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Home of the Week: Former Annex group home restored to Victorian glory Add to ...


Asking price: $3.475-million

Taxes: $16,785.31 (2013)

Agents: Jimmy Molloy (Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd.) and Mary Montgomery (Royal LePage)

The Back Story

The first owner of the grand house at 82 Lowther was heiress Elizabeth White, whose father was the wealthy builder George Hazelton White.

The house was designed in 1896 by Toronto-based architect Frederick H. Herbert, who built several prominent houses in the Annex and Rosedale. His commercial work included a Bank of Montreal building on Queen Street West and the Sunbeam Incandescent Lamp Factory on Dufferin Street.

After Ms. White died, the house changed hands a couple of times before being purchased by businessman James Baillie in 1925.

After the family’s lengthy tenure, the house was purchased in 1960 by Michael and Irene Moskaluk. The couple created a home for women who had been treated in a psychiatric hospital and needed support upon their release.

To make 82 Lowther into a suitable group home, Mr. Moskaluk made lots of alterations. He installed fire doors and alarms, subdivided some rooms, and bricked in a side porch.

The property continued to operate as a group home for women under different owners until 2003, when Wayne Brandt purchased the property.

The House Today

Mr. Brandt had already refurbished a house on Euclid Avenue when he set his sights on a more challenging restoration project.

Together with his father, he looked for a house – for sale or not – that offered the potential to be given a significant overhaul. The grand Victorian-era house on Lowther, combining British Queen Anne Revival and American Richardson Romanesque styles, was not for sale but it moved to the short list.

Mr. Brandt was able to negotiate with the owner and finally completed a deal in 2003.

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of the project, says Mr. Brandt, was the fact that the house had not been used as a single-family dwelling for nearly 45 years.

He found that a bay window on the front of the house had nearly fallen off. Brickwork was in poor shape and even the basic systems needed an extensive overhaul.

Restoring the finishes inside the house was painstaking work. Original plaster was retained and repaired wherever possible, he explains. The wood doors, which had been removed and stored on the property, were put back in place.

Mr. Brandt brought in McCausland Glass to replicate some of the missing stained glass windows. He learned that McCausland had done the original windows in the house, several generations earlier.

Clifford Restoration is a firm normally called upon to undertake the renovation of significant cultural buildings. When Mr. Brandt contacted the specialists, they were working on the Royal Conservatory of Music on Bloor Street. They agreed to take on 82 Lowther as well.

Mr. Brandt used historical records, photo archives and clues from other houses designed by the architect to figure out how the house must have once looked. The side porch was restored, the brick was repaired, and new stone stairs were built. The project was supported with a grant from the City of Toronto Heritage Fund.

The roof was refinished in black slate and decorative copper eaves, soffit and fascia were replicated.

Inside, the house has a grand living room, dining room and foyer once again. Upstairs, a lavish master bedroom suite has a fireplace, walk-in-shower and standalone tub.

Mr. Brandt says the house is now designated as a heritage property under the Ontario Heritage Act. In 2010, the project received the William Greer Architectural Conservation and Craftsmanship Award of Merit.

The Best Feature

The turret at 82 Lowther stands out as a significant architectural feature, says Mr. Brandt. At the same time, the light from curved leaded glass windows provides a lovely and light-filled place to sit.

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