Whilst many people talk about a Victorian building, few people realize that Victorian is not a style. From 1835 and 1900 there were many styles of construction built and ‘Victorian’ architecture includes them all. There are common things to look out for, but with the mixture of styles used it is impossible to say it is a particular style. With varying features from Classical and Gothic, these properties can be constructed using brick, stone and timber.
Throughout Ontario, if you want to see lots of Victorian structures then you need to look at the houses. All types of home, from the urban town property to the large country farm have been touched by this indicative style and solid craftsmanship. When builders looked at the design of homes, they looked to patterns, frills and swirls to create that Victorian elegance. This led to criticism by a couple of European factions who believed the styles to be needlessly cluttered and complex. Though there was doubtless a huge mixing of the architectural styles throughout the period, the final outcome always seemed to have a unity of design that made everything work.
The Cabbagetown Victorian Homes are born
Unlike in today’s subdivisions where many properties are built by the same builder in not-too-subtle variations on the same idea, the builders of what was Toronto’s first suburb were a very varied and imaginative bunch. These builders began looking north of Queen Street for building plots in the 1830’s, and saw that the land north of Queen and west of Parliament had been logged and cleared for farming. The homes of Toronto’s (or York as it was originally called) notable officials were built on these empty ‘park lots’.
Farm homes and cottages, albeit only a few, were the first pieces of Toronto Victorian homes to be erected in Cabbagetown The initial building lots were sold in 1845 along Sherbourne Street, with the land being split into a grid arrangement of streets by city surveyor John Howard. The narrow plots of only 15 to 20 foot in width, made the most reasonable house the terraced (row or attached homes). But a more extravagant early Victorian specimen is Allandale, the house at 241 Sherbourne Street. The house boasts a large rustic porch, with an elaborate trim and two-toned decorative brick work; the owner being Enoch Turner, the brewer, who had it built in the late 1840’s. This property is not the only example of early Victorian construction in the area; 424 Ontario Street with it’s gingerbread trim threatening to eclipse the delicacy of the design, is without doubt worth having a look at.