Home of the Week: Lawrence Park house marries something old with something new

Toronto — The Globe and Mail

The house at 79 Dawlish Ave. The home was almost entirely rebuilt, retaining the front facade and roofline of the original home, along with the original shutters, wrought iron details, house number and the front door. (Deborah Baic/Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail)

The Listing

79 Dawlish Ave., Toronto

Asking price: $3.960-million

Taxes: Not yet assessed.

Agent: Robert Banks (Bosley Real Estate Ltd.)

The Back Story:

“In this original design of his own house Mr. Forsey Page has broken away from monotonous tradition.” So reads the first sentence in a 1929 Canadian Homes and Gardens article on this Lawrence Park home built for and by one of the partners of Toronto architecture firm, Forsey Page & Steele. The piece goes on to comment on the “ingenuity” behind the grey brick home whose front elevation follows an English cottage design: “At the back, however, it becomes a three-storey building, as the ground slopes suddenly toward the Lawrence Park ravine, and the basement dining room opens out upon a terrace.” While the façade looks much as it did when first constructed in 1928, much about the house has changed. The ravine is today a fraction of what it once; instead of forest the house is now surrounded by neighbours on all sides. The dining room, moreover, has left the basement along with the kitchen to relocate to the ground floor. A recent renovation of the house has updated 79 Dawlish as a contemporary family home. Many original details were preserved, however. The home has architectural and historical significance and is a featured property on the popular Lawrence Park walking tour as well as books on the area. The present owners are developers and they were not entirely aware of the home's value when they first purchased it two years ago. The plan had been to raze it in order to build a new home from scratch; approval to do so was granted at Toronto's Committee of Adjustment. But the Lawrence Park Ratepayers Association objected and launched a community-oriented campaign to halt the demolition of a much-loved neighbourhood property. Enter Plan B: after hiring an architect and creating a new design that would seamlessly incorporate some of the old house, the present home was reconstructed using the original front façade and roof line.

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What's New:

Almost everything about the 4,100 square foot house is new, as a result of the original structure being in poor condition after years of neglect. The garage, for instance, was sinking, and had to be pulled apart and recreated from the ground up. On the interior, new custom millwork crafted from Birdseye maple with burled walnut used for the trim was added to principal rooms, among them the front-of-house library, the kitchen and the rear-of-house family room where there is a custom-built fireplace mantel, coffered ceiling, stained glass window and walk-out to a deck and backyard. Rooms were also added and taken away. In the basement - where the furnace room, dining room and kitchen were once located - there is now a large 17- by 14-square foot media room. There's also a new cedar sauna and a three-piece bathroom, one of six bathrooms in the four-bedroom house.

Best Feature:

New is nice, but old is gold: The best feature of this house has to be what is left over from the past, namely the wrought iron design of a sailing ship which hovers over the front door attached to the front of a Juliet balcony on the façade. It is an element of whimsy in a home that is otherwise stately, solid and serious about its origins as a house that, in its day, broke the mould.