123 SYLVAN AVE., TORONTO
LOT SIZE: 93 by 415 feet
TAXES: $9,281.05 (2013)
ASKING PRICE: $2,488,888
AGENTS: Rick and Rochelle DeClute (DeClute Real Estate Inc.)
The back story
Many years ago, well-known Toronto doctor Marion Hilliard retreated to a bucolic landscape above the Scarborough Bluffs for summer weekends.
Dr. Hilliard graduated in medicine from the University of Toronto in 1927 and joined the staff of Women’s College Hospital the following year.
She went on to become chief of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Women’s College from 1947 until her retirement in 1956. Today, she has a Scarborough senior public school named after her. Among her contributions, Dr. Hilliard was one of a team who developed a simplified procedure for detecting early symptoms of cancer.
The house at 123 Sylvan Ave. was built on the land that Dr. Hilliard once owned and eventually parcelled into four lots.
“This was her escape from the city back then,” says Wendy Paquette, the current co-owner of the house, along with her husband, Ron Paquette. “This was their cottage.”
The remaining trees from an old apple orchard still stand next door. The area is still home to lots of wildlife: As Mr. Paquette led a visitor on a tour of the grounds, a fox trotted nonchalantly through the garden.
“We share the bluffs with nature,” says Mr. Paquette.
When the Paquettes purchased the property, they decided to build a new house on the large lot about 75 metres 250 feet above the shore of Lake Ontario. They had the existing one-and-a-half storey house torn down and a four bedrrom house built in 2008.
The house today
The lakefront house was designed by Mr. Paquette to take advantage of the view.
“Everything is about the back of the house,” he says of the large windows and many walkouts to the garden.
The main floor has a large entry that leads to a living room with views facing south toward the lake. The dining room, family room and office all have south-facing views as well.
From the breakfast area, Mr. Paquette recently counted 18 different species of birds one morning without leaving the table.
The large kitchen faces the front gardens.
“You see all that bird traffic out the kitchen window,” says Ms. Paquette, pointing to an oriole in a tall tree on the front lawn. “We keep our binoculars handy.”
Upstairs, a large master suite has a bathroom with soaker tub, double vanities, a walk-in shower and a water closet.
The bedrooms at the rear of the house have doors leading to a screened Muskoka room, which stretches about 12 metres 40 feet across the back of the house.
Outside, a separate studio at the front of the property currently serves as a gym and lounge. It also contains a kitchenette and bathroom.
During last year’s ice storm, the Paquettes relied on their emergency generator for power for seven days.
“Everybody knew we had power. The street was black and our house was glowing with lights,” recalls Mr. Paquette.
As so many surrounding houses were without electricity, the Paquettes opened up the studio to neighbours, who could shower in the bathroom and charge their mobile phones.
The surrounding Guildwood community has a village feel, adds Mr. Paquette. The nearby Guildwood GO Train station is 20 minutes by train from downtown, he adds.
The best feature
The home’s location atop the Scarborough Bluffs is so dramatic that real estate agent Rick DeClute purchased a drone so that he could create a video of the landscape.
The drone flies up and over the front of the house and hovers above the yard behind.
Outside, the Paquettes have a saltwater swimming pool surrounded by perennial gardens. A pergola covers a seating area with an outdoor fireplace. A terrace closer to the house has outdoor seating and a barbeque sheltered from the elements.
“I love barbequing all year round,” says Mr. Paquette.
The property was one stop on an area garden tour last summer.
The lawn and gardens extend right to the edge of the cliff, high above the parkland below. Trumpeter swans often float in the little bays below.
Hikers and cyclists sometimes use the trails, which are part of a long network through the area.
From their perch looking out over Lake Ontario, the Paquettes can watch the fireworks displays that take place along the Canadian shore on July 1 and the American lakefront on July 4.
“On a clear day, you can see Niagara Falls,” says Mr. Paquette.
Ms. Paquette says the lake and grounds are wonderful through the seasons – and especially lovely in winter.
“That really caught us by surprise. We never anticipated how beautiful that would be.”
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