Renaissance Fine Homes developer Matthew Garnet was tearing down the walls of the Maclean House at 7 Austin Ter. when his team stumbled upon a discovery as good as gold.
“Even when we did an assessment of all the materials in the building, nobody knew what was there because it was behind a wall,” he explained. “So when the bulldozers took it down, we found another entranceway and one of them said ‘Stop, look, it’s gold!’”
It turns out that discovery was a pair of gold pocket door handles that dated back to around 1910.
Dozens of artefacts uncovered by the developer will go into actual homes for the Maclean House development. Designed by Canadian architect John Lyle and built in 1910 for journalist and founder of Maclean’s Magazine, John Maclean, the property was designated a heritage building in 2010.
Due to its heritage status, attempts to redevelop the site took place over a five-year period and included multiple developers, demolition permits and a 60-day stop work order issued by the province.
Now construction has finally begun on the six units that will make up 7 Austin Ter. Garnet said it’s been an experience to say the least.
“This is the first time we’ve taken on a project where we had to retain some of the structure, and it’s difficult because these things are over 100 years old,” he said.
Garnet points out the sheer quality of the materials used, such as marble and bronze.
“When you look at the materials we use now and the materials they used in 1910, the adage ‘They don’t build them like they used to’ really is true,” he said.
To show off their project Renaissance and Sage Real Estate are renting the coach house of the former Casa Loma stables, located at 330 Walmer Rd., from the city for their showroom.
The stables have a storied past. The City of Toronto website documents how a secret laboratory in the stables played a pivotal role in the development of sound navigation ranging, or SONAR, during the Second World War.
“You’re probably standing close to the same spot the British developed the sonar submarine system that helped in Europe,” said Sage Real Estate broker Phyllis Keller.
The former Maclean House will have three townhomes with a façade built in the Georgian Revival style while the two semi-detached and single-family detached townhomes will be built in the Arts and Craft style, which was the predominant style for the neighbourhood in the 1900s. All are priced at more than $2 million.
The Maclean House was almost demolished when a previous developer applied for a demolition permit and started ripping out the window frames and part of the main entrance.
Garnet is glad it never came to that.
“When Renaissance found this project, we saw it as the gem that it was, not the lemon it was being touted as,” he said. “It had a scary past, but there’s a glorious future for the Maclean House.”
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