90 Massey St., Toronto
Asking price: $599,000
Agent: Marny Hersenhoren, Royal LePage
The back story
My charming red brick Victorian row house was originally built in late 1800s on a street that first housed the workers at the Massey Ferguson agricultural machinery parts factory (now a luxury condo conversion to the south on King Street West). Houses like this were once home to the great generation of labourers who founded Toronto – simple, sturdy places, with lots of charm and light – a worker's cottage built for the comfort of urban family life. The house was built to be within easy commuting distance from the Massey Ferguson factory, and now it's perfectly positioned downtown – just a dog's trot from the shops and cafés on Queen Street West and the leafy splendour of Trinity Bellwoods Park.
Throughout most of the 20th century, extended families would have lived in what is now a perfect-sized house for a couple or young family looking to expand from condo digs.
I bought the house several years ago on my own after an extensive search for the perfect downtown home. From the moment I set foot in the place, with its pretty perennial garden, ten-foot-high ceilings and sun-filled living/dining room, it was love at first sight.
At the time, I was a single woman buying the house from another single woman and 90 Massey seemed to me the perfect Queen West bachelorette pad – a sweet and cozy home in the heart of
the city with far more warmth than the glass-and-steel-fitted condos I'd been half-heartedly sniffing at.
Here, finally, was a little house I could call my own without feeling financially over-extended or overwhelmed by trendiness. It was a lovingly appointed place and had everything I needed: three bedrooms (two decent-sized, one perfect for an office or a baby's room), one upstairs bathroom with a deep soaker tub, a welcoming kitchen and sun room flowing out to a back garden filled with mature lilac and hydrangea bushes and of course that downtown Toronto clincher – a back alley parking spot.
The best feature
Over the years I painstakingly improved the house – insulating the attic, building firewalls, rebuilding the front porch, updating appliances, painting and landscaping – but all my work was minor compared to the change in the neighbourhood. Since the mid-2000s, the Bellwoods Park area has gone from shabby chic to super chic, establishing itself as the beating heart of downtown Toronto's rapid west-end gentrification. Over night, abandoned factories became swanky lofts and greasy smoke shops were transformed into lifestyle emporiums. A derelict building around the corner that once housed stockpiles of stolen bikes is now a high-end restaurant. One of the city's great bookshops – Type – opened up around the corner, giving me a perfect place to procrastinate on my writing during the day. For several years, every time I blinked it seemed another independent, organic, fair-trade, hand-roasted coffee place had installed itself on my doorstep. Where lattes were concerned, I was spoiled for choice: Would I swing by Clafouti, White Squirrel or Nadege? Some of my neighbours complained the area was getting "too nice" but that was just their way of asserting old-school supremacy – the real estate equivalent of being into a popular band's early stuff. Love it or not, Bellwoods Park was suddenly one of the most sought after neighbourhoods in the city. My modest little worker's cottage was transformed into a sparkling jewel in a treasure trove of urban delights.
Why I'm selling
After more than half a decade of being the proud owner of this magical city house it's time for me to move on. Like the neighbourhood, my life has undergone massive change in the past few years, all of it for the best. My partner has a son from a previous marriage and we recently had a baby of our own. His work is based overseas and I'm spending more time abroad. As a freelance writer I need a home office cut off from the hubbub of family life. As much as I hate the idea of leaving 90 Massey, a more suitable home must be found. I'm saying goodbye to my urban worker's cottage and hope to do safe in the knowledge that the next owners will love to the place as much as I did. Honestly, how could they not?
Editor's Note: Globe Public Editor Sylvia Stead has written that publication of this article was an error in judgment. Her explanation can be found here.