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home of the week

4 Highland Gardens, Toronto

The listing

4 Highland Gardens, Toronto

List price: $4,395,000

Taxes: $28,775.11 (2010)

Agent: Eileen Farrow, Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd.

The back story

Robert Young Eaton was a young immigrant from Northern Ireland when he arrived in Toronto in the early 1900s to work in the store of his uncle, the merchant Timothy Eaton.

After Timothy Eaton's son, John Craig Eaton, died at the age of 46 from the flu, Robert Eaton became president of T. Eaton Co. Ltd. and occupied that office from 1922 to 1940. He was known to be as conservative as the austere founder of the company. He and his wife, Hazel, had five children.

It was during his time as president of Canada's most storied retail empire that R.Y. Eaton had a house built on Highland Avenue in Rosedale in 1935. He named it "Kilrea" after a village in County Londonderry.

The mansion had a ballroom, a massive terrace atop the ravine and separate quarters for the staff.

The house was so huge that owners in later years divided it horizontally into two large apartments. In 1989, another set of owners took possession and divided it again, this time vertically into three townhouses.

In 1994, the centre unit was purchased by its current owners, John Craig Eaton and Sally Horsfall Eaton. John Craig is a former chairman of Eaton's and the great-grandson of Timothy.

The couple loved the house for its location and grand spaces for entertaining, but they also liked the symmetry of moving back into the home of an ancestor in the retailing dynasty.

The house today

The centre house, at approximately 7,000 square feet, contains many of the principal rooms of the original house.

"This is the original staircase - it's really lovely and wide," says real estate agent Eileen Farrow of Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd. during a tour. Moving beyond the foyer, she enters a large living room with high ceilings and a traditional fireplace.

"This house has the original living room and it's magnificent," she says.

The living room and dining room open to the stone terrace, which faces south towards the city beyond the treetops. "In the wintertime you can see the twinkling city lights, in the summer it's green," Ms. Farrow says.

The kitchen includes a sitting area with more doors leading to the terrace.

Below the terrace, the property slopes to the bottom of the ravine. Steps lead to a woodland far below.

Part of the appeal of the house and its property is that they are so easy to maintain, says Ms. Horsfall Eaton.

Upstairs, the house has a large master bedroom with skylights and French doors leading to two Juliette balconies. There are his-and-hers bathrooms with marble finishes and French doors. A second-floor office and reading room has built-in bookshelves. A guest bedroom has an ensuite bathroom.

The third floor provides three more bedrooms and three ensuite bathrooms.

The Best Feature

Ms. Farrow believes the house will appeal to prospective owners who want to live in Rosedale but don't want all of the upkeep of a large garden and detached house.

"Maybe for the right family it's a family home, but I think of it as a grown-up home," she says.

The principal rooms are so large that it's a good choice for people who like to entertain, she adds.

The house's location at the end of Highland Ave. is very private. Rosedale Park is just a short stroll away.

"It's a rare house," Ms. Farrow says. "It's so unusual and kind of hidden."