The listing: 216 Rusholme Rd., Toronto
Asking Price: $1.899-million.
Taxes: $7,591 (2018)
Lot Size: 30 by 147 feet
Agents: Scott Ingram, Century 21 Regal Realty Inc. and Ian Busher, Sage-Fox Marin Associates Ltd.
The back story
Playwright and film and TV screenwriter John Krizanc has an IMDB page filled with credits related to a good deal of the Canadian content viewers have enjoyed in recent decades: Due South, Men With Brooms, Dieppe, Caught – even episodes of Traders and Da Vinci’s Inquest.
His breakthrough work was a play called Tamara, an experimental theatre piece launched in Toronto in 1981. Critics describe it as 10 plays in one that happen in separate rooms all at once with the audience wandering through, catching snippets of what’s happening, with no viewing quite the same as the one before. With the backing of TV impresario Moses Znaimer, the play had long runs in New York and Los Angeles. Even though he has modestly claimed it never made any real money due to the difficulty in staging a play in a theatre with small audiences, he jokes that 216 Rusholme is the house that Tamara bought.
“Before we reached the door, my wife turned to me and said ‘This is the place we’re buying.’ The sun was streaming in through the dining room and it had a sort of a magical feel,” he said of his initial house-hunt in 1995. “It’s not a box house: it’s full of little surprises. You come around the corner and there’s a room you didn’t expect or an angle. It’s small in spaces, big in spaces, it has different environments depending on your mood … it’s got that certain grandeur.”
In 2013, his wife and long-time partner, artist Carolyn Armstrong, passed away. He made efforts to renovate and change the spaces they occupied together, but it still has a lot of echoes of the past. He has a new partner now, and while he’s far from retired – he has written a few episodes of the new Archie Panjabi show Departure and is working on a spy drama with his long-time creative partner Paul Gross – he’s hoping to buy a house in Spain and travel more in the coming years. For his part, Mr. Gross has told Mr. Krizanc he doesn’t believe the move will stick.
“He doesn’t believe it: ‘You’re such a Toronto guy, it’s not going to happen.' He thinks its just all bluff on my part. To be clear, I’m moving to Creemore [he has a farm there] and we’ll try to winter abroad. It’s not like we ever get to retire; I just have this compulsion to tell stories.”
The house today
216 Rusholme doesn’t have a “front” door, but once you climb a short staircase to the front porch you find the deck extends around to the right where the main entrance is on the side. From the foyer you can turn left into the front sitting room, straight ahead is the stairs to the upper levels, and on the right is the dining room which passes through to the kitchen and rear deck.
Mr. Krizanc’s description of the house’s angles and nooks is immediately obvious from the foyer. In the living room there is a couch tucked into a seating area with a slightly lowered ceiling and its own little porthole window. Underneath the stairs is a deep closet, and the turn to the dining room makes you recalculate the space because the north-facing wall bows out slightly (the vintage sliding pocket door separating this space from the front hall is still functional).
The kitchen is separated from the dining room, and is in need of updating, but has decent amount of space even with the washer-dryer hidden behind doors in the seating nook, which is framed by almost floor-to-ceiling windows and glass door. The backyard is almost 80 feet deep and 30 feet wide. There’s no garage, but some of the neighbours’ recent buildings suggest how one could be added without much sacrifice.
On the second floor, the bathroom lies straight ahead and has been recently updated. The master bedroom is to the left, with another window nook that looks out over the backyard. It is a large light-filled space with a gigantic walk-in closet and a door to a small roof deck. The other bedroom on the floor is smaller, a second bedroom that was Mr. Krizanc’s main office. Mr. Krizanc was a bookseller before his writing career took off, and to get the house ready for sale crates and crates of books have been sold and donated and shipped off in the kind of purging Marie Kondo would approve of. There’s still a wall of books upstairs in this room though; just a taste of what was.
The third floor loft could also be the master, if you don’t mind angled ceilings and more of those quirky nooks (including a huge attic space behind a short door.) This floor’s bathroom has a new soaker tub and a little more isolation from the downstairs.
The basement contains a bonus: a potential income or in-law suite thanks to a fully separated rear entrance. Mr. Krizanc’s late wife used it as a studio, and while the ceiling is a little lower than the main house’s grand 10-footers, it is clean and compact with a bedroom, condo-size kitchen and a generous living/dining space.
Scott Ingram, one of the listing agents, dug up a trove of details about the house’s history. It was built in 1905 by architect John Wilson Siddall, who also built the the semi-famous Brunswick House south of Bloor and contributed to the 1902 updating of the St. Lawrence Market South Building. The street has several houses of similar vintage; some are even a little bigger. Mr. Ingram estimates the lot-coverage allowable in the area would give potential renovators another 381 square feet of yard to expand into.
Between the first and second floor is a small 10-foot-by-7-foot room that faces the front of the house just off the stairwell landing. Transformed now into a nursery to entice family-oriented buyers, this unusual room is alone on this half-floor. It has a skylight and an antique leaded window with diamond-shaped panes. It’s one of the smallest spaces in the house, but it played a big role in Mr. Krizanc’s career.
“I have an actual office with a big writers desk, but I find I did most of my writing curled up on a chair with my feet on a daybed in that room. I just liked sitting there and watching the street traffic,” he said.
The things he will miss most are the neighbours, the easy walks to High Park, Dundas West restaurants and the short stroll to Bloor. The decision to sell the grand ole pile on Rusholme was not without struggle.
“I would drive up to my farm and say, ‘I’m not selling this farm,’” he said. “Then I’d drive back into the city and say, ‘I’m not selling the Toronto house.’ I went back and forth for two years mulling what was the best play. Now, I’ve finally pulled the trigger.”
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