252 Queen St. E., St. Marys, Ont.
Asking Price: $1.35-million
Taxes: $8,188.74 (2021)
Lot Size: 97.22 feet by 150 feet
Listing Agents: Paul Maranger and Christian Vermast, Sotheby’s International Realty Canada
For more than 100 years the house at 252 Queen St. E. in St. Marys wasn’t just a family home, it was also the home base of the publishing family that would run the local newspaper until just before the turn of the millennium.
“It’s been the Eedy house for 120 years,” owner Richard Lorne Eedy said. “I feel it’s time for somebody else.”
Family patriarch John Wolfe Eedy moved to town in the late 1800s to buy the St. Marys Journal, later merged into the Journal Argus community newspaper. J.W. Eedy Publications Ltd. would expand their small-town news empire throughout the 20th century until Richard Lorne, the fourth-generation publisher, exited the business with the 1999 sale of 10 local newspapers to a subsidiary of Torstar.
At the time of sale the company had newspapers in such small Ontario towns as Exeter, Walkerton, Wingham, Fergus, Listowel and Mount Forest. “We had a really nice little business on the go. The problem was while we were interested in buying more, we were priced out of the market,” Mr. Eedy said. “I thought maybe it’s time to be a seller rather than a buyer. … I did very well at the time.”
Unfortunately, several of the family’s newspapers have since ceased operations, including the St. Marys Journal-Argus which was closed in 2017 following a controversial business arrangement whereby Postmedia and Torstar swapped 37 local news publications for no financial considerations and then shut most of them down.
“It was sad, we took a huge pride that people liked the newspaper. … My mom wrote a cooking column forever,” Mr. Eedy said. Local residents would ask what was to become of things like wedding pictures and other documents connected with the newspaper’s history, and as it happened Mr. Eedy had a trove of documents in his possession, which he donated to the local museum.
St. Marys – and no, there is no apostrophe – is a small town of about 7,000 people located between the larger nearby communities of London and Stratford. It gained the nickname “Stone Town” because of local deposits of limestone that were quarried for dozens of homes in the town, including the Eedy house. Recently, there’s been signs of newcomers to the community, and heightened interest in stately heritage homes.
“With the pandemic, and people working from home – and that we just added GO train service – it’s really drawing a lot of people here,” said Nancy Eedy, Lorne’s wife.
The House Today
The house sits on a corner lot on Queen Street, the town’s main road, just past the historic limestone water tower (which looks positively medieval) on the way to the downtown high street.
The Queen Street side of the house is lined with a stone wall topped with a wrought-iron fence, beyond which a formal entryway with arched windows and elaborate woodwork stands next to a veranda with intricate gingerbread trim. But don’t be surprised if no one answers a knock on that door. “Nobody comes in anymore through the front,” Mr. Eedy said. “I never shovel it. As kids, we walked through the garage [around back] to get into the house. When Nancy came into my life she said, ‘I won’t live in this house with people walking through the garage.’”
From the back of the lot there’s a driveway that curves into the property and the two-car garage (which connects to the house). There are walkways on both sides, one to the backyard pool deck, the other to the entryway Nancy wanted.
The rear entrance opens into a mudroom, part of the addition Mr. Eedy added 20 years ago. A flagstone pathway outside turns into flagstone flooring inside, and there are lots of hooks and cabinets for storage in this L-shaped room that connects to the garage and to the breakfast room in the new kitchen.
Another door opens into the oldest part of the building. This first structure was built in 1849 by lumberman John Sanderson, one of the early St. Marys colonial arrivals. There have been several additions over the years, the first in 1869 when the two-storey limestone main house was built. The single-storey stone wing has a utility room off the mudroom, and also a tiled laundry room and a three-piece bath (the tub here is the same one Mr. Eedy used as a child).
Just beyond this is a formal dining room, with a door to the side veranda and the first sign of the cherry strip hardwood flooring found in much of the rest of the original house. To the right is a doorway to the new kitchen (past a butler’s pantry tucked between the original exterior limestone wall and the new construction) and straight ahead is a family room, but might as well really be called the showcase (more on that later). There’s a beautiful Victorian fireplace with wooden mantle and antique tile inlay on the firebox in this room. Behind this space is Mr. Eedy’s office filled with more windows and a wall of audio-visual equipment.
Stepping further into the house finds the front hall and foyer (connected to that little-used front entryway) with wooden staircase that curves upstairs. A stained-glass transom window above the door at the end of the hall leads in to the kitchen, on the left is a second formal living room with another Victorian fireplace and a baby-grand piano that’s also available to come with the house.
The kitchen is where Mr. Eedy really put his stamp. The footprint of the original kitchen is still there, now with a central island across from a bank of cabinets on the wall facing the pool deck. The counter is is a dark stone quartzite with a leathered texture, with induction range, stove, double sink and fridge sharing the wall.
A short step up into the breakfast room is like a totally different type of grandness: the ceiling vaults up two stores and cast-iron grates line the railings of the upstairs loft. Sun pours in through two columns of windows that fill the outside corner walls, they rise to the second floor and are topped by arched stained-glass rescued from a church demolition. Original stone and block walls from the old exterior are also preserved in this room, which has a walkout to the pool. The 10-foot deep pool was installed by Mr. Eedy’s mother, but the cedar pool house and sauna was all him.
Upstairs, the original house has three bedrooms and the new loft formed by the kitchen addition. The first, opposite the stairs, is more office than sleeping quarters with a wall of built-ins cabinets complete with closet and desk. Next to that is the primary bedroom, with three windows facing Queen Street and the side yard, and a wall of closets. The last also faces Queen Street and is the smallest but does have the door to the small balcony above the formal entrance.
There’s no ensuite bathroom in the primary bedroom, but stepping down into the loft are two spaces that try to make up for that. The first is the three-piece bath with glass-walled shower and vanity, and the second is a dressing room with sink and makeup table just next to the bathroom.
The rest of the loft is huge, L-shaped around that opening to the breakfast room below, with no fewer than four skylights. The original limestone exterior wall is persevered, and this space is carpeted except for a tiled area set up as a workout and yoga station. Tucked away in the corner is a space made for kids: a raised platform with soft pile carpet that ramps up toward a triangular window. Mr. Eedy said this was made to be a retreat for the readers among the children.
Mr. Eedy is a collector. “I collected marbles at six years old, then it was army shoulder bands, for the last 20 years I’ve been on to the toys,” he said. At a certain point, the collecting may have gotten out of hand, to the point where he’d filled his basement with curios. “It was a sickness,” he quips. He believes that at one time he had one of the largest collections of tin lithograph (or stamped metal) ray guns from the 1930s, 40s and 50s, and part of getting the house for sale meant de-cluttering some of this collection, and he shipped more than a dozen boxes to specialty toy auctions.
These days, his specific interest is in Star Wars toys made between 1977 and 1985 by Ohio-based Kenner and distributed by Irwin toys in Toronto, and he’s particularly keen on those marked with the French-language translation “Guerre des Etoiles” (GDE). The first-floor family room is a shrine to part of his collection featuring figurines, vehicles and games based on the original space opera trilogy. Children of the eighties will recognize some of the items they drooled over at the toy store (or the toy section of departed retailers like Zellers) though these days some of the items sell for thousands of dollars at auction.
The couple owns a smaller house in Quebec, and is hoping to come out of the pandemic into more travel, so if you’re a collector looking to acquire a heritage home and heritage toys, it might be the right time to make Mr. Eedy an offer he can’t refuse. “It’s time we let go of the collection,” he said.
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