55 Glen Rd., Toronto
Asking price: $10,850,000
Taxes: $32,925.54 (2019)
Lot Size: 60.43 feet by 156 feet
Agent: Andrea Menzel, Broker, Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd.
Stephen Staley has come a long way from where he grew up: a Manchester council estate house shared by six people. A steeplejack by trade, his company, Industrial Chimney Management Inc., now services industrial chimneys and smokestacks across Canada and the Caribbean. In 2009, he and family were looking to move from the Bluffs area of Scarborough be closer to downtown. “We wanted a move-in-ready place. The real estate guy we were dealing with dismissed the idea [of 55 Glen], ‘That’s not for you,’” Mr. Staley said.
The house at 55 Glen Rd., has long been a notable spot on walking tours of Toronto’s architectural legacy with its Greek revival façade (a popular style of the mid-1800s to early 1900s, in this case rendered by Toronto architects Chadwick and Beckett, whose Victorian-era work dots Rosedale and the Annex). Four beefy Ionic columns frame the front portico and give the house an imposing and reserved look.
“It was one of the grand dames of Rosedale, and it became a rooming house,” listing agent Andrea Menzel said. “It was rescued by the Staleys. They saw the potential of making it a wonderful family home. There were nine apartments when they bought it; they took it back to the outside walls and rebuilt it.”
Indeed, while the house has period touches, this was a gut job, not a restoration.
Mr. Staley was urged to look up Terry Little, a popular Rosedale designer who maintains virtually no online presence, and then connected with Greg Merkac of Craigleigh Custom Homes Ltd. “This guy [Mr. Little] is a top class designer, he made everything wider, doors taller, hallways wider, buried a lot of the ductwork and there’s no bulkheads,” Mr. Staley said.
“Of course we were nervous about it," said Mr. Staley’s wife, Sangeeta. "It was a really big project. Stephen was working out of the country. We were connected with the contractor and designer and they pretty much did all the work.
“Two days after we closed, or a week, we were getting enquiries from people who turned it down,” said Mr. Staley. According to data from HouseSigma they picked up the house for about $1.8-million. The renovation took 18 months. Now they are looking for a buyer interested in an updated classic for a cool $10-million.
“There are a lot of expensive homes for sale in Rosedale at the moment,” Ms. Menzel said. "I think prices in general have gone to the next level. Remember when people were saying not that long ago ‘OMG I paid a million …’? Now your entry level is around $4-million – and then you have to do some work.
“We’re seeing the Asian market is interested in Rosedale," she said. “For a while, a lot of them were saying: ‘No, we like new;' that’s their feel for what they like. Rosedale had the heritage cover in it; you can’t do anything to the front façade, and you can’t tear down. So Rosedale, they didn’t get it. Now they are getting it, and they really like it.”
The house today
Through the grand entrance with the columns is a short foyer (with Stephen’s office on the left and the pocket doors to the living room on the right) leading to an equally grand “lobby” as Stephen puts it, a 35-foot high stairway that goes all the way up to the third floor. The black-and-white tile pattern plus the wainscotting, baseboards and crown moulding all evoke Victorian finishes. There’s a fireplace, a walk-in closet and a powder room. Originally, this space was panelled and finished all in dark wood. Now the walls throughout the house are predominantly white, with a splash of grey or green here and there. The side door and a landing window both have stained glass, another period feature brought forward.
Just past the stairway is a shortcut to the kitchen, but the intended path is through the living room to the right which is open to the dining room stretching almost 45 feet from the front wall to the rear, punctuated by the side-bay window, where now sits a grand piano. A pair of doors frames the fireplace on the back wall. Through here are the more intimate family spaces they spend most of their time in. There are a total of five fireplaces on this level and a total of six in the house – down from the original 10, and two less than Stephen wanted to keep.
The back half of the house is a L-shaped kitchen with an island topped by white marble streaked with grey. There are two separate areas with tables for eating breakfast or playing games, and at the very back a five-year-old addition with a skylight that acts as a family room. “We wanted a room with a lot of light; we liked that outdoor feeling," Mrs. Staley said. “The room is where we already had big windows … that’s my and the kid’s space.”
“We had 70 people here for [his daughter’s 16th] birthday, We had a band playing,” Mr. Staley said. “The thing about this house you have these groups and pockets, four or five different zones just on the ground floor.”
The second floor is the family living quarters: there are three bedrooms (each with its own ensuite bathroom and walk-in closet) and a spacious laundry room. The main bedroom is an L-shaped suite that takes up the whole front of the house, including the small balcony seen above the front door, and the sixth fireplace. The walk-through closet room leads to a 16-foot-by-16-foot bathroom that’s bigger than either of the other two 14-foot-by-14-foot bedrooms on this level.
The third level has three more bedrooms, one with its own ensuite and two that share a bathroom. There’s also a large family room with a wet-bar (including its own dishwasher) with a walkout to the rooftop deck.
The basement has a full gym with steam shower (Stephen’s favourite room), a nanny suite with its own ensuite, and a media room/home theatre that connects through double doors to the mudroom/music room that Stephen has wired to be used a recording studio. There’s also a wine room with custom racks around the corner. The ceilings on the main level are 10 feet, on second floor almost nine, third floor back to almost 10, and in the basement about eight. There’s a centralized sound system that can pump music into all the rooms, and the detached two-car garage is just a cherry on top.
“It’s a big house, it’s a welcoming house,” Mrs. Staley said. “Even an extended family could fit into this house and have a wonderful lifestyle. I would like to see a family move in – they can make beautiful memories.”
The family is currently looking at other potential real estate projects but Stephen said it’s tough to say goodbye. The house at 55 Glen Rd. has come to remind him of a stately home he admired as a young lad in Manchester. “There was this big old house and wrought iron gate," he recalls. "We were in awe. … ‘Wow who lives there?’ Today, it’s a bit smaller than my house, but it has a bit more grounds.”
“Every time we were outside when we first moved in even now, neighbours will compliment us on the job we’ve done in the house,” Mrs. Staley said. “We haven’t told any of the neighbours we’re leaving.”
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