270 Indian Rd., Toronto
Asking Price: $6,395,000
Taxes: $16,671.77 (2021)
Lot Size: 50 feet by 248 feet, irregular
Agents: Paul Maranger and Christian Vermast (Sotheby’s International Realty Canada)
When James Mountain and Joanne Weaver purchased an arts and crafts-style bungalow on Indian Road in Toronto’s High Park area in 2004, people were keen to share local lore about the landmark home.
“The neighbourhood was full of stories about it,” Mr. Mountain says.
Amateur historians speculated that the original owner – William G. Harris – was a member of the clan that created the giant Massey-Harris farm equipment company and included the Group of Seven artist Lawren Harris. There were rumours of a bomb shelter in the backyard.
Mr. Mountain’s own research uncovered no ties to the more well-known Harris family, but he found that the first owner was a successful businessman who made his fortune as the founder of Canada Metal Co. Born in Muskoka in the 1800s, William Harris moved to Toronto at the age of 17 and began to earn his living by collecting scrap metal in a cart.
William Harris operated a factory that manufactured materiel during the First World War and went on to supply lead alloys to the printing industry. By 1922, Canada Metal was operating across the country.
“He was a wealthy industrialist and a self-made man,” Mr. Mountain says. “His story in its own right is quite interesting.”
With his business established, Mr. Harris hired the architect F.S. Mallory to design a new house in High Park in 1924.
Many decades later, Mr. Mountain and Ms. Weaver were living farther down Indian Road when they first admired the home, which stood out for its swooping roofline and demi-lune bay window with leaded glass.
They kept an eye on it for several years, hoping the house would come up for sale.
“Joanne had her heart set on the property,” Mr. Mountain says.
Eventually Mr. Mountain heard through the neighbourhood grapevine that the owner might consider selling.
The couple asked their real estate agent ring the doorbell. After some negotiation, they purchased the house before it hit the open market.
The house today
Mr. Mountain and Ms. Weaver brought in architect Catherine Friis to modernize the home for their family of four.
The couple asked her to reconfigure the layout while also preserving many of the rich original details.
Today visitors arrive to a long walkway which leads to a front porch and an entry door with a leaded glass window and side panels. Inside, the vestibule has a patterned tile floor and the interior door has a stained glass window with stained glass side panels.
The foyer, paneled in wood, has a barreled ceiling. The original oak staircase is reminiscent of the Victorian era, with an elaborate balustrade.
The living room, with the bow window and a wood-burning fireplace with a limestone mantel, overlooks the street. The formal dining room has walls paneled in wood, two built-in china cabinets, a coffered ceiling with oak beams, and a seating area built into the square bay window.
While the principal rooms retained their proportions, smaller rooms at the rear were reconfigured to create a large open kitchen and family room.
Today the kitchen has traditional cabinetry painted in French blue, an eight-burner gas range and a commercial-grade zinc steel countertop. In the family room, residents can relax in front of the wood-burning fireplace. An oversized door opens to a covered porch at the rear.
Some former bedrooms on the main floor were converted so that Mr. Mountain and Ms. Weaver each have their own study with built-in shelves for books and art.
A former solarium became the mudroom, with a porcelain tile floor and wall-to-wall closets.
Upstairs, double doors open to the couple’s suite at the rear, with large bedroom windows overlooking the garden. There are two dressing rooms and two bathrooms.
Ms. Weaver says she rejected Ms. Friis’s plan for each of the parents to have their own bathroom at first, but the architect persuaded her that it would make it easier to rearrange the space.
Now Ms. Weaver is glad that she agreed.
“It’s the best thing in the world to have your own bathroom,” she says with a laugh.
There are two other bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms on that level, and a fourth bedroom, and a main bathroom.
The lower level has a wine cellar, a media room, a hobby room, a recreation room and a home gym.
Ms. Weaver says the house has been a wonderful setting for charity events and parties over the years.
The couple’s catered Christmas party brought all of the neighbours together nearly every year.
“That was a big event that everyone looked forward to and we loved doing it,” Ms. Weaver says.
Now the couple have become empty nesters and more young families have moved into the area. There’s a Montessori school nearby, High Park a couple of blocks away, and the Bloor subway line at the top of the street.
“Once they were out of Grade 6 they went everywhere on their own,” Mr. Mountain says of the couple’s two kids.
The neighbourhood has also been transformed over the years as many large houses that were once carved up into apartments have been restored as single-family homes.
“Lots of these big, regal houses have had renovations done to them,” Mr. Mountain says.
Mr. Mountain says the couple have made few changes to the house after their extensive renovation, except to redecorate some of the rooms and refresh the paint colours. At the time, they were careful to choose finishes and materials that would not look dated after a few years.
“Generally the house has stood up extraordinarily well. It was a restoration but it was a functionally modern home,” he says. “It has a strong character.”
A year or two after they moved in, the couple received a letter from a grandson of the original owner. The man, who was in his eighties, was reminiscing about growing up nearby.
He also gave the couple a photograph of Mr. Harris standing in front of the brick façade while the home was under construction.
Next to him was a metal object, which the grandson explained was a time capsule. The photograph was taken to commemorate the day in 1924 that the capsule was sealed inside the structure.
“There’s a time capsule still buried in the corner of the house,” Mr. Mountain says. “Of course the great mystery is, what’s in the time capsule.”
One puzzle was solved when the couple asked the visitor about the subterranean room in the back. It had long been sealed up and they left it that way.
Had the metal industry tycoon really built a bomb shelter?
“That was my grandmother’s cold cellar,” the grandson said.
The best feature
The ravine lot is terraced at the rear. Tall conifers, Japanese Maples and flowering shrubs surround the garden beds. With one-half acre of land, there’s plenty of room for kids to run around.
“It’s a stunning backyard because it’s L-shaped,” Mr. Mountain says.
Today there’s a three-car garage which the couple had built after they purchased the property. They’ve also added a 100-square-foot potting shed which is currently used as an art studio.
“This was a wonderful house to raise a family in,” Ms. Weaver says.
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