A family homestead passes on
129 Blythwood Rd.
With a barn in the backyard, you can smell the history of this 132-year-old North Toronto home
THE LISTING: 129 Blythwood Rd.
ASKING PRICE: $2,388,000
TAXES: $9,280.74 (2016)
LOT SIZE: 60 ft. by 181 ft.
LISTING AGENT: Patrice Gale, broker, Royal LePage Real Estate Services Ltd.
The living room at 129 Blythwood Rd.
There’s an uncommon sight when you look out a window in one of 129 Blythwood Rd.’s back bedrooms: in the foreground, there’s a red-roofed barn, while in the background a high-rise apartment building.
The North Toronto home, which is steps away from a heavily trafficked part of Yonge Street, was home to sisters Elaine Ramsay and Heather Niven.
Despite the great urbanization that took place around their family homestead, Ms. Ramsay still remembers pastoral elements of her childhood; such as tending to the orchard, which included plum, cherry, pear and apple trees, as well raspberry, blackberry, elderberry and Sasktatoon berry bushes that remained in the backyard.
The dining area.
“In the summer, we had a little list and a can and we had to pick all of our berries before we could go out and have fun,” she said.
Now that her parents have passed, Ms. Ramsay is parting with this home that has been in their family for 132 years.
Many original details still remain.
The Ramsay home was built in 1885 by Ms. Ramsay’s great-great-grandfather, James, who came to Canada from Scotland in 1856 with his parents and started a carpentry company with John Fisher (who would later become the mayor of North Toronto). Together, the pair built many of the edifices in the area, including the North Toronto Town Hall in 1884, John Fisher public school in 1887 and a house at 115 Blythwood Rd. in 1881.
As a place to raise his four boys, James built a two-storey, four-bedroom family house with a barn in the back and more than a century later, many of the details of the house still remain. For example, all of the hanging light fixtures and their plaster ceiling medallions are still there; as are intricately detailed hinges on doors and a grand, curved staircase with its hand-detailed newel and spindles.
“I have a lot of pride for this home,” said Ms. Ramsay. “Even as a kid I knew that it was unique.”
The second floor, with the original curving staircase still intact.
Over its life, the multiple generations of Ramsays have made some changes to the interior of the home, which has a historical designation. Before her time there, one of Elaine’s ancestors added plumbing and electricity (and got rid of the outhouse). Eventually, a small addition was added to the back for a little kitchen.
When her parents took over ownership in 1972, they lived with the cramped kitchen off the back for a bit but by the 1980s, they added another eight or so feet to the back, modernized the kitchen and added a spacious powder room and a eat-in area with huge windows showcasing the long lot and its greenery.
An accessible shower stall was added on the second floor.
About 12 years ago, the upstairs bathroom was redone to add an accessible shower stall. A second toilet was added to that floor as well.
Over the years, the country elements of the home have changed too. Much of the orchard is gone after Ms. Ramsay’s parents had the backyard landscaped about 15 years so that it was less maintenance.
The barn still stands in the backyard.
The barn that is standing is the original, but its structure has been reinforced and the metal roof is a new.
Currently, the barn is empty, save for the home’s original shutters, which are stored on the second floor. Many years ago, one of James’s son – Harry, known as Dick – kept his race horse, Valda, in there. And while there hasn’t been any big farm animals living in the barn for a while, it still smells like the country.
“It is such a distinct smell – like the old wood and hot summer days,” Ms. Ramsay said, adding that she and her sister “love it.”
The second floor of the barn was once a play space.
During her childhood, the second floor of the barn became their play place after their father decked it out with some couches, chairs and a ping pong table. But broker Patrice Gale sees a lot of potential. “Somebody might potentially want to create a secondary suite here. It could be a studio, a garage, a rental suite or a guest house.”
Added Ms. Ramsay: “It’d be lovely to see someone use it more regularly and give it some more life.”
The home’s front hall. Having grown up in the home, Ms. Ramsay has a lot of meaningful spots but one she really treasures is the front porch.
“We’d sit on the porch and everyone would wave or come by and chat,” she said. “And it’s a lovely deep porch, so you could sit out there in a rain or thunderstorm and you’d never get wet. You could just watch the storm go by.”
For Ms. Gale, her favourite space is the entrance hallway with its embossed, classic wallpaper (which Ms. Ramsay’s mother added in the 1970s) and the staircase.
“That hallway gives you the impression of the entire home,” Ms. Gale said. “You can feel the history of the house in that hallway.”
A second-floor bedroom.
There’s no denying that closing this chapter of her family’s history is tough for Ms. Ramsay.
“It is sad, but it would be nice to have someone else take it over,” she said, while dabbing tears with a tissue. “We have passed it on for many, many generations but feasibly it has to end somewhere.”