93 Salisbury Ave., Cambridge, Ont.
Asking price: $3.5-million
Taxes: $18,414.75 (2022)
Lot size: 140 by 207 feet
Agents: Ginger Whitney, Colleen Whitney, Whitney & Co. Realty Ltd.
One of the charms of owning a home with more than a century of history behind it is the act of discovery as you encounter layers added by generations of owners.
That was the feeling Dr. Gerald Achtymichuk had when he came across 93 Salisbury Ave., more than 35 years ago. For him, there was a lot to like about the large and rambling Tudor-Revival style home built before the First World War in historic Galt, Ont., (now part of Cambridge). He had started his medical practice in town and had decided he was going to put down roots, and 93 Salisbury was a short walk to his office.
“This one came up fortuitously and when I walked in the front door it had a real presence,” he said, and so he bought it. Not long after he was married, but his new wife Carol Ann’s impression of the house’s “presence” was a little different.
“I walked in and all I could see was yellow,” she said. That boldly grungy 1970s marigold yellow was on wall-to-wall shag carpet (soaked with years of cigarette smoke for a particular aroma), and a similar shade of yellow carried on up the walls and even to the ceilings. This was still the 1980s, but this harvest-yellow colour scheme was quite dated even then. Much of the original millwork and dark brown mahogany was still in the house, but it paired uncomfortably with that garish yellow.
Safe to say what’s inside now is a wholesale change as the couple has restored the interior to match the grandeur of the exterior, a project that has continued until practically today with their most recent renovation project finishing last year.
The house today
If the orange brick and white trim of this house looks familiar – particularly the grand port cochere off the main entrance – it’s possible you were one of the many who watched Netflix’s Queen’s Gambit in the early days of the lockdowns. The house stood in for an English country manor for a night scene in that chess drama, not least because the landscaping, semi-circular drive and proportions of the lot do not feel urban.
The house is oriented around a central stairwell, and so that was the first project the couple tackled. The yellow had to go, and was replaced with a hand-painted wallpaper from France hung by a master paperhanger. The pattern is mainly green vines one a light cream with muted colours in the flowers blooming on them.
“The scale of this wallpaper needs a big house with high ceilings,” said Mrs. Achtymichuk, who used the pattern as a palette as they did the rest of the house. “Every room in the house has colours from the wallpaper, that was our starting point, we find them very calming and very soothing.”
Underneath the shag carpeting was gorgeous original oak hardwood floors that were restored throughout the house, and the couple has used Persian rugs to define spaces. Where there is carpeting on the stairwells, it’s the same green as the vines.
On the right are three spaces for sitting: a den with a bay window and walkout to the covered side porch, and a formal living room with an ornate wooden chimney piece salvaged from a Montreal estate sale (replacing a 1970s vintage slab).
On the left of the main foyer is a panelled dining room with another bay window that can access the kitchen through a butler’s pantry. The kitchen can also be accessed from a short hallway next to the main stairs (passing by a servant’s stairwell to the second level) and a second short hallway from a sunroom behind the main stairs where the couple tends to breakfast.
The kitchen has modern stainless-steel appliances (double fridge, double ovens in the butler pantry, a six-burner range) and is centred by a large island with sink and bar seating. Unlike some of the mega kitchen-living-room-dining-room open space combos popular today this space retains its separated and modestly scaled but functional Edwardian footprint. Behind the kitchen and pantry is a stairwell to a second-floor attic bedroom (one of seven bedrooms in the house) with a full bath that in its original format was certainly servant’s quarters. This hallway also connects to the two-car garage and a small back porch with a barbecue and access to the pool deck.
The basement is quite tall and for a house of this era, and had original hardwood when they bought it (a neighbour and former resident said the children would use the huge length of the space as a firing range for their BB guns). Now it’s a combination games room and TV room with another fireplace and a sizable gym in a separate room off it.
On the second level is the primary bedroom, this is the most recently finished room as the couple prioritized updating children’s bedrooms over the years before getting to their own. The primary suite is off to the left from the grand stair’s second-level lobby-foyer and features the is wallpapered with an orange picked up from central hall paper, but with metallic gold embellishments. A jack-and-jill ensuite bath with stand-alone shower connects to another bedroom, but which could easily be converted to a full-closet dressing room more in keeping with modern “retreat” style primary suites.
Across the hall from the primary bedroom is a library/office where the good doctor stores some of his medical books in built-in cabinets that were originally locking gun cases. This gun-room might be a little larger than the primary bedroom, and the same jack-and-jill walkthrough bathroom connects it to a third bedroom on this level.
The third level features three more bedrooms, all with slightly different layouts to accommodate the turrets and gables of the house. The largest of the three has two separate sitting areas, and the other two are smaller but more colourful with their own floral wallpaper. There’s a generous spa-style bathroom on this floor with a soaker tub but no shower done in blue-and-white toile-style wallpaper, and the smallest of the bedrooms has ensuite access to it as well.
The lot is huge, and future owners hopefully either like gardening like Dr. Achtymichuk or don’t mind hiring a groundskeeper.
“I don’t like gardening,” said Mrs. Achtymichuk, who nevertheless has begrudgingly gotten used to it over the years. “One of the very first things he ever bought me, when I was eight months pregnant: ‘Here is a nice self-propelled lawn-mower.’” The couple share a good laugh at how the neighbours must have felt seeing as Dr. Achtymichuk said “My poor pregnant wife out cutting the grass.”
The combination of grounds and Tudor-style – loads white wood trim embellishments and brick – cuts an impressive profile in a neighbourhood that’s already filled with historic architectural sites. “A lot of people do stop by, we’ve had tour busses stop and take pictures,” Mrs. Achtymichuk said.
“We’ve been asked to have the house on a Christmas walking tour. … But they come right inside the house and walk around,” which is not the doctor’s cup of tea. “It’s the privacy of this place that really attracted to me.”
Who knows, perhaps the next owner will feel differently about swinging open the doors to Netflix looky-loos and tourists.