80 Hubbard Blvd., Toronto
Asking Price: $3.699-million
Taxes: $13,106.23 (2021)
Lot Size: 30.18 by 102.21 feet
Listing agent: Shea Warrington, Royal LePage Estate Realty
On a typical summer afternoon, Peter Hughes bikes from downtown Toronto to his house at 80 Hubbard Blvd., gets changed into his swimming gear, grabs his paddleboard, walks across the street and plunges straight into Lake Ontario.
“We’re very fortunate … when someone is walking by you can sense them saying, ‘Could you imagine living here?’ ” Mr. Hughes said. “And then I’m walking down my driveway with my paddleboard in tow, and someone’s looking at me like ‘Oh my gosh, can you imagine ending your day that way?’ ”
Mr. Hughes could, and did. His connection to this stretch of beach in Toronto goes back more than a decade to when he and his then girlfriend rented an apartment a few doors down at the Ramona apartment building after they graduated from university. He even proposed to her on this same beach, part of Kew Beach but slightly removed, nestled between Kew Gardens Park and Balmy Beach Park. In the years since, Mr. Hughes travelled the world with his family doing consulting work, most recently spending years in Melbourne, Australia, where he really began to appreciate a lifestyle that connects to the water.
“What makes us happy is being close to those natural environments ... The water became such a big part of our lifestyle,” Mr. Hughes said. The beach culture of Australia is where his teenage children grew up, and when the couple moved back to Canada in 2014, they wanted something similar. While renting nearby he spotted 80 Hubbard up for sale. “I saw this ‘Coming Soon’ sign on the front lawn of this home … I decided, ‘I’m buying that place,’ ” he said.
There really are not very many family homes in Toronto with this kind of waterfront access, and many of those that do exist have an even higher price premium. Even on Hubbard Boulevard, detached single-family homes are a rarity, outnumbered by small apartment buildings and semi-detached houses. Indeed, 80 Hubbard was a triplex when the Hughes family bought it, and the basement apartment is still a separate rental unit (currently unoccupied).
The family had to “refill the piggy bank” before embarking on a major renovation that rebuilt the house to its current form. Luckily, it was finished just weeks before the pandemic reached Canada’s shores in 2020. The new design is inspired by the water, and by the cottages so many city-dwellers fled to during the pandemic lockdowns.
“I’ve always referred to it as our ‘cottage in the city,’” Mr. Hughes said, and he was inspired to import another cottage country staple to downtown Toronto: The 16-foot floating “Lilly Pad” mat they haul out for the kids to horse around on in the water. “It’s always a spectacle, but especially the old people tell me this is the way the neighbourhood used to be, with all the kids swimming and playing.”
The house today
From the street, the front door of the house looks most inviting with a comfy seating area on the veranda. Most times the family uses the side door, set into an arched entryway that in the warmer months often features a bucket of water for washing off sandy feet. But if you were to enter the front door you’d step right into the renovated kitchen, probably the most important part of the whole-home renovation they undertook just prior to the start of the pandemic.
The first element you see when you come in is the large island with quartz counters, which is big enough to seat six bar chairs around the periphery. The sink is in the island, the range is in the run of counter on the outside wall and the enormous fridge is hidden behind cabinetry at the back of the space.
“If there’s one place in the home that is the central point or focal point, it’s the island,” Mr. Hughes said. “We’re big into food, so you’d be prepping on that island, and that’s where homework is done and puzzles and drawing and other things. You can pop onto a stool and have a snack, that’s where the conversations start; everything leads back to that.”
This space is flooded with light from the huge windows and glass doors that face the lake. Light reflects off the white walls and cabinetry and the dining room space at the front of the house is defined by a built-in hutch and storage cabinets opposite the kitchen. The side door opens into the back half of this kitchen/dining room and there are more built-ins and closets connected to the stairwell leading upstairs that help to divide this space from a formal living room on the back half of the house. A large tiled feature wall with a mounted flat screen TV in this rear room is a splash of bold darkness in an otherwise mainly tan and beige space. Big sliding doors and windows bring in light from the rear yard.
There’s a five-piece bathroom off the back corner here, perfect for rinsing off from the lake, and next to it is a small office space (which, in retrospect, could probably have been made bigger given all the lockdown hours logged in it).
The second floor has three bedrooms: one with views of the lake and two facing the backyard. The lake-view bedroom is accessed by passing through a large laundry room with quartz counters where the old second-floor kitchen used to be. The two bedrooms on the rear of the house are next to the only bathroom on this level, which has a double vanity and glass-walled stand-alone shower. The remaining quarter of the floorplan here is a second living/family room, this one with a fireplace faced with river stone, with a walkout to the balcony above the veranda, facing the lake.
“You’re never going to satisfy the wants of one set of kids versus the other; often times my son and I are watching hockey or sports on the second floor and the rest are on the first floor with a movie,” Mr. Hughes said.
The third level (or fourth if you count the half-basement studio apartment as the first level) is a vertical addition from an earlier era and has a smaller floor plate than the floors below and so is entirely dedicated to the primary suite. The bedroom windows face the lake, and built-in cabinet/nightstands and open shelving nooks bookend the bed. The walk-in closet is on the back side of this space, and beside the main bedroom is a long en suite bath that takes you past a double vanity, wall cabinet for linens and storage, large glass shower with bench and, at the end under lake-facing windows, a large soaker tub. “You’ve got this beautiful view as you’re soaking, especially on a freezing cold day,” Mr. Hughes said.
The least-improved space is the backyard, which had been largely paved over at one point when it was a triplex and remains more of a hard-packed lot with a shed than a lush beachy garden.
A piece of Toronto’s Black history
“Some people are looking for that 150-foot front lot on a lake, we’ve got a front lot a kilometre wide, a park in front, boardwalk, sand, water,” Mr. Hughes said. While some might prize private access, Mr. Hughes prizes interacting with neighbours and visitors.
The street the Hughes live on is remarkable for its community atmosphere and connection to the water, but also its connection to some of Toronto’s most prominent early Black leaders. It’s named after Frederick Hubbard, who is the first Black man to serve as commissioner and then chairman of the Toronto Transit Commission, and who was also the son of William Peyton Hubbard, Toronto’s first Black alderman and one-time acting mayor. Hubbard senior was the son of escaped slaves, and worked as a baker and a horse-drawn taxi driver and is said to have struck up a friendship with The Globe and Mail’s founder, George Brown. In 1894 he ran for city council at age 54, won and was re-elected 14 times over a 20 year career. Among his many accomplishments was a critical role in establishing Ontario and Toronto’s publicly owned hydro utilities, no easy task in an era where private interests hoped to monopolize the growing electrical system.
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