744 DUPLEX AVE., TORONTO
Asking price: $3.995-million
Taxes: $25,825.97 (2014)
Lot size: 80.09 by 203.93 ft.
Agent: Barbara Temple (Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd.)
The back story
Visitors to Snider House on Duplex Avenue in Toronto arrive to a grand, circular driveway and a large, red brick house set a fair distance from the street. A tall pine tree at the front is the last of a long laneway of pines that once led to the original entrance on Yonge Street.
Documents show the property’s history stretches back to the late 1700s, when a Scot named John McDougall took possession of a land grant from the British Crown following his support of the British side in the American War of Independence. At the time, his 210-acre parcel stretched from Yonge to Bathurst.
A land speculator bought the property from Mr. McDougall and quickly sold it to Martin Snider, a Loyalist soldier who had been captured by the Americans in 1777 and ordered hanged for treason. Mr. Snider escaped with a pardon by the Governor of Massachusetts and later settled in the area that was known at the time as the town of York.
For a time, the log cabin on the site operated as a tavern, serving customers who travelled up Yonge Street.
When Martin Snider died in 1828, his son William replaced the log house with a 1 1/2-storey red brick Regency-style cottage.
Documents from the 1851 census show that William Snider had 170 acres of fields, pastures and orchards. Cows and sheep roamed the land.
The farm prospered and the Snider family added to the house over the years. In 1865, the record shows, the house became 2 1/2 storeys and took on the appearance of a grand, Victorian, Italianate mansion.
For 69 years, the farm remained in the Snider family, until it was sold to William Sparrow in 1880.
By 1910, the city was expanding quickly. Duplex Avenue ran through the land parallel to Yonge Street and the farm was subdivided.
Records show the house was owned by the Robertson/Land family from 1923 to 1979. It was converted to two apartments in 1923 and triplexed in 1953.
Bill Siegel, an advertising and branding consultant, purchased the houses in 1979, pulled the ivy away from the façade, and began a long and extensive restoration.
The house today
Homeowner Francine Royan says the house has been little changed since she moved in with her family in 2008. Mr. Siegel had spent many years on the renovation: He tore down the partitions created by the triplex conversion, added modern amenities and refurbished the many heritage features in the 5,000 square foot house.
“The house was really in perfect condition when we bought it,” Ms. Royan says.
The front door opens to a central hall and Victorian-era staircase. A sitting room and a music room on either side have ceilings 10
“The house has not always had central heating so the fireplaces all work,” she says.
At the rear of the house, a kitchen with cherry wood cabinets has a large island and a stainless steel six-burner gas range.
The adjacent family room has double doors leading to a back porch that is a replica of the porch on the “doctor’s house” at Black Creek Pioneer Village. “It is true to the time. It is not original to the house,” Ms. Royan says.
Upstairs, the master suite has an ensuite bathroom and a dressing room created from the former bedroom. The 19th century windows overlook the perennial garden in the back. Some of the windows date to 1865, Ms. Royan says, pointing out the waves and blisters in the glass.
Ms. Royan’s two daughters each have bedrooms overlooking the front yard. The older girl’s bedroom has an ensuite bathroom while the younger girl’s room has a study nook and loft built into an alcove. “It really is a great family home.”
A narrow staircase leads to an open third story space, which is currently used as a home office. Ms. Royan points out a tiny door that leads to a hidden room with a sloping ceiling.
A drawer in the office holds the archives with photos and the details of the home’s history, which have been passed on from one owner to another. In a history he assembled, Mr. Siegel said the house is believed to be the oldest remaining private home in the city of Toronto and the only surviving Yonge Street Loyalist farmhouse in the city.
On the lower level, the recreation room has been finished with exposed stone walls, heated floors and a bar. A hefty ceiling beam still bears the marks of a hatchet, which led the restoration architect to speculate that it may have belonged to the original log cabin.
The best feature
The roof of the front porch has been turned into a balcony, which sits facing the street at the end of the long drive. “We do love to sit out here because it gets the morning sun,” Ms. Royan says.
Outside, the house is surrounded by gardens and tall trees.
Ms. Royan says the distance from Duplex Avenue makes the house feel very tranquil. “It’s really like living in a big, old farmhouse in the middle of the city.”