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Where did the rest of this house on St. Patrick Street go?

Posted by Chris Bateman / April 17, 2013

toronto half houseIt's not an optical illusion. This St. Patrick Street house really has been sliced and diced. Once part of a row of six matching properties, the home is now a relic of a bygone era, marooned opposite a concrete surface parking garage and snuggled tight against a major housing development.

Like many bay-and-gable homes close to the ever-expanding core, demand for land made survival unlikely. Yet 54 1/2 St. Patrick has managed to hang on, a rare survivor out of a squalid slum.

toronto william streetThe row of houses was built between 1890 and 1893 on what was first Dummer Street, then William Street, then, finally, St. Patrick Street. The names of the roads in this part of the city area have been shuffled more than most: St. Patrick Street used to refer to the stretch of road that's now part of Dundas west of McCaul; McCaul used to be William Henry Street, then West William Street, for example.

For much of its past the street was blighted by poverty. Early photos show severe faces, crumbling wall cladding, and backyards strewn with detritus. More recently the area between University and Spadina has been home to a large Chinese community.toronto goads atlasStarting in 1957, most of the block bound by Queen, McCaul, St. Patrick, and Dundas Street was purchased in pieces by Windlass Holdings Ltd., the company that developed the Village by the Grange, sometimes using aggressive tactics to secure land deeds.

The owner of 54 St. Patrick Street - once part of the original terrace - complained to the Toronto Star that the company's actions were "an extreme example of blockbusting," claiming he had received over 300 directives on his property in a single year.

Interestingly, the odd numbering system almost as old as the houses. The houses are marked 52 1/2, 54, 54 1/2, 56, 58, and 60 moving north on the 1913 Goad's fire insurance plan.toronto half houseDespite some resistance, the owners of the homes sold up at different times, and the row was pulled down in pieces like tooth extractions. The sole-survivor pictured here was once in the third house in the row from the south - the similar buildings next door are a later addition built on top of a laneway.

Though the development company was interested, it was never able to secure what's now 54 1/2 St. Patrick.toronto village on the grangeInstead, the company demolished its neighbour to the north with surgical precision, ensuring not even the woodwork on the facade of the hold-out building was disturbed. An internal supporting wall became a blank exterior when the house next door came down.

The owners of the original building to the south, the one preceding the current property, held out a while too. Pictures taken in the mid 70s show it clearly inhabited with cars in the drive. Eventually, however, just one of the six in the row of homes would remain.toronto village on the grangeThe Village by the Grange, originally a much denser housing project, opened in early 1975 after several concessions were agreed between the city and Windlass that reduced several of the planned buildings in size and added public space. Other proposals at Quebec and Gothic avenues (just north of High Park) and Dundas and Sherbourne were also hotly debated at the same time.toronto half house54 1/2 St. Patrick is currently vacant. No-one answered when I knocked at the door and the front room has been stripped to the floorboards. Perhaps it's being spruced up, it would surely be worth it. The current assessment on file with the city lists the value at $648,000.

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Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Images: Chris Bateman and City of Toronto Archives



local / April 17, 2013 at 04:19 pm
Wow. I've walked that street several times over the years and have never noticed that oddity. Eyes to the pavement I guess. Makes me think of the movie "Up". And boy, didn't that developer put up a thing of beauty in place of those lovely homes! Ugh.
L / April 17, 2013 at 04:19 pm
Andrew / April 17, 2013 at 05:49 pm
Agree with local :)
Lolabelle / April 17, 2013 at 05:56 pm
Thanks for such a great article - I love learning about our rich architectural heritage. Think of the history we mindlessly walk by each and every day. Keep 'em coming!
Antoine Rouge / April 17, 2013 at 06:04 pm
It would be an ideal location for a halfway house.
fghfsghs replying to a comment from Antoine Rouge / April 17, 2013 at 06:24 pm
*slow clap*
fghfsghs's Mom replying to a comment from fghfsghs / April 17, 2013 at 06:48 pm
Got the clap in college.

(...and she got it 'nice and slooooow.')
iSkyscraper / April 17, 2013 at 06:57 pm
I'm rather surprised this is structurally stable. Row houses like this have party walls that are meant to carry the vertical loads, sure, but not lateral loads. There are often cases where they later have issues. Here is one example:

I'm not saying that this is necessarily the case here but I sure hope they took appropriate measures to stabilize the wall when the adjacent property came down.

the lemur / April 17, 2013 at 07:45 pm
There's a house on Bathurst that recently underwent the same treatment, except that a house in a different style is being built where the demolished half was.
stopitman replying to a comment from iSkyscraper / April 17, 2013 at 08:16 pm
I bet their heating bills are through the roof too, unless they put studs in and insulated it.

Very neat though, I've never noticed it the few times I've gone down the street.
Macsapple / April 18, 2013 at 10:31 am
Lol- great photoshop work, if I wasn't a graphic artist working in the field I would have thought it was real :-) slight pixelation difference on the edging gave it away though!
Graham replying to a comment from iSkyscraper / April 18, 2013 at 10:43 am
If you read the article iskyscraper mentioned, this was a stand alone, or Detached, building that was built in the 1840's and simply just decayed and crumbled. It was not structurally compromised by tearing down a neighbouring building.
E. Toby Coke replying to a comment from Macsapple / April 18, 2013 at 11:25 am
"Lol- great photoshop work"

Yep -- so good, it even fooled the streetview camera!
Shay replying to a comment from Macsapple / April 18, 2013 at 11:44 am
Photoshopped so well it even fooled my own eyes when I walked past it the other day... must be a hologram.
nippleholic / April 18, 2013 at 05:24 pm
The last paragraph identifies it at 54 1/2 "St. George".
DenverHigh / April 19, 2013 at 08:02 am
I'm wondering how slicing a structure down the center affected its stability and was financially feasible. It would have been interesting if the bisecting wall was glass.
Alex replying to a comment from Macsapple / April 19, 2013 at 03:32 pm
I swear you made a very similar (wrong) comment about another design/building article within the last 3 weeks. I wish I could find it. You really don't seem that well versed in "your field".
Trevor / April 19, 2013 at 10:43 pm
Funny thing is the nice looking house next-door to the left, is the head quarters of "Cottager" magazine.
BowieRamone / April 23, 2013 at 11:59 am
There's a couple of places like this in Kensington Market that I've always been curious the history of. Cool to see this one explained!
iSkyscraper / April 23, 2013 at 12:52 pm
So apparently the Star is just blatantly ripping off BlogTO for stories now, since it's pretty hard to think of any other reason why this story would appear:

And it turns out the building next door bought it and is restoring it for office use.
iSkyscraper replying to a comment from Graham / April 23, 2013 at 12:54 pm
No, not true. The article I referenced about the collapsed row house in Brooklyn contained this paragraph:

"Building inspectors said the row home used to be a middle unit rather than an end unit but added adjacent units were demolished years ago to make way for a school."

I don't mess around when it comes to structural matters.
Daniel Ross / April 24, 2013 at 12:07 pm
Chris, the Star has ripped off your story - and didn't give you credit!

Shame. But also a compliment to the piece, I guess.
rob replying to a comment from Macsapple / April 24, 2013 at 09:26 pm
It is real
Doug / September 30, 2013 at 09:38 pm
103 Redpath Ave. near Yonge & Eglinton is another semi-detached with half demolished. It's been fixed up now but sat decrepit with the common wall exposed for years in the 1990s.
cindy / September 17, 2014 at 04:36 pm
it breaks my heart I use to live at 72 st Patrick until the rewired then took them down,,,,,,,,i know life goes on but after living in that home for 50 years if it was still standing I would have it moved and buy land and live my life happy aagain
the lemur / September 17, 2014 at 04:55 pm
Same thing happened recently with 915 Bathurst: one half of the house (which also used to have a store built onto the front) was demolished and a new low-rise apartment building was built in its place.
Henry Argasinski / September 17, 2014 at 08:39 pm
I remember that house! I was one of the first residents in the 80 St. Patrick building and walked past it everyday. I enjoyed living there and the buildings were fine.
Jill / September 17, 2014 at 08:47 pm
Thanks for the post.
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