Toronto’s Oddest Architecture

October 24, 2021

Toronto has more than enough “cookie-cutter” houses but it also has some rather odd examples of private homes. This post collects some of them from various parts of the city and includes a Google Maps link to each one of them. Which one would you live in if you had the choice?

Leslieville is an area on the east side of the Don River which was formerly one of the industrial areas of the city. There are a lot of small side streets lined with working-class homes. The home at 37 Bertmount Avenue stands out from the rest because of the collection of toys, dolls, and collectibles that adorn the front lawn. The collection started as a hobby when the lady of the house lost her husband over 20 years ago. The collection is ever-changing as she adopts various holiday themes. Halloween items have taken prominent positions in the display.

The items on the front lawn appear to be mostly children’s toys and dolls leading to the nickname “The Doll House”. If you take the time to look carefully you just might see one that looks like something you used to own yourself.

The house at 157 Coxwell Avenue has had a makeover and what formerly looked like a mixed-up Rubik’s Cube is only slightly less out of place among its neighbours. The three-story tower was built in 2003 on four stilts that are sunk 48 feet into the ground. Designed by architect Rohan Walters the house takes full advantage of the 23-foot wide lot. Each floor is 16 feet wide and parking is provided under the house. There’s an open patio on the roof and the front door is reached across a private bridge. It was recently sold and the new owners have remodeled the outside to get rid of the blue, red, yellow, and green plywood panels that made it impossible to miss.

The house at 469 Broadview Avenue has the distinction of being the oldest, continually inhabited house in the city. The earliest section of the home was built prior to 1807 for John Cox who owned a store in the town of York. Alterations and additions over the years have hidden the original log structure. An electrician working in the home in 1995 discovered the original log home hiding inside the walls. This house now looks completely out of place surrounded by larger, more modern homes. There are a couple of log homes in the city that might be a few years older but this is the oldest one that still stands in its original location.

Just 8 feet wide, the house at 363 Shuter is the narrowest detached home in the city, although it isn’t the smallest. That honour goes to a home which is also featured in this article. The original home on this lot was built in 1880 and was just a single story. Renovations over the years have hidden the original home and added two more floors. The home is filled with light and has a finished basement and landscaped backyard. It was recently on the market for $750,000.

Bright Street is a small residential street in the old Corktown area of the city. This working-class Irish enclave was named after Thomas Bright who owned the land until his death in 1857. After that, it was sold off into building lots. The intersection of Bright Street and Queen Street was adjusted, leaving all the lots on the street with irregular shapes. In the 1860s the victorian Bay and Gable terraces on either side of number 32 Bright Street were built but the rights to the lot where the little bungalow stood weren’t secured for development. With the angle of the roadway changed the bungalow sits at a funny angle to the street and its neighbours.

Toronto also has a what appears to be half of a house. It is actually one sixth of a row of Victorian row houses each featuring the Toronto signature “Bay and Gable” design. They were built in the early 1890s and a land developer began buying them up in the 1950s. By the 1970s five of them had been bought up but the sixth one was owned by someone who refused to sell. five of them were demolished leaving 54 1/2 St. Patrick Street looking like half of a duplex.

Cube houses were developed in the Netherlands in the 1970s. It takes a cube shape and stands it on an angle atop a small podium. They were designed to optimize space and the first three were built in 1974. Forty were built in Rotterdam and another 39 in Helmond. It was a short-lived fad and no more would be built until 1996. That is when 3 were built at 1 Sumach St. in Toronto. These three homes are now in the way of a 35 story tower and their fate is unknown. It was originally thought that they could be moved somewhere but there are currently no plans. I guess we’ll see what happens to the only 3 cube houses in the world, outside of the Netherlands.

Known as the Herman Heintzman House it was built in 1891 with part of the Heintzman Piano fortune. Located at 166 High Park Avenue the home features a round tower that hides the staircase to the secod floor. The tower has an open air gallery at the top.

The Parashos family has turned their home at 1016 Shaw Street into a showpiece for their Greek heritage. Columns, urns, and sculptures all adorn this house whose red clay tile roof is lined with statues.

128 Day Avenue has the distinction of being the smallest house in the city at just 2.2 metres wide and 14.3 metres long. It has a living room, kitchen and small sleeping area on the main floor and a small basement. Originally the lot was intended to be a laneway but the city wouldn’t cut the curb for vehicle access. Therefore, in 1912 Mr. Weeden decided to build a small house there. He lived there with his wife for 26 years before selling it. It’s had several owners since then and sold for $180,000 in 2010.

From the smallest to one of the largest and best examples of a Gothic Revival home in the city. The house is known as Oaklands and was built in 1860 with the tower added in 1869. The home is now part of De La Salle college.

Toronto has a wide variety of different architectural styles but there’s plenty of places that have a style all their own. These are just a few of the better-known ones.

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