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home of the week

119 Glen Rd., Toronto


WHAT: A six-bedroom, five-bathroom house, built in 1911 in Toronto's Rosedale neighbourhood. Living space is approximately 5,600 square feet in two-and-a-half storeys on a 91.33- by 276.60-foot lot.

ASKING PRICE: $4,695,000

TAXES: $30,534.80 (2008)

AGENT: Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd. (Nicole Zarry)

W. Claude Fox, Toronto land developer, mining promoter, society man and the original owner of this heritage Rosedale landmark, vacationed in France at the turn of the last century. It seems he loved it, because when he returned to his hometown he reportedly ordered his architect to replicate the château he had been staying in, turrets and all.

The resulting edifice, attributed to famed Toronto architect Eden Smith, is called La Tourelle, derived from the old French word for watchtower. Much of the home, says owner and agent Nicole Zarry, was handcrafted by the team who also built Casa Loma. The tower, overlooking the wealthy Toronto enclave where it crests, today serves as a flat-roof play area for Ms. Zarry's four young children.

Other original details include leaded windows, mosaic floors, cove ceilings and flawless mahogany panelling with hidden storage. City records show the home was built for the tidy sum of $1,600.

Ms. Zarry says that when she and husband Eric Adelman, president of the renovation company South Park Design Build, first purchased it three years ago, the home had fallen into ruin after decades of neglect.

"The ceilings were falling down in the master bedroom and living room," says Ms. Zarry, also the home's selling agent. "In the kitchen, the cupboards had fallen off, and there was live mould on the floor. Plastic covered the back of the house where windows once were. It was," she pauses, driving the point home, "really bad."

Undeterred, the couple, who specialize in restoring and selling big-ticket properties, undertook an extensive renovation that included updating all the plumbing and electrical - none of it touched since the house was built more than a century ago - removing walls in the living room to create a more open concept design, and building a new roof.

At the rear of the house, they also added a bank of floor-to-ceiling windows, including French doors, to capitalize on the lush garden views.

The backyard coach house now serves as Mr. Adelman's office.

Surrounding the property are original Victorian wrought iron lamp posts. There's also a gurgling fountain, said to have come from the former Ontario lieutenant-governor's residence that once overlooked nearby Chorley Park.

The grounds are also rumoured to house a secret underground tunnel, as well as the remains of Ambrose Small, a Canadian theatre magnate who disappeared on Dec. 2, 1919, and whose body was never recovered.

"But we've dug and we can't find anything," says Ms. Zarry.

A former violinist with the Canadian Opera Company who turned to real estate in 1993 as a way of supplementing her meagre performer's salary, Ms. Zarry believes renovating houses can be a creative outlet, where the imagination can take root and blossom.

"It's a different kind of creativity from music, of course, but it's an outlet all the same. I still get to express myself."

Her signature touches in this house include a contemporary cream and white kitchen that replaces the original and a former butler's pantry - a leftover from the days when this home was truly someone's castle.

Says Ms. Zarry: "This is our most historical property to date, and I like to think of it as our calling card, [an example]of what we can do in taking an old home and making it new."