographs.
“It’s the house that people ask me about in town,” says Ms. Irish. “It’s an Oakville landmark.”
The best feature
The addition of the conservatory provides an indoor space surrounded by the outdoors. It has tall windows, curved stained glass transoms, 10-foot-high doors and a roof lantern.
Mr. Maile says that opening the French doors to the walled courtyard and its elaborate fountain lets guests move easily between the interior and the outdoors.
“We’ve had some beautiful parties in here for up to 100 people.”