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Home of the Week, 2 Brule Gardens, Swansea, Toronto. (Art Grierson/Art Grierson)
Home of the Week, 2 Brule Gardens, Swansea, Toronto. (Art Grierson/Art Grierson)

Home of the Week: A little Tudor grandeur on the Humber Add to ...



ASKING PRICE: $5.895-million

TAXES: $30,503 (2011)

AGENT: Daiva Dalinda (Royal LePage Real Estate Services)

The Back Story

In Toronto, it’s a rare neighbourhood that can trace its modern history back to 1615. But Swansea’s records and historical plaques show that fur trader Étienne Brulé made a well-documented journey down the Humber River, then called the Toronto River, by canoe at that time.

Long before his arrival, the Huron and Petun First Nations had made fishing camps along the shore. Later the Iroquois Seneca moved into the area.

By the 1900s, the area on the river banks was becoming settled by immigrants from the British Isles. The area was named Swansea because its rolling landscape and twisting roads were reminiscent of a village by that name in Wales.

South from Bloor Street, the developer Robert Home Smith built a neighbourhood of half-timbered houses and stone cottages in the picturesque style of those in England.

Two Brule Gardens is hidden away at the end of a cul-de-sac. The house started out as a gracious but small two-bedroom Tudor-style dwelling.

Various owners have added onto it over the years so that now the estate is comprised of a large 6,700-square-foot house, sitting on nearly one acre, atop a promontory that juts into the Humber River.

One of those previous owners was the late Michael Overs, who founded the Pizza Pizza chain. After he sold 2 Brule Gardens, Mr. Overs moved to another property nearby and remained a high-profile resident.

The House Today

For the past couple of decades, 2 Brule has been home to another prominent Canadian family: Members of the Bronfman clan moved there so that they could raise young children in the verdant and secluded setting.

The family had been living in Rosedale but they moved to the west end when they discovered they could have a large, treed property with a meandering path down to the river, says real estate agent Daiva Dalinda of Royal LePage Real Estate Services.

“In Rosedale, you can’t get this type of lot,” says Ms. Dalinda.

Visitors arrive to wrought iron gates, which open to a long, curved drive. The house is sheltered behind low stone walls, tall trees and extensive gardens.

Inside, the vestibule opens to a two-storey foyer with a curved staircase made for dramatic entrances.

The formal living room has leaded glass-fronted bookcases, oak floors, a fireplace with marble surround and an alcove that nicely accommodates a grand piano.

During Mr. Overs’ time, a hidden passageway led from behind the living room bookcase to a very private home office.

“You basically have a panic room,” says Ms. Dalinda. “It’s just like in the movies.”

Today the secret passage has been closed off and the area behind has been turned into a nanny’s suite which is reached in more conventional fashion through a door in the playroom.

The family room has coffered ceilings, a floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace, four built-in window seats and large windows that provide views on three sides.

“Everywhere you look, it’s water,” says Ms. Dalinda.

An addition on the rear of the house provides a large kitchen and breakfast area. The nine-foot high oak double doors lead to the terrace. The kitchen has a centre island, breakfast bar, a fireplace and walk-in pantry.

A separate wing beside the kitchen provides the nanny’s quarters or plenty of space for a home office or studio. The room currently designated as a playroom has built-in shelves and a sink handy for arts-and-crafts projects.

“This was a home that children really got to enjoy,” says Ms. Dalinda.

On the second floor, the master suite offers nearly 1,000 square feet. The beamed ceiling is nearly 14 feet high. The ensuite bathroom includes a jacuzzi and sauna. The 18-by-13.5-foot dressing room has built-in closets and organizers all around.

The kids’ bedrooms each have ensuite baths and one includes a loft, which small people can reach by scampering up a ladder.

The Best Feature

“It is [almost]literally surrounded by water,” says Ms. Dalinda, casting her eye over the water on three sides. “It’s like a little peninsula.”

The grounds are unusual for the area, where lots often drop off into a steep ravine.

“This is remarkable table land,” she says.

At the centre, a stone terrace surrounds a saltwater swimming pool.

One part of the property has a wooden deck that is used as a basketball court. A trap door leads to a storage area below.

The walkway to the water has become overgrown now that children aren’t running down there all the time, she adds, but the way down is gradual.

“It’s a very, very gentle slope down to the river.”

A stone terrace surrounds the saltwater swimming pool.

The Bronfman family has a canoe that they used to launch from the riverbank when the children were younger.

But Ms. Dalinda points out that a small marina right across the river could accommodate a larger boat that could take its owners all the way to Niagara-on-the-Lake or just about any place else on Lake Ontario.

At the same time, the owners have an five-minute walk to the subway and all the shops and restaurants of Bloor West Village.

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