If only walls could talk the photos of the old Mills brothers’ home would truly paint a telling story.
An old and somewhat dilapidated house at 53 Indian Grove, steps away from High Park, is the subject of a photo exhibit by Ginger Sorbara and Greg Pacek at the Telephone Booth Gallery on Dundas Street West.
“I was looking for something that really engaged me and got me excited to highlight during the Contact Photography Festival,” said gallery owner, Sharlene Rankin.
To the casual eye the pictures seem to show just the inside of an empty house and one in poor condition at that. To Sorbara, who recently purchased the home along with her husband, the photos represent the lifespan of two local legends.
For the past six years Sorbara has had her eye on the home once owned by the late George and Harry Mills. While they expressed no interest in selling their childhood home, Sorbara soon struck up a friendship with the two brothers.
“They were social and eccentric and intellectual and they were very vivacious and shared that with their community, which is why I think the house has the vibe and aura and character that it does,” Sorbara said.
The Mills brothers were fixtures of the neighbourhood. Home renovation may not have been a preferred pastime of theirs, but their house certainly was a hub of activity. Sorbara described the two as extremely welcoming. They turned their backyard into a community skating rink during the winter and held small concerts during the summer.
Their impact on the area was evident at the exhibit, according to Rankin.
“A lot of people were full of amazing stories about the brothers and the experiences that they’d had in the house and some people even had some choked up moments when they were looking at the photos,” Rankin said. “The brothers were really well loved and respected in the community.”
George and Harry Mills died in 2005 and 2008 respectively. Sorbara purchased the house from their next-of-kin and wanted to document the state of the home before she began renovations.
On March 21, 1911, the city issued a permit to build a $5,000 home at 53 Indian Grove.
On March 21, 2011, Sorbara received her permit to renovate the house.
“I feel like it was meant to be,” Sorbara said while sitting in her current home just two blocks away.
She said the brothers were borderline hoarders and mountains of stuff, including newspapers dating back to the moon landing, were removed from the home. Still, the feeling captured in the photos is tangible.
“This house has a patina of age and the evidence of the history that happened there is apparent whether the stuff is there or not,” she said.
Sorbara said she and her family hope to carry on the legacy of hospitality that seems to be engrained in the house.
“As soon as I met them I related to their eccentricity and their welcomingness and their openness,” she said. “They had music festivals in their backyard.
“I can’t wait to do that.”
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