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Toronto Club District

Sold! 140 year old house on Peter St. in the Club District

Posted by Luke Champion / July 29, 2010

124122-124 Peter Street has been vacant for over a year now. Outside the cracking grey building with white trim is a yard of overgrown weeds and a "for sale" sign.

Donald Woods has owned the house his entire life. In fact, Woods is the third generation in his family to take possession of the building, but this isn't the story of some greedy offspring seeing dollar signs in his inheritance. Woods is not a young man and he's held onto that property for quite a long time, but his years of running the building as a rooming house are behind him. The place has become more work than his deteriorating health can handle and as a result, for the first time since the late 1800's, one of the few houses left on Peter is looking for new owners.

It's another sign of change in the area, but this time the change isn't about noise or club kids or sky-high rent. It's simply a case of moving on.

124 Peter St.Of course, the Woods' weren't the first family in the building. 122-124 Peter Street was built in 1871, a year that saw the birth of Emily Carr as well as the adoption of British Columbia into Confederation. France surrendered to Germany, ending the Franco-Prussian War and as a result, a young war correspondent for the Irish Times immigrated to Canada. Upon arriving in Toronto Nicholas Flood Davin moved into 122 Peter Street and began writing for the Globe (later to become the Globe & Mail).

While in Toronto Davin was commissioned by then Prime Minister, John A. MacDonald to write the Davin Report - or as it was known at the time: the Report on Industrial Schools for Indians and Half-Breeds. This document outlined the need for residential schools in Canada, an act that devastated native families and still hangs today as one of the darkest elements in Canadian history.

To be fair, Nicholas Flood Davin did not invent residential schools, but his report did bring public funding and support from the government. From the 1890's all the way up to - shockingly - the 1970's native children were forcibly removed from their families and made to live at these "schools" where they were sexually and physically assaulted and systematically forbidden from speaking indigenous languages or practicing indigenous faiths. It has been widely reported that the schools were plagued with poor sanitation and as a result tuberculosis was rampant and mortality rates were disastrously high.

Now, it's unfair to place such horrors specifically on the shoulders of Davin alone. After all, residential schools had been around since the 1840's, but his report remains a cornerstone of legitimizing them at the time. Fortunately for Davin, he went on to much nobler accomplishments later on in his career. He found his true calling when he moved west in 1882, started a newspaper - the Regina Leader - and entered politics holding a seat as a Conservative MP.

124 Peter St.It was right around that time of Davin's move west that Woods' grandfather - William Mackenzie - first bought the property; thus ushering in 120 years of possession. Woods himself lives elsewhere, renting the building out, but for the past year it has sat vacant and for sale - that is until recently.

124 Peter St.Andrea Kraus, vice president of Lennard Commercial Realty - the agency representing the building, says the house has been sold. But it won't be families moving in, or even businesses. It's no surprise of course that the land is worth far more than the building sitting on it and as a result Woods' family legacy doesn't stand much of a chance. Prime real estate a block south of Queen West is hard to come by, so once the new owners take possession 122-124 Peter Street will most likely be very quickly reduced to rubble.

Discussion

24 Comments

mr hate / July 29, 2010 at 10:01 am
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Selling price?
Liv / July 29, 2010 at 10:05 am
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well now that was a depressing end....reduced to rubble? boo
Rebecca / July 29, 2010 at 10:07 am
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It's a listed heritage property so they'll have to deal with that issue before even considering demolishing it.
andrew / July 29, 2010 at 10:23 am
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@Rebecca. totally. I was considering that the whole time.

Also (in the event that it CAN be demolished) what the hell is it with companies tearing these gorgeous buildings down? Like, I've seen hundreds of buildings redesigned to accommodate the original building? I'm over all this glass.
Davak / July 29, 2010 at 11:03 am
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Good article, I've often walked past this building wondering what its story is. Very nice research!
Dubs / July 29, 2010 at 11:36 am
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Agreed! There is far too much glass being put up. The best designs Ive seen have been able to incorporate the structure and more importantly, character, of the older buildings in some way.
416expat / July 29, 2010 at 11:47 am
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I adore these "left behind" buildings in the core.
Marc / July 29, 2010 at 01:12 pm
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The back of the house is simply elegant, with its walls and the windows. Very classic English style. I could imagine it had a nice backyard and garden in the past. It must be saved and preserved. These buildings and houses ARE Toronto.
Matt / July 29, 2010 at 01:24 pm
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Good to see people are getting sick of all that glass. I like walls in the city -- brick, concrete, stone, whatever, but walls.

Glass provides a nice counterpoint to all that solidity, a break. A good glass tower can be really remarkable amidst a lot of solid surfaces. But when everything is made of glass it just feels cheap.
O.k / July 29, 2010 at 01:31 pm
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great read. The building has a little bit a charm, I would rather see it revitalized and recycled into something new and interesting vs. just crumbling down to pieces and raising up some random glass box.
Marc / July 29, 2010 at 01:36 pm
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Enough with glass-and-sticks buildings and architecture. Those don't have lasting power, no meaning and future history, and NO APPEAL - which means fallen interest and fallen tourist numbers ($$$$). It must be taken into account that Sarah Thomson is the only one to come up with her own ideas away from the pack, and is the one who if she becomes mayor, will create that building/architecture/design plan for developers. She will also focus on RESTORATION of heritage sites. This is her idea. Besides extended transit, Toronto needs this.

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/torontomayoralrace/article/837689--mayoral-candidate-proposes-fast-tracking-good-building-designs
Marc / July 29, 2010 at 01:38 pm
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glass-and-sticks buildings are also not as secure and sturdy. It might be cheaper, but you get what you pay for, and you'll feel that if there were to be a disaster, God forbid.
Jason / July 29, 2010 at 01:59 pm
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Each time one of these former beauties gets torn down the city kisses a bit of its history goodbye. And unfortunately, developers with a heart for preservation are few and far between :(
J / July 29, 2010 at 02:55 pm
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The Sarah Thomson groupies have been really good at commenting on this blog in the last few weeks.
Marc replying to a comment from J / July 29, 2010 at 04:39 pm
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I'm not a Thomson groupie, in fact, you will find people who have common sense and a WANT for progress and direction, who will simply support the one(s) who show promise and straightforwardness. It's not Thomson's fault for receiving some support, perhaps increasing, because she's the only one with that architecture focus and idea so far.
Marc replying to a comment from J / July 29, 2010 at 04:41 pm
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I also support Ford, although Thomson, if people are paying attention, should be receiving huge support as well. The key is a fresh mayor, a new start for Toronto. Not one with an overdone background and not one who is a part of the current same old show going on for years at city hall, and definitely not one who has a bad record and skeletons in their closet. So, people should be aiming for and looking for a new start which means a fresh mayor.
Carl / July 29, 2010 at 05:29 pm
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It is nice to stand back and say save the building, but has anyone seen the inside of the place? Being that it was a rooming house I suspect that the interior is in pretty rough shape not to mention outdated plumbing heating and electrical. Nice fire escapes for a rooming house. Any sprinklers? The place could be a death trap.
RBeezy / July 29, 2010 at 07:32 pm
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Am I the only one who sees that this building is sinking in the middle? I'm big on preserving history but the majority of these structures weren't made to last this long.

If it can be saved, fine. If not, make good use of the land.
ygaafi / July 29, 2010 at 08:27 pm
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I find it hilarious that there are so many people out there that think they should be able to tell someone else what they can do with their OWN property! If you want to preserve the house, then buy the damn thing! And for all of these people who say that the building should be preserved I have a question for you: if you owned it and could sell it for $1 million as a house or $10 million to a condo developer, what would you do? Yes, I know, you'll all go crazy and say you'd keep it as a house! And yes, you are all full of it.

Second, we need density. We need it in order to reduce the burning of fossil fuels. We need cities where you can walk to work, the grocery store, bank, entertainment, etc. And you get this by increased density. Now let me guess, of all the people saying the house should stay as is, I bet over 50% of you are evironmentally aware. Am I right?

Arghhhhh!

And yes, I agree, the house is beautiful. But beauty ain't everything! I think property rights are more important. I think the environment is far more important.
MIKE replying to a comment from ygaafi / July 30, 2010 at 11:51 am
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i agree with Yfaggi's last few comments Density will always help with the environment and its burning of fossil fuels. and if the tearing down of one single house that would prob. cost just as much to fix then as it is worth will continue the growth of this city and help the earth in it small yet important part, then so be it. its not like if it was saved and restored that the public would benifit from it. it would just be another rich person making a statement..." im too rich look where i live", and really who would want to live somewhere where 10's of thousands of people are yelling and screaming every night partying drunk and throwing their empties, and food trash on your front lawn, i know i wouldn't. a store front and some lofts on top would help both small business, and give some high rent people somewhere to live, best of both worlds.
Peter / July 30, 2010 at 12:06 pm
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It's a sad commentary on the current state of city building in Toronto (Ontario? North America?) that those who seem to bleat the loudest about property rights are those who wish to assert their "right" to demolition and destruction. Yet they appear to have given no thought, often through willful ignorance, to the flipside of the rights coin, namely their responsibility as a property owner. It is a most basic tenet of law, morality, and the social contract under which people govern themselves, that with the granting of rights comes the correlative undertaking of responsibilities. We are not "born" with rights, which follow us out of the womb like a set of luggage - rather, rights are bestowed upon us by society, in exchange for our consideration of our responsibility toward the greater good. The right of the owner of any property to deal with that property as they may wish is tempered by the owner's responsibility to deal with that property in a way which may benefit (or at least do no harm) to one's neighbours. The owner of a heritage property has a responsibility to others to respect and maintain the heritage of that property. The loss of a heritage property in the City of Toronto is an irreparable loss to all Torontonians, past, present and future. Developers who purchase heritage properties with an eye to demolition and cheap construction of inferior buildings for no reason other than to make a quick and easy profit are failing their responsibility to the people of Toronto.
ygaafi / July 30, 2010 at 10:17 pm
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Peter,

Blah blah blah! Fancy words...but you make no sense. You sound like an academic!

We are born with rights in this country which follow us out of the womb! That is what has made this country great (despite people like you.)

Those that own a home should be able to do with it what they want (subject to zoning of course.) Who the hell is anyone to say to another that they like your house so much that you can't tear it down. That is so freakin' bizarre! What's next, I have to keep wearing certain vintage clothing because someone else likes looking at it! It is the same damn thing!

I live in a neighbourhood where many poeple think like you. Your house can't be modern looking; it has to fit in with the neighbourhood. It is no damn different than telling people that you can't wear this particular color shirt becuase no one here likes it and no one here wears that color. Same thing!

And now you accuse developers of cheap construction and the like! Quick and easy profit you say? So you think development is a quick and easy way to make money? Developers are building the friggin homes that we all live in. They are doing a great service to society! (If you think that having a roof over your head is important that is!)

I wonder how much a house would cost or rent for if we were not allowed to build density in Toronto? I'm guessing (just a guess here) that you would not be able to afford a place to live and you'd be homeless! Ahh..but I'd also bet that you'd say everyone has a "right" to a home! And at the same time though, you won't let developers build anything!

Marc / August 1, 2010 at 10:49 am
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So wrong. "They are doing a great service to society"??? Not to society but for their pockets! The places being built now are done in vain, buildings and homes with no heart and soul into them. It's all about balance, although it should be weighing more towards preservation/heritage and care. The way current developers are (and have been) is NOT about balance.
buying presents / April 21, 2013 at 01:12 pm
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Hi there! This article couldn't be written any better! Looking through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He continually kept talking about this. I most certainly will send this article to him. Pretty sure he's going to
have a good read. I appreciate you for sharing!

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