The listing: 208 Dunvegan Rd., Toronto
Asking price: $5.5-million
Taxes: $25,690.30 (2018)
Lot size: 50-feet by 164.2 feet
Agents: Christian Vermast, Paul Maranager, Fran Bennett (Sotheby’s International Realty Canada)
The back story
In 1990, the board game Trivial Pursuit was a worldwide phenomenon and its four Canadian creators were business legends.
That was the year that one of those founders – John Haney – purchased a grand, ivy-covered house in Toronto’s Forest Hill neighbourhood.
It had been a little more than 10 years since his brother Christopher Haney and a friend first batted around the idea of creating a board game based on trivia.
Chris Haney and Scott Abbott were two Montreal-based friends working in journalism when they came up with the idea for a quiz game in 1979.
As the concept developed, the Haney brothers hunkered down in their hometown of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., and then at their mother’s vacation home in Spain. They spent a couple of years on a “big, old computer,” John Haney said, conjuring up the original game’s 6,000 questions based on a universe of facts.
“Chris and I wrote the questions,” Mr. Haney recalled. “I think I wrote most of the science and nature.”
They brought in lawyer Edward Werner and began to assemble the group of investors that would help them get the game onto store shelves in 1981.
After a sluggish start, the game took off in the United States and sales skyrocketed.
Mr. Haney was involved in writing another five versions of the game. After the first six, the team hired writers, he explains.
During the quiz game’s upward trajectory, Mr. Haney and his wife, Velvet, raised their four children in the house at 208 Dunvegan Rd. The Forest Hill neighbourhood in midtown Toronto is one of the city’s most affluent and traditional.
By the early 2000s, the game was sold in 33 countries with versions in 19 languages.
Trivial Pursuit brought tremendous wealth and opportunity to the four founders but not necessarily tranquility.
Chris Haney died in 2010 at the age of 59.
“He lived hard,” John Haney said of his brother, who died after suffering from heart disease and kidney failure.
Despite that sadness, Mr. Haney says the house on Dunvegan became the central gathering place for all of the extended clan.
“This house really brought the whole family together from all over,” he said. “It has been a very happy home. It just has a good feeling about it.”
The house today
The five-bedroom house has approximately 4,660 square feet of living space spread over three storeys.
While the house sat on a beautiful, treed lot when the Haneys purchased it, the interior needed some improvements.
“I hated the fireplace,” said Mr. Haney, who points out the Adam-style mantel that took its place.
The couple worked with designer Kate Zeidler to open up some of the rooms for better flow on the main floor and accommodate life with young children.
Today, guests arrive through double doors to a traditional foyer in a centre-hall plan, which places the living room on one side and the dining room on the other.
The view from the front door extends all the way to the swimming pool at the rear.
The formal living room has French doors opening to a Juliette balcony overlooking the street. Two bay windows on either side of the marble fireplace overlook the side garden.
The kitchen and breakfast room have been opened up to create a large, comfortable room with a fireplace and views of the pool.
Mr. Haney, who loves to cook, had the kitchen designed with a large central island and built-in appliances. Folding wooden shutters are in place to completely close off the kitchen when caterers are at work.
In the family room at the rear of the house, a built-in bookcase holds a sampling of the many specialty editions of Trivial Pursuit, including a Star Wars version.
Mr. Haney says his favourite are Baby Boomer and the original edition, of which only 1,200 were made.
“The box is really heavy,” he said.
Another clue to identifying an original version is to look for “2 to 24 players” in white lettering on the side of the box. The colour of the type changed in later versions.
Mr. Haney says the family has had charity events and large celebrations in the home.
“It’s a great party house.”
Upstairs, the master bedroom suite stretches across the rear of the house. There’s a separate sitting area and a balcony overlooking the pool. His-and-hers dressing areas and bathrooms are separated by a study under a large skylight.
Two additional bedrooms on that floor have ensuite bathrooms.
A set of stairs leads to the third floor, with two smaller bedrooms and a bathroom.
One of the top floor rooms served for years as Mr. Haney’s “man cave.”
He says the room with a Palladian window overlooking the street allowed him to write, sheltered from the tumult downstairs that comes with four kids. But when the home was staged for sale, the memorabilia was packed away.
“No one bugged me up here,” he said of the private spot. “The only remnants are the photo on my blog.”
The lower level has a recreation room for the younger generation, a wine cellar and a home gym.
Mr. Haney says the neighbourhood between St. Clair Avenue West and Eglinton Avenue West has always been family-friendly and today, new generations are arriving.
“There have been more and more kids moving in.”
The best feature
The in-ground swimming pool was already in place when the Haneys moved in, but the couple added the gazebo with a bar area and some landscaping. A blue spruce tree has grown tall through the years.
Mature trees create a green backdrop and shade in the pool area.
“We live out here,” Mr. Haney said.