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Steven Liu/Steven Liu/Houssmax

164 Dovercourt Rd., Toronto

Asking Price: $2.95-million

Taxes: $9,541.39 (2023)

Lot Size: 22 by 131 feet

Agents: Michael Wacholtz, Clearpath Realty Group, Keller Williams Referred Urban Realty Inc.

The backstory

Sometimes when Melissa Cameron meets one of her neighbours in Prince Edward Island there’s a moment of cognitive confusion when they try to grasp what she’s telling them about coming from Toronto to the garden province. “You left the city? You moved to the country?” they ask with some incredulity.

“My answer is, we love nature,” said Ms. Cameron who was born and raised in Etobicoke and Toronto and who moved to Canada’s smallest province with her four children in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her husband, who enjoys walking to his Bay Street finance job, kept the house at Dovercourt and commuted to “spud island” on the weekends and on breaks. Only now is the family ready to end the dual-house experiment and live full-time together in PEI. “For our family, what kept us sane was nature. And now we’re leaning into a little bit more of that,” said Ms. Cameron.

Another thing she’s been leaning into is a commitment to organic gardening that started while she lived in Toronto. When the couple bought the semi-detached house in 2013, it had recently undergone a gut renovation and update. Where the couple was able to put their stamp on things was the landscaping: They hired Joel Loblaw Inc., to make the backyard a private oasis with beech trees for privacy and indigenous serviceberry bushes.

The top floor had a new deck, but they raised the walls (safer for young children) gave it partial shade and filled it with raised beds for growing produce. Today there are just flowers planted, but when she lived there it was an organic food-producing garden.

With 12 acres to play with Ms. Cameron’s expanding her organic farming work, partnering with like-minded horticulturalists on charitable gardens and on her own landscaping business – The Good Seed Garden – focused on designing self-sustaining food-producing gardens.

The seeds of which were all planted on Dovercourt.

The House Today

The house is a bay-and-gable style house typical of narrow lots in Toronto in the 1870s, with the tall rooftop gables of the Gothic revival style and intricate brickwork on display.

Past an iron fence to the front door is a flagged path that splits to travel to the backyard and up the short set of stairs to the front door.

Inside the main floor is essentially one very deep room with multiple uses. Beneath the front window is a sitting area that transitions to a dining area next to the floating steel stairs. Unlike most homes of the era the stairs here are reversed so the bottom step is in the middle of the house (not right off the front door). The wall with the stairs is exposed red-and-orange brick warming up a space that’s otherwise mostly white walls.

  • Home of the Week, 164 Dovercourt Rd., TorontoSteven Liu/Steven Liu/Houssmax

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The kitchen is the third act of this level and is anchored by an island with bar seating. Beyond the shining white kitchen is a living room with a window wall walkout to the backyard. Where you might expect to find a TV across from the couch is a run of black brick framing the chimney of a fire-truck red wood-burning stove. Blond hardwood floors extend from front to back on the whole level.

There are four bedrooms on the second floor, and the primary suite occupies the back half of the home (part of the extended addition).

The last flight of stairs opens into a huge recreation room that Ms. Cameron said was the home-school classroom during the lockdowns, behind which is the once (and future?) rooftop garden and deck. The laundry room is on this floor as well.

The basement is set up as a rec room with a separate huge seasonal storage mud room. But it has all the appliance hookups and up-to-code egress windows you’d need to make it a secondary living suite, with the current mud room converted to a bedroom.

The secret weapon

The backyard was a playground for Ms. Cameron’s ideas about urban food. At one point they even had a few chickens (in violation of city bylaws): “It was an act of civil disobedience,” she said, but her elderly neighbours would tell her hens were normal in the community decades ago, just as growing backyard grapes and other produce has always been a way of life in Little Portugal.

“Food-bearing gardens used to be in so many people’s homes,” she said. “I think we can do so much in our city to grow food and feed ourselves.”

But the backyard has another advantage over some of the homes of this era: Parking.

The Camerons lived in Kensington Market previously, and one of the features Ms. Cameron really came to appreciate about Dovercourt was the rear laneway – with garbage collection – on which there is a two-car garage. No schlepping around looking for street parking here, or wrestling bins through the garden to the curb.

It’s not quite as much outdoor living space as an acerage in PEI, but for downtown Toronto, it’s pretty luxurious.

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