146 SOUTH DR., TORONTO
ASKING PRICE: $7.95-million
TAXES: $42,653.74 (2015)
LOT SIZE: 130.93 feet by 132.31 feet (irregular)
AGENTS: Boris Kholodov (Royal LePage Real Estate Services Ltd., Johnston and Daniel Division) and Jimmy Molloy (Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd.)
The back story
Many Toronto residents know the house at 146 South Dr., but not by its address. Instead, the yellow-brick Neo Palladian is familiar as the house at the top of Milkman’s Lane.
The six-bedroom house, standing behind a stone wall, sits at the western entrance to a paved laneway that leads from the traditional enclave of Rosedale into the Don Valley below.
The pathway is used by runners, dog walkers and cyclists for a quick descent into the network of trails that runs through the city’s ravine parkland. When it first came into use more than 130 years ago, Milkman’s Lane was a passageway for equestrians and horse-drawn buggies.
The land was once part of Craigleigh, the 13-acre estate built for the prominent financier Sir Edmund Osler in 1877 by Edgar Jarvis. One of Sir Edmund’s closest business associates was the Toronto businessman Wilmot Deloui Matthews.
The two families’ bonds grew even closer in 1903, when Sir Edmund’s daughter, Annabel Osler, married Mr. Matthews’s son, Wilmot Donald Matthews. The parcel at 146 South Dr. was given to the couple as a wedding present, according to the history passed from one owner to another. The house was built in 1934 to a design by the architectural firm of Saunders and Ryrie, and featured in the magazine Canadian Homes and Gardens in 1937.
After Sir Edmund’s death in 1924, his estate was donated to the city for the creation of Craigleigh Gardens Park, which is still a popular neighbourhood preserve atop the slope of Milkman’s Lane.
The Matthews family stayed on South Drive for many years and, around the middle of the century, the Rogers family took over.
Their tenure lasted 22 years until the current owners, Michael and Monica Belcourt, became the house’s custodians in the late 1980s.
“It’s really a once-in-a-generation house,” Mr. Belcourt says.
The house today
The Belcourts purchased the 6,100-square-foot house after it had been renovated with some mid-century updates.
The couple worked with the late John Wilkins of Ardam Design Build to restore the Georgian-style house’s original elements.
“We really brought it back to the rafters to make it a true Georgian,” Mr. Belcourt says.
At the time, Mr. Belcourt was at the helm of Polo Ralph Lauren Canada and the house was the backdrop for the luxury brand’s home furnishings.
“The influence of Polo is throughout the house,” Mr. Belcourt says.
The main floor has a large living room with windows overlooking the ravine, a formal dining room, and a large kitchen with a family eating area and doors opening to the garden. A main-floor study is made cozy with wood-panelled walls. There are three fireplaces on the main floor and two on the second floor.
“Through most of the windows, you look out and you see forest,” Ms. Belcourt says of the house’s perch on the edge of the ravine.
Ms. Belcourt is a retired professor who was director of the School of Human Resources Management at York University.
She says the house has been the setting for many benefits that raised money for private schools and universities.
“It’s a good size for raising a family, but it’s an excellent venue for fundraising parties.”
Upstairs, the second floor has a large master suite at the rear of the house. The suite has his-and-hers bathrooms and walk-in closets. An elevator rises from the main floor to the master bedroom. Two other large rooms on that level are currently used as a family room and a library but could also serve as additional bedrooms.
Stairs from the second floor lead down to a private suite with a bedroom, living room, kitchenette and bathroom. The self-contained area could be a teenager’s lair or an in-law’s retreat.
Upstairs, the third floor provides three bedrooms and a bathroom.
Outside, the in-ground swimming pool is surrounded by a stone terrace and walled garden. Some of the formal gardens on a lower terrace were redesigned to create an unofficial basketball court and play area.
Mr. Belcourt says after standing for many years, a wall beside the garden was starting to lean toward the ravine. The couple hired a craftsman to take the wall apart and rebuild it with the original bricks.
The Belcourts say the family members often take their grandson for a walk down Milkman’s Lane to the trails alongside the Don River and the community environmental centre known as the Evergreen Brick Works.
The best feature
French doors from the living room and the dining room open to an enclosed porch, which provides an al fresco living and dining space from spring through fall, Ms. Belcourt says. The room is a great place for viewing owls and other birds in the trees outside, she says. In the autumn, it’s a place to relax amidst the changing leaves.
“It’s almost like you’re in a cottage.”
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