An Arts and Crafts gem in Old Parkdale
West-end Toronto home swept off the market by heritage-loving architect
The listing: 7 Triller Ave., Toronto
Asking price: $1,999,999
Sale price: $2-million
Lot size: 25.1 feet by 160 feet
Taxes: $7,031.65 (2017)
Listing agents: Kathy Essery and Pavlena Brown, sales representatives, Nested Real Estate & Sage Real Estate Brokerage
Monika Maggiacomo remembers the day she moved in the "haunted house" down the alleyway.
It was 1971, she was 10 – turning 11 – and she was living in a duplex on Wilson Park Avenue in Toronto's west end with her parents and four siblings. Across the alley stood 7 Triller Ave., an old Arts and Crafts house that sat on an overgrown lot. But on moving day, Ms. Maggiacomo loaded up a wagon and wheeled it down the alley.
"We used to call this the haunted house," Ms. Maggiacomo said. "It was very unkempt."
Today, she credits her mother, Krystyna Klemensowicz, with giving her the gift of getting to live in that house during her childhood.
"Mom was the one who saw the vision in this house," Ms. Maggiacomo said. "She saw it was a good space to raise a family."
The back story
The Klemensowicz family moved into the Parkdale home because they desperately needed more space. Once in, the kids spread out over the house's three floors and 3,060 feet of living space.
"The children were very happy to be here," Ms. Klemensowicz said.
Originally built in 1912 by Toronto architect Henry Simpson, the house was designed as his private residence. Starting his career in 1889, Mr. Simpson was a prolific architect in the city, designing dozens of homes – many of which are still standing today – over his 27-year career. Known for his ability to emulate many different architectural styles, Mr. Simpson chose to build his own house in an Arts and Crafts fashion, with exposed beams, big rooms and intricate detailing.
Much of the house remains unchanged today. On the main floor is the living room, a separate dining room, an office space and a kitchen large enough for a separate eat-in area. On the staircase to the second floor, there is the "phone booth" – an alcove with a bench and a phone. The second floor features three bedrooms, a shared full bathroom and a master bedroom, with an ensuite bathroom. The top floor has another bedroom. The basement is largely finished, adding another 1,236 square feet of living space, and has a full bathroom.
The craftsmanship is evident throughout the home, such as in the carving of oak leaves along the wainscotting on the second-floor hallway or in the built-in benches with storage in the basement.
But nowhere is the stamp of Mr. Simpson's Arts and Crafts vision more prominent than in the inglenook, an offshoot of the living room where the home's fireplace resides.
The long fireplace has a brass mantel and is flanked by two built-in benches (also with storage compartments). Above them sits three built-in mahogany cabinets with stained-glass doors. Mr. Simpson's signature can still be seen on the benches; each pew-like bench features an ornate carving of his initials.
Once, Ms. Klemensowicz was visited by Mr. Simpson's granddaughter, who told her about their time visiting granddad at his home.
"She talked about how he smoked a pipe and had a beard like this," she said, gesturing with her hand. "He would smoke while the fire was going. She remembered all of that."
Over their 47 years of ownership, the Klemensowicz family – who are the longest owners of the property – maintained the beauty of the old home and left it largely intact. The home still has knob-and-tube wiring and the original stand-alone sinks remain in many of the bathrooms.
A few of their big changes included adding carpeting shortly after they moved in to make it more cozy.
"I still remember the price! It was $2,222," Ms. Klemensowicz said of that renovation. "It was very expensive for the time."
Another renovation she oversaw was the restoration of the veranda, which is one of her favourite spots and was the site of many summertime dinners. It was redone with the original clay tiles to retain its look.
The family also transformed the backyard, turning it into a social spot that has hosted many parties – and even a wedding – over the years. One of the biggest changes was the addition of the patio stones in the backyard.
"They are from King Street," Ms. Maggiacomo said. "When the city redid the streetcar tracks, Dad just approached them and asked, 'What are you doing with those old stones?'"
One by one, Mr. Klemensowicz moved them – a dozens and dozens in total – into their backyard to make the patio area and parking spots.
"Like Henry Simpson, Dad had a little foresight in terms of making things last," Ms. Maggiacomo said.
Like the home, the neighbourhood it sits in has also seen a major transformation.
"The neighbourhood wasn't very good at the beginning, when we moved into the area," Ms. Klemensowicz said.
The same year they moved into 7 Triller Ave., the Sunnyside train station, which was at the foot of where King Street meets Roncesvalles Avenue, had just shut down.
The residents in the area were working-class people, but things such as sex work was out in the open.
"It was shocking, looking back at it," Ms. Maggiacomo said. "But it never fazed us at the time."
Now, the area has become one of Toronto's outposts for the creative class, with many antique shops and restaurants along Queen Street West.
Agent Kathy Essery said more than 170 people visited the home through open houses and showings.
"Every time Pavlena [Brown] and I walked into the house, it felt like a journey back in time," Ms. Essery said.
"We've sold many 100-year-old homes, but never one with so much history."
Many of the potential buyers were drawn in by the architecture of the home – including its new owner. The property sold after a week on the market to a woman who is an architect who specializes in restoring old homes.
"She instantly fell in love with it for that reason," Ms. Essery said.
Ms. Klemensowicz and Ms. Maggiacomo are thrilled that the next owner is someone who will appreciate the history of the home. But their happiness is tinged by the sadness of moving on from a space that was a lively, loving gathering spot for nearly half a century.
"I've always said a good spirit lives in this house," Ms. Klemensowicz said. "Our family was always very close and happy. I wish the next owners the same future."