Toronto rowhouses subject of series in major newspaper, from soundproofing to ethnography

Canada’s National Post recently did a series of articles on Toronto’s small, attached buildings.  Although the series was called “Semi-Detached”, articles frequently discussed rowhouses as well as duplexes.  From the series description: “For all the attention paid in recent years to soaring condo towers, it is easy to forget the importance of another of Toronto’s ubiquitous structures: the semi-detached and row house.  There is no shortage of home buyers willing to shell out many hundreds of thousands of dollars to put up with the ambient noise and clashing esthetics.”

Articles included “The party wall and beyond”, “A primer on the semi”, “When you share a wall, make sure you talk to your neighbours”, “Miss-matched houses show a neighbourhood’s changing ethnic makeup”, “Taking the ‘party’ out of your party wall with soundproofing”, and “Loving your neighbours as if they were family”.

From “Mis-matched houses” writer Peter Kuitenbrouwer: “On Monday afternoon, William Greer, who grew up in Toronto and is among the city’s most noted heritage architects (and has the groovy glasses to prove it) joined me for a stroll on Northcote Avenue.  Northcote has on it perhaps 100 dwellings — single houses, semi-detached houses and row houses — in close to 100 styles.

“Mr. Greer chooses to view the overall results charitably.  ‘They are modernizing. How do you judge today whether a building is good or bad? Does the building contribute to the heritage value? Well, frankly, each of these buildings contributes to our heritage in its own way.’

“Much of the heart of Toronto consists of semi-detached houses that developers built in the 19th century.  Maps in the archives tell us that builders erected the houses on Northcote between 1884 and 1890. Most conformed to what Mr. Greer called the ‘bay and gable’ style, with bay windows curving out beside the front doors, and gables on the roof lines.

“The Toronto City Directory for 1912 reveals the ethnic uniformity of Northcote Avenue a century ago.  The ethnic diversity was limited to Harris Goldstein, a shoemaker, and 108 Northcote is labelled ‘Chinese lndry.’  ‘Here you have British immigrants coming and living in a very familiar house-form,”’ Mr. Greer says. ‘There was conformity and a sense of community.’  Today any number of ethnic groups mingle on Northcote; each brought his own taste.”  Full article here.

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