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home of the week

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746 Janetville Rd., Janetville, Ont.

Asking price: $2.7-million

Taxes: $7,123.74 (2022)

Lot size: 5.46 acres

Listing agents: David Marsh, Re/Max All-Stars Realty Inc. and Donny Mangos, Keller Williams Referred Urban Realty

The backstory

It was more than 40 years ago when Paulette Sopoci first laid eyes on her dream house.

“I was a poor farm kid down the street. Every day I drove by in the bus,” Ms. Sopoci said of the Victorian manor on the outskirts outside tiny Janetville (population about 300) just east of Lake Scugog in the municipality of Kawartha Lakes. Her family, immigrants from then Czechoslovakia, moved to the area in the late 1970s and the 45 minute bus ride to school had one particular bright spot. “I loved pretty homes and pretty things, I was a big fan of Barbie, and this beautiful regal home just spoke to me,” she said.

In 2020 she was chatting with a childhood friend who mentioned “The Doctor’s House” (the local nickname) was for sale. “It’s a dump,” Ms. Sopoci said she was told. “It looked like a haunted castle, never seen more cobwebs. … There were bats in the attic, there were honeybees in the soffit and fascia. … The walls and ceilings were crumbling, the old man that lived here didn’t put the heat on very much.”

But Ms. Sopoci saw past “the spooky” and had visions of a new life for herself. She was living in Toronto but the pandemic was still new and she was like many urban dwellers who believed the time was ripe to move to the country.

A $1.9-million purchase price (financed in part by the $3-million sale of her Riverdale home) and more than $750,000 in renovations later and “The Doctor’s House” has new life, a new name – “Primrose Hill” – and a renewed connection to the community thanks to Ms. Sopoci’s determination to share her castle through heritage tours, ice cream socials and other activities.

“I hope whoever purchases her is going to be as passionate about her history or taking care of her as much as I was. She needs to be loved very deeply,” Ms. Sopoci said.

The house today

  • Home of the Week, 746 Janetville Rd., Janetville, Ont.HomeOnTour

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According to the heritage documentation from Kawartha Lakes, 746 Janetville Rd. was something of a folly constructed by Dr. John McAlpine in 1880 on the belief that the town would become a metropolitan centre thanks to an expected rail hub. When the Lindsay, Bobcaygeon and Pontypool railway line was rerouted, Dr. McAlpine is said to have moved to Lindsay in 1884. Nevertheless, several other doctors purchased the Italianate-style home over the years.

Among the interior features original to the house are the staircase (done in Jacobean style that popularized ornate wooden staircases as a central feature in a home in the 17th century), the ornate parquet flooring on the main level, plaster ceiling medallions and the coffered ceiling in the library. The entryway also has bold red glass panels (made of ruby-flashed glass popularized in the late 1800s) in transom windows and sidelights.

To the left of the centre hall is a grand parlour with an adorned archway connecting to a formal dining room. This room is almost completely restored, even keeping the elaborate iron radiator screens made in 1880 despite the fact house has been switched to forced-air heating and cooling. Windows and a doorway connect these spaces to the covered side porch.

Back through the central hall and to the other side of the house is a family/TV room that connects to the kitchen (which is also accessible from the back of the central hall).

“The bathrooms and the kitchen were like 1970s, 1980s vintage, so I could modernize them as I saw fit,” said Ms. Sopoci, who estimates she spent $130,000 alone on the bright, white kitchen kitted out with brass hardware and corner-squares tiles. A stone-topped island with bar seating centres the space and built-in window seats add a little more comfort.

Upstairs is the family space, with more archways, tall baseboards and deep crown moulding in the central hall. There are two decent-sized children’s rooms and a larger primary bedroom with its own fireplace and dressing area. An updated shared bathroom with standalone tub and shower serves this floor.

One of the only almost fully original interiors belongs to the library on this level. “This was the only room in the house where the wallpaper was in perfect condition; all the other walls were crumbling. I don’t know why this room is so well protected, but it deserved to remain as is,” Ms. Sopoci said. The dark wood of the fireplace mantle, shelves and coffered ceiling match well with the deep greens and lighter pinks and golds of the floral paper. A covered, screened-in sun porch off the library overlooking the grounds completes the portrait of a room for contemplation and escape.

There is one more bedroom (likely servant’s quarters) off the largely unfinished attic, accessible from a stair behind a doorway beside the primary bedroom.

Untapped potential

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The grounds are exceptionally private, filled with trees, gardens, lawns and statuary from previous owners. There’s a barn and separated garage on the site as well as a large pool (restored by Ms. Sopoci).

“Twice a year I have the ice cream social,” using only Kawartha Lakes Dairy all-star flavours of course,

“I have people coming from all over Toronto,” Ms. Sopoci said. “I love sharing this home, it’s such a special place in the middle of nowhere, and it’s a beautiful country drive.”

In her research she uncovered that one of the early owners, a Dr. Naismith (no apparent relation to the basketball-inventing Naismith) also held a social with ice cream, strawberries, a brass band and croquet for the townspeople. Indeed, there was a Jane Primrose Naismith who owned the home as well, a happy coincidence because Ms. Sopoci had already landed on Primrose Hill as the name for her new home.

She had grand plans to create a Christmas market on the site, and still more community events like tea services and programming throughout the year. But ultimately, she has missed being in Toronto: her young children still go to school there, and despite being in the city three days a week she feels she’s missing too much.

Still, how many people can say they got to live – even if only for a while – in their own childhood Barbie dream house?