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Architectural Oddities and Loopy Landscaping Around Toronto

Posted by Derek Flack / November 5, 2009


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Toronto is home to some pretty strange houses and front lawns. And living around Dupont and Christie, I've had a chance to take a look at quite a number of them, clustered as they are in this area. I've often wondered, however, where else I could find such quirky architecture and/or laugh-inducing landscaping. Well, by combining the resource (read distraction) that is Google Street View with the recommendations of blogTO's followers on Twitter, my curiosity has been mostly satisfied. I've just taken a virtual tour of some of the weirdest properties in the city, and I thought I'd share the experience.

I don't know the stories behind most of these "projects," but a little digging revealed some interesting information about the ones in my neighbourhod. The infamous white elephant on Yarmouth Rd., for instance, was designed by Matt Donovan as part of his thesis project at OCAD, entitled "An Elephant in the Room." The sculpture was then given to James Lawson, a resident on the street. Although I'm constantly amazed that other residents haven't battled to have the elephant "put to rest," I have to say that having walked by it hundreds of times, it's really grown on me. I can't imagine the street without it.

Just around the corner to the west is another oddity. Known as the "House of Parashos," when I first moved into the area, I thought that it might be an oddly placed Greek restaurant. As it turns out, the house is resident Andy Parashos's ode to Greece, and is the result of years of work.


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Heading back toward the east, I was anxious to see the Street View capture of 473 Clinton St., a property covered with pool cues and other woodworks. Unfortunately, the foliage of the trees on the property covers much of homeowner Albino Carreira's work. For a closer look, check here.


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Those unfamiliar with Mr. Carreira's house, might just have seen his minivan around town. Covered in figurines of all kinds, the white Plymouth Voyager resembles something of a moving art installation. Parked just up the street from Carreira's home on the day Google did its sweep, it's thankfully unobstructed and easy to zoom in on.

Believe it or not, all three of the above properties were the subject of an art exhibit curated by Duncan Farnan at the Harbourfront Centre a few years ago.


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Moving away from my own area, my information about these oddball houses is less researched. I've heard that the cubes on Sumach St. are actually an occupied home, the architectural design of which was inspired by similar abodes throughout Rotterdam, but I've yet to confirm this.


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The "doll house" at 44 Bertmount Ave. is also pretty fascinating, if not from an architectural standpoint (!).


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Less gaudy, but still strange is 157 Coxwell Ave.


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199 Gladstone Ave. is odd in a subtle sort of way.


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The wacky homes at Leslie St. and Bond Ave. may have been around for a decade or so, but never cease to look strange to me. Rumour has it that an architect built the residences to live in himself (herself?), but perhaps someone out there has more details or accurate information.


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It's easy to make fun of these places, but at the end of the day, I firmly believe that they add an intriguing element to this city that it desperately needs. Thanks to our loyal followers on Twitter for so many good suggestions. And, of course, if you know of other wacky properties around town, leave a comment and I'll try to add to the post!

Reader Suggestions:

The tiny house at 36 Hanson St., courtesy of commenter, Mark.


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The narrowest house in the city at 339 Shuter St., courtesy of commenter, the Beerad.


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A strange, church-like structure at 78 Abbott Avenue, courtesy of commenter, Kevin.


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A rival to the "House of Parashos" on Cedarcrest Blvd., courtesy of commenter, Rob


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Here's a Twitter recommendation that I forgot. The house is located on Markham St. south of Dundas St. Are those stuffed animals in plastic bags?


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Discussion

48 Comments

mark. / November 5, 2009 at 02:56 pm
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Love it!
Elizabeth / November 5, 2009 at 02:56 pm
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I love the white elephant! I think the tree next to it is a cherry tree and I always imagine the elephant sneaking a cherry when no one's looking...

I also think those purple houses on Bond are crazy, considering the neighbourhood. But cool!
Mark / November 5, 2009 at 03:01 pm
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There's an absoutely tiny house at 36 Hanson Street (across from the school). My wife insists it's a shed, but it has its own electric hook-up from the grid, house number, front garden, etc. I've seen a lady watering her garden and going in there, but don't know much else.
The Beerad / November 5, 2009 at 03:02 pm
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383 Shuter St, the narrowest house in Toronto (8 ft). (Ed.'s note: google link posted).
canuck1975 / November 5, 2009 at 03:09 pm
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The houses at Bond & Leslie were built in the late 80s by an architect. He lived in the one on the left and his sister (or maybe sister-in-law) lived in the other.

There was an article in Toronto Life about a few years back.

I lived north of there off Leslie but went to school in the city. I took the 51 past there all the time and used to wonder who was nuts enough to build them. It's actually a fascinating story if you can find the magazine.
Mark / November 5, 2009 at 03:13 pm
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Not a house, but a quintuple-cycle pictured outside of 92 Hanson Street....
Kevin / November 5, 2009 at 03:32 pm
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72 Abbott Ave.!
Marc Lostracco / November 5, 2009 at 03:37 pm
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"I've heard that the cubes on Sumach St. are actually an occupied home, the architectural design of which was inspired by similar abodes throughout Rotterdam, but I've yet to confirm this."

Google search for "Rotterdam cubes."
First result.
Google search for "Piet Blom Toronto" (the architect of Rotterdam's cubes).
First result.
Confirmed.

There you go.
Mapper99 / November 5, 2009 at 03:45 pm
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Lots more of those crazy Google Street Views here:

http://streetviewgallery.corank.com/
Tom / November 5, 2009 at 03:46 pm
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The cubes are occupied. During doors open TO we walked by and rang some doorbells, hoping we could convince the people to let us check it out. Turns out they were less then enthused by the idea.
Marcus / November 5, 2009 at 03:54 pm
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What about the giant moose @ 166 Bellevue Ave?
Rob / November 5, 2009 at 03:55 pm
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There's a very odd house in my old neighbourhood, around Vic Park and St Clair where East York meets Scarborough. It definitely has some odd architecture, and as I recall my mother telling me, a Mercedes cemented into the driveway behind the gate.

http://maps.google.ca/maps?f=q&;source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=69+cedarcrest+blvd+toronto&sll=49.891235,-97.15369&sspn=29.138493,56.513672&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=69+Cedarcrest+Blvd,+Toronto,+Toronto+Division,+Ontario&ll=43.705903,-79.29252&spn=0.001989,0.003449&t=h&z=18&layer=c&cbll=43.705809,-79.29248&panoid=XTcFJVEKNCpjWc3gm4dtGw&cbp=12,307.27,,0,5
Rob / November 5, 2009 at 04:02 pm
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Actually, scrolling one frame over, you can see someone cleaning/maintaining one of the minarets!

http://maps.google.ca/maps?f=q&;source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=69+cedarcrest+blvd+toronto&sll=49.891235,-97.15369&sspn=29.138493,56.513672&ie=UTF8&t=h&layer=c&cbll=43.705763,-79.29268&panoid=7ABh4l7K9DcT00K_O92BzA&cbp=12,307.27,,0,5&hq=&hnear=69+Cedarcrest+Blvd,+Toronto,+Toronto+Division,+Ontario&ll=43.705806,-79.292504&spn=0.001989,0.003449&z=18
Adam / November 5, 2009 at 04:05 pm
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No way, someone lives in those cubes on Sumach?! That's nuts. I've always thought they were some kind of public art installation.
David / November 5, 2009 at 04:21 pm
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Too funny!
Vic De Zen / November 5, 2009 at 04:21 pm
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I love it. It adds character to the neighbourhood!
DBoi / November 5, 2009 at 04:24 pm
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The tiny house at 36 Hanson St. is actually a workshop. I've talked to the dude who rents out the space. No one really lives in there full time.
Dave replying to a comment from Kevin / November 5, 2009 at 04:31 pm
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The jerks always come out on the blogto comment threads. I did your google searches, Marc,but what I couldn't find on the first results was whether or not the cube house is currently occupied, something the blogger also mentions. Thanks for wasting my time.

Thanks to Tom for confirming that they are indeed occupied. I think it's cool that somebody actually lives there, even if it is plastered with advertisements.
Dave replying to a comment from Marc Lostracco / November 5, 2009 at 04:46 pm
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Sorry, Kevin. I obviously meant to reply to Marc.
Jorge / November 5, 2009 at 05:18 pm
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Check out this statue of a man on a horse at 222 Westlake Ave.

http://tinyurl.com/ykmb8sq
Elizabeth replying to a comment from Marc Lostracco / November 5, 2009 at 05:27 pm
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What's your problem, Marc? Irritated that you didn't think of this idea first for Torontoist? It's a cool blog post, not an academic journal article on Toronto architecture.
LocusGIrl / November 5, 2009 at 06:27 pm
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The houses on Leslie St. and Bond Ave were not built in the late 80s, I remember watching a show about it, and they were made for some buyers who picked it out after sketches, but once the homes were built they didn't like how it turned out and the houses were put on sale. Everything in the house is a custom size making it really difficult to furnish.
http://www.torontolife.com/daily/urban-decoder/2004/01/01/urban-decoder-architecture-6/
W. K. Lis / November 5, 2009 at 07:10 pm
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Where's Waldo? Try London at http://maps.google.ca/maps?f=q&;source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=77+Putney+High+St,+Wandsworth,+England,+United+Kingdom&sll=49.325122,-97.119141&sspn=43.20176,114.169922&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=77+Putney+High+St,+Wandsworth,+Greater+London+SW15+1,+United+Kingdom&ll=51.463874,-0.215521&spn=0,359.972126&z=16&layer=c&cbll=51.463958,-0.215476&panoid=aTUlkjN4ZDh_2sWaOxjDPg&cbp=12,113.3,,0,6.73

to see Waldo.
Luke / November 5, 2009 at 07:30 pm
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Does anyone remember that weird anti-drunk driver house on Simpson near Broadview & Gerrard? If I remember correctly it had panda bears in cages and all these slogans painted all over it. I'm not sure if it is still there.
liza / November 5, 2009 at 07:59 pm
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More interesting T.O. dwellings, with only some overlap:

http://www.tobuilt.ca/php/tooddities.php?&;search_fd23=*oddities*
west side dweller / November 5, 2009 at 08:17 pm
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Great, great post showing something great about our city; one of the most enjoyable posts i have read on blogto. it's a shame those rotterdam houses get plastered by advertising though.
Elisabeth Rowley Mitchell / November 5, 2009 at 09:08 pm
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I am cracking up! Although the oddity is hilarious, it speaks of the colourful diversity we love in Toronto. Thanks for the warmth and smiles this evening.
ChrisToronto / November 6, 2009 at 06:25 am
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You've linked the Clinton St. house to stylenorth.ca (thanks!) and it's worth noting that stylenorth has an entire category, Follies, dedicated to these types of decorating high-jinx: http://stylenorth.ca/blog/category/folly/
Marc Lostracco replying to a comment from Dave / November 6, 2009 at 09:18 am
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You're right. I didn't intend on coming across as that dickish, so apologies.
Marc Lostracco replying to a comment from Dave / November 6, 2009 at 09:20 am
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And for the record, I always like these kinds of articles.
ELR replying to a comment from Luke / November 6, 2009 at 09:24 am
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Yes! I remember that house (it was sold a year or two ago, and fixed up). There was a storefront on Gerrard (at Logan, across from the Beer Store) that must have been owned by the same person. It also had drunk driving slogans and stuffed animals in the window (and a lot of garbage). It's been sold and fixed up as well. I had heard a long time ago that it was a father who had lost a child to a drunk driver, but was always interested in the true story.
Umm replying to a comment from Marc Lostracco / November 6, 2009 at 09:50 am
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This type of behaviour from the editor of a competing web site makes competing web site look really, really pathetic.
M-PC / November 6, 2009 at 10:33 am
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it's so funny to see house of parashos on here. i grew up around the corner from it and remember the rumour that it was an old folks' home.
? replying to a comment from Umm / November 6, 2009 at 10:35 am
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What, apologizing for his comment coming off the wrong way? Yeah, pathetic.
M-PC / November 6, 2009 at 10:40 am
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there's another cool house in toronto…i can't remember where it is, but it's tall, narrow and of a sort of art-deco design. if anyone watches being erica, it was used as the house of the author whose book erica was working on. she goes to his house and finds that he's passed out from taking too many pills. anyone??
dotmike / November 6, 2009 at 10:50 am
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what about The Little House on Day Ave.? http://bit.ly/FGQzr

Kristen replying to a comment from Jorge / November 6, 2009 at 10:57 am
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There's a man on a horse on Regal Rd. too! http://bit.ly/3uf15T
Elizabeth replying to a comment from ? / November 6, 2009 at 05:09 pm
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No, Marc's comment in the first place was obnoxious.
Adam / November 6, 2009 at 06:04 pm
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Re: "It's easy to make fun of these places, but at the end of the day, I firmly believe that they add an intriguing element to this city that it desperately needs"

Doesn't this post prove that the city didn't "desperately need" quirky residential architecture? Or "intriguing elements" generally? I submit there is plenty to intrigue around here, and if you get out of the house and explore the city on foot instead of on Google you may appreciate this place a little better.

Sorry, but I'm a little tired of these clichéd, unsubstantiated, casual Toronto bashes that take the city's supposed flaws as axiomatic.
Derek replying to a comment from Adam / November 6, 2009 at 06:28 pm
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I guess you haven't travelled all that much. I love Toronto, but from the standpoint of architectural intrigue, we're pretty low on the global list.

And though you take the time to quote the post, you unfaithfully alter my tense from the present to the past. It desperately "needs" these quirks and oddities because, for the most part, they're in short supply, and it would thus be a shame to lose them (which other commenters point out has happened in the past). At the end of the day, it's pretty clear that you just don't get it in general: highlighting these oddities helps to facilitate the exploration of these properties in person by identifying where they're located.

Sorry, but I'm really tired of under-reasoned and assinine comments like this.
Marc Lostracco replying to a comment from Elizabeth / November 6, 2009 at 09:42 pm
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Yeah, like I said: apologies. I was in a grumpy mood.
LocusGIrl / November 7, 2009 at 03:43 am
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How quickly do we forget that Toronto is still (in the bigger picture) a relatively "new" city. It will get its quirks and character in time, just be patient.
Bongo / November 11, 2009 at 06:14 pm
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Stuff you can't do in a condo.
SJC / December 3, 2010 at 03:01 pm
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Toronto is a remarkable city with many hidden treasures! i grew up in the annex and know the complete story about 473 clinton st. The owner had a major accident in 1993 and broke his neck leaving him unable to work. Spending most of his time making puzzles and napping outdoors he got his spark of imagination when the mailman would accidentally wake him as he approach the mailbox at the doorstep. The owner moved the mailbox decorating and building it with tree branches and he then decided to start decorating the veranda and lawn in a similar style. he had many more ideas behind the growth of various sections of the house and his van....which he enjoys talking about it especially if you can speak Portuguese!(his language)
Effie replying to a comment from canuck1975 / April 15, 2013 at 11:04 pm
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When our children were young we would drive past the three odd houses while they were being built. Our kids were fascinated and begged us to stop and look around. The interiors were still being completed and someone left the doors unlocked. We were brazen and traipsed through. Very unusual layouts inside. Our 2 kids begged us to buy one or two of them. I think they wanted one each, like a tree house.LOL
Effie replying to a comment from canuck1975 / April 15, 2013 at 11:07 pm
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Above comment is about the 3 Leslie St and Bond St houses directed to canuck1975.
tom / August 28, 2013 at 04:12 pm
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Another suggestion
https://maps.google.ca/?ll=43.680423,-79.319669&;spn=0.001007,0.002642&t=m&z=19&layer=c&cbll=43.680534,-79.319718&panoid=9IHlwxk7m97_p7cIOIzITA&cbp=12,84.16,,0,-7.61

btw the small house is currently up for sale.
tom replying to a comment from DBoi / August 28, 2013 at 04:22 pm
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Just in case you hadn't noticed, 36 Hanson street is currently up for sale.

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