Tag Archives: history of toronto
History of Riverdale tied to Victorian-era abode
Deirdre Kelly – Globe and Mail
264 Bain Avenue, Toronto – $879,000
The back story
This restored Victorian-era home was built circa 1880 for the Robinsons, prominent members of Ontario’s Family Compact of Anglo elites. The Robinsons early on influenced the development of Riverdale, the Toronto neighbourhood where this detached two-storey is located.
According to agents Irene Kaushansky and Philip Brown, who investigated the home’s heritage, the original owner, Christopher Robinson, received one of the four original land grants in Riverdale; Pape Avenue, located at Riverdale’s eastern boundary, was originally called Robinson in his honour. His son was Sir John Beverley Robinson, Bart., Attorney General and Chief Justice of Upper Canada, and his granddaughter was Mrs. William Forsyth-Grant, after whom Grant Street was named.
The original Mr. Robinson also had a daughter who married a General Lefroy after whom part of the present First Avenue was once named. The Robinsons were also friends of the Heward family, who lived at what is today known as Heward Avenue, also in Riverdale. They sold the Robinsons their land.
The present homeowner, a recently retired professor of cinema studies, was made aware of the home’s fascinating history when, shortly after purchasing the dwelling five years ago, the previous owner presented her with a vintage photograph of the original family standing in front of the house. She in turn will hand the photograph over to the next purchaser as a way of keeping the home’s history alive.
Mindful of the home’s special place in the history of Toronto, the present homeowner, who wishes to remain anonymous, renovated the interior to showcase some of the heritage details that have survived since the Robinsons’ days while also adapting it to modern living.
“It is a true mid-1880s Victorian,” she says, “one of the original cluster of homes in North Riverdale, that came with an oval Gothic window and original doorway mouldings. It also has 10-foot ceilings, and eight-inch baseboards throughout. On top of that is the romance that came in knowing that one family, the Robinsons, had lived in the home for more than three generations.
“It was truly a well-loved family home. But, like many Toronto Victorians, the original house was dark on the inside. My first goal was to bring in some light.”
To that end, she tore down walls and enlarged windows to create what she describes as a feeling of openness on the interior. With the help of contractor David McCaulay, she also added a big, bright, modern kitchen featuring white Shaker-style cabinets, and Brazilian granite.
“The kitchen was transformed from a dingy little room with little light and an entrance blocked by a badly placed radiator into something that one friend has called ‘Zen Victorian,’ ” she says. The home also has a new hot water boiler and updated mechanics. The original hardwood floors are freshly sanded and the Victorian-era stained glass transom windows have all been restored to their former glory.
The home comes with two-car parking, a rarity in Riverdale. But it’s the vintage details that really make it stand out. In the living room is a wood-burning fireplace with marble hearth in addition to original crown moulding and nine-inch baseboards. “It’s got lots of character,” the homeowner says.
Contact the Jeffrey Team for more information – 416-388-1960
Laurin & Natalie Jeffrey are Toronto Realtors with Century 21 Regal Realty.
They did not write these articles, they just reproduce them here for people
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This city has been too quick to pave over past, Star blogger says
Robert Kirsic – Your City My City
How can you know where you are going if you don’t know where you’ve come from?
For far too long Toronto has been quick to pave over the past for the sake of progress. I’m all for progress, but there should be a plan and some rational thought used for the development of the city.
Façades of former buildings are kept strictly for aesthetics on condos, sports arenas, and business towers. The tavern where William Lyon Mackenzie launched his famous rebellion in Upper Canada no longer exists. The buildings that once stood are quickly forgotten once new structures rise in their place.
The City does not do a good enough job at promoting and protecting its history. I recently visited the Toronto Archives and realized how much of a hidden gem it is. The Archives is a great start but it does not go far enough as it is a very small operation that is funded, and controlled, by the City.
I would recommend the City of Toronto create an independent, arms-length, Toronto Historical Society with the intention of securing, protecting, and promoting the city’s history.
A society overseen by a group of historical experts, architects, business leaders and, most importantly, citizens, with a clear purpose, mission, and the ability to raise money, will make it effective and politically neutral.
The Toronto Archives, sites like Fort York and the EX, need to belong under one protective umbrella. They need to be used as a conduit to promote and attract tourists and, more importantly, locals into taking an interest in the history of Toronto.
The society’s mission shouldn’t be narrowed to only buildings and artifacts. Many great people over the last 300 years have contributed to Toronto and they should not be forgotten.
Currently, people who have made considerable contributions to the city only have small alleyways, streets or parks named after them.
Is this how we want to remember these people? Their contributions deserve greater recognition. These efforts should also be coordinated and not become what they currently are – one-off photo-ops and events only to be forgotten the next day. The society can work with individual neighbourhoods to help promote the people that made them great.
Cities like Paris, London and New York are great historical cities that seem to be able to save their collective past. Toronto should be able to do the same.
What makes something special, and worth keeping, are the memories (good or bad) attached to a particular building, neighbourhood or person.
By not taking the steps to save these memories, we lose out on educating future residents on the way Toronto was. Remembering how Toronto was is important in learning what Toronto will become in the future.