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Why is this West Bend home covered in terracotta tiles?

Posted by Chris Bateman / March 13, 2014

jerome street torontoAt 20 Jerome Street near Dundas West and Dupont, there's a house covered in weather-worn terracotta tile. Across the front, down the sides, and round the back hundreds of mismatched decorative reliefs make the building look like a displaced Asian temple.

The house was built by J. Turner Sr., a west-end Toronto builder in 1905. Terracotta tile had been in vogue in the decades before Turner set to work, but around 1895 tastes started to change and the material went out of fashion, leaving Ontario producers with stockpiles of unwanted product.

Turner's first house on Dundas West near Dupont - long since demolished for townhouses - was the first to take advantage of cheap excess terracotta in Ontario. He decorated the home with floral and lattice patterned tile and installed little flourishes on the lintels above the doors and windows.

John Turner HouseAccording to Terra Cotta-Artful Deceivers, a book published by the Toronto Region Architectural Conservancy, Turner's elaborate exterior may have been a way of advertising his construction business but "the display seems not to have had the desired effect," it says, somewhat ominously.

Turner doubled down and built a new home from scratch on nearby Jerome Street, this time leaving no space on the exterior for exposed brick. Many of the tiles he selected were intended for much larger buildings, the book says says, and, as a result, dominate the home. Repeated faces stare out along the roof line while a bust in an elaborate headdress takes pride of place a the centre of the facade.

The book calls Turner's eccentric design a "misuse" of the sudden excess of tile, but I love the eccentricity and sheer excess.

What do you think?

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

Second photo by Michael Greco on Flickr

Discussion

34 Comments

David C / March 13, 2014 at 10:07 am
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Looks amazing, I will go over and look at it in person when the weather improves! It is a pity terra cotta went out of fashion as it can create great 'accents' - this is more like a pastiche but ...
The Shakes / March 13, 2014 at 10:14 am
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Needs some gargoyles or some of those sea serpent shaped downspouts
Wes Ender / March 13, 2014 at 10:19 am
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Was this written by a real estate agent trying to come up with artificial names for neighbourhoods?

I've lived two blocks away from that house for forty years and no one calls the neighbourhood the west bend. Never even heard that term
Derek / March 13, 2014 at 10:28 am
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Welcome to your neighbourhood.

http://thewestbend.ca/
Sorry / March 13, 2014 at 10:39 am
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It's ugly and needs to be torn down.
abc replying to a comment from Sorry / March 13, 2014 at 11:04 am
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While I agree it's ugly, I do not think it should be torn down. It's nice to have variety in a neighbourhoood, even though I may not want to buy it. Leave the "sameness" to the burbs, thank you.
slumber replying to a comment from Wes Ender / March 13, 2014 at 11:08 am
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I'm around the corner, and I'm not crazy about 'westbend' either. High Park North is what the realtors like, although the Junction is a 5 min walk away and Roncy is 15.

What did they call the neighborhood 40 years ago?
01 / March 13, 2014 at 11:09 am
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Another stupid way to make Toronto seem "unique". It looks like a dump and who the hell thought up "west bend" anyway? Never heard the name. Instead this house makes the neighborhood look like a joke!
Jack replying to a comment from abc / March 13, 2014 at 11:15 am
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You're an idiot. Look around, all of the new condos, townhomes and even a majority of new houses are cookie cutter. Oh yeah and speaking of "sameness" all the guns in Toronto look the same. LMAO
Audio Blood / March 13, 2014 at 11:27 am
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beautiful! nice to see something different in the neighbourhood!
007 replying to a comment from 01 / March 13, 2014 at 11:28 am
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01, what kind of anger do you have bottled up inside to see something as innocent as a novelty article about a kitschy century old house a stupid way to make Toronto seem "unique"? I can't believe you actually said that. The house is not my style, but I'll bet it has more character in its doorstep than you have had in your entire lifetime. Take a huge sedative and stop looking for things to bitch about Toronto. Or, better still, buzz off to some other "unique" city.
01 replying to a comment from 007 / March 13, 2014 at 11:43 am
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I'll bet you're a blubber ass old fart who has nothing better to do than try to insult people you don't know. It's my opinion, which I'm entitled to. I'd bet you wouldn't say that to my face. You are an old troll and you're just jealous of my youth. Nope! I'll live right here in Toronto where my character annoys you!!!!!!!! Now buzz off buzzard!
Janey replying to a comment from 007 / March 13, 2014 at 11:48 am
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I wouldn't want to be trying to sell my house if I lived next door. Can anyone say t-a-c-k-y?
007 replying to a comment from 01 / March 13, 2014 at 11:50 am
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Jealous of your "youth" my ass. You sound like a dried up old fart who gets pissed off when he hears any music and bores everyone to death with his complaining about Toronto. Not that it is any of your business but I am mid 20's and work hard for a living. I live here because I choose to live here and don't whine about everything that happens in Toronto. Really, take a pill to relax because you sound bitter and petty.
01 replying to a comment from 007 / March 13, 2014 at 11:54 am
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Actually I was more referring to the name "west bend"as opposed to high park north, or junction area not the house!
01 / March 13, 2014 at 12:04 pm
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LMAO so I guess 24 is old? I'm certain you have no idea wtf you're talking about. I've lived in TO my entire life. I have a college education, and I work smart. You are exactly who I said you are and why don't we meet up and at that point you can give me your opinion of me face to face? If not...fuck off you old fart. My life will always be 10000 times more lively than yours. Bye bye hot shit to take care of....unlike your crazy ass. Take a valium.
Bee / March 13, 2014 at 12:12 pm
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Ughhhhh it's ugly.
Lol replying to a comment from 01 / March 13, 2014 at 12:31 pm
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"College Education"

I guess that doesn't mean anything considering your atrocious grammar.
yyax replying to a comment from Colige Ejukachun / March 13, 2014 at 01:12 pm
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You, LOL and 007 are all the same person so you must be the superhero LOL! As for the house, to each his own who cares.
Rick McGinnis (@rickmcginnis) / March 13, 2014 at 01:28 pm
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It's mad. I love it.
scottd replying to a comment from Wes Ender / March 13, 2014 at 01:39 pm
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Never heard of West Bend? Says something about you. I have ben hearing it for 11 years.
scottd replying to a comment from Wes Ender / March 13, 2014 at 01:43 pm
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This West Bend house is actually pretty cool looking and sits on a funky street. I know many who live on that street and they like it, and all the other cool houses in the area. You should get out and meet your neighbours.
NativeTorontonianAl / March 13, 2014 at 01:56 pm
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It almost looks like a southewestern-USA/tex-mex version of a villa style.
CaligulaJones replying to a comment from AV / March 13, 2014 at 02:02 pm
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Hey, I resent that...living in the North North Beach area has given me social opportunities that living just off the Danforth near Woodbine never gave me.

I'm next in line for a Kardashan, for instance.
Vanessa replying to a comment from AV / March 13, 2014 at 02:21 pm
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How nice, it's comforting to know that there's still people like u around, still taking humour from special needs people. U have serious issues and need to stop making mentally challenged people the brunt of your jokes. whoever created the meme should also take that advice. U never know what life may hand u but I feel sorry for people like u. Maybe u should stop taking enjoyment from thinking like an ignorant caveman. Only, I'm sure it's not ignorance, rather, stupidity! On a lighter note,the terra cotta house isn't my style but it's somebody's style and maybe they feel it's nice.
sousedbergin / March 13, 2014 at 05:15 pm
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I lived about a 4 minute walk away for the last 7 years and have never heard the term "West Bend." Not a historic term just 3 year old marketing nonsense with a crappy website to reaffirm the moniker.

The house is spooky and I like it.
The Clever Pup / March 13, 2014 at 08:53 pm
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Aww, I've always loved this house. I was under the misapprehension that it had been demolished. It's not tacky - it's unique. Compared to the other homes on the street, it's positively stellar. I'm wondering if the "comments" section for BlogTO should be removed. This is getting out of hand.
d / March 13, 2014 at 09:07 pm
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I think the mystery is just bad taste :)
stopitman replying to a comment from abc / March 13, 2014 at 09:28 pm
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Psst, @abc - almost all of Toronto is technically "suburban" in two major ways:
(1) They are residential only use over fairly large blocks
(2) They were, and continue to be, quintessential "streetcar suburbs" as the original developers called them. Basically every housing neighbourhood in Toronto post 1900s was built as a suburb, whether a car dependent suburb or a streetcar suburb.

Also - neighbourhoods of housing in Toronto that were built 100 years ago are just as repetitive as the ones built in Brampton or Markham today. The only difference is that after 100 years the owners paint the bricks a different colour to hide the deteriorating brick.

You'll also continue to see this type of suburb continue, as you see with the incredibly enormous about of NIMBYism that makes this city a joke.
VadimM / March 13, 2014 at 11:07 pm
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Thanks for the article. We need more such stories about Toronto. Love the house, hope the owners will be keeping it in a good shape for years to come! Cheers.
Dave / March 14, 2014 at 01:15 am
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It's fun! More of a gem than a contemporary building of conventional elegance.
Lloyd Alter / March 14, 2014 at 05:45 pm
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The book TERRA COTTA: ARTFUL DECEIVERS is written by Alec Keefer and Patricia McHugh and is in fact published by the Toronto Architectural Conservancy (TAC).

" Profiles of several dozen selected terra cotta-faced buildings from across Ontario. These case studies examine both aesthetic and technological achievement in detail. A trove of large, legible archival and new photography, renderings and plans, guides the reader. "
Michael / March 14, 2014 at 10:59 pm
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Hi, I'm the person who took the second photo. Thanks for including it in your piece! I first became aware of the house in Tom Cruickshank's excellent book, Old Toronto Houses. Cruickshank listed the building as "John Shelley Turner House," which might be an erroneous moniker because when you Google that name you'll immediately find city documents naming the now-demolished Dundas St. house as such. I decided to title it in my photo as 'Clay Tile House' as per its description in the Heritage Property Inventory and TOBuilt.ca --Sorry if all this detail sounds pedantic, but I thought it was worth mentioning the contractor's full name.
Grieg / March 16, 2014 at 09:43 am
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Love T.O. Love the eccentric little house. I stumbled on it many years ago, double take, big smile. Young city growing and rapidly changing, evolving. Embrace the moment, wherever you are, we are all, dust in the wind. POOF!

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