A poured concrete foundation for the historic Elgie House has been created at 262 Bessborough Drive. It is the future resting place of the 19th Century pioneer home and a new extension which will be built onto it. It appears that the time of the great shift of the home onto this foundation is coming near. Right now, the home sits beside the foundation (inset) on two layers of steel beams and below them wooden blocks.
The 19th Century Thomas Elgie House has been moved forward a few metres on the homestead property at 262 Bessborough Drive, land that will soon be home to two additional homes, newly-built by the owner and contractor There will be an addition to the Elgie home and it appears the foundation is being dug. The estimated 135 year old home is now perched on both steel beams (two courses) and wooden blocks on the earth.
As of Saturday, May 16, the Thomas Elgie home at 262 Bessborough Drive is up on beams suitable for its short trip to the front of the property where it has stood for something like 170 years. The last time we looked at the home this work seemed far off. That was three weeks ago. The pioneer home is scheduled to be renovated into a single family dwelling on one of three lots to be carved from the property, which overlooks Talbot Park to the north. The work has gone on so far quite quietly. There does not appear to be a foundation waiting for the pioneer residence. But we can surely expect the work to be done imminently. It is reasonable to ask if there are plans set for the making of a proper record of this moment in the history of Leaside.
The 19th century part of the Thomas Elgie family home at 262 Bessborough Dr. now stands as a dwelling much as it looked in the 1840s, when it is said to have been built. None of us was around then of course, and the records aren’t very good, but it appears the two storey home with a chimney on the east side and a wing to the south was what the first builder constructed. The recent work has removed an extension said to have been built in the 1970s. The picture on the right seems to be from the 1950s or 60s before the extension was built. A mediated agreement last year permitted the owner and builder, Matthew Garnet, to subdivide the property to place two new homes on Bessborough with the Elgie home sitting on a third lot. From the shape of the remaining historic home it might sit better longitudinally facing Bessborough. The changes over the years are interesting. The original had its front door under a porch on the east side. Along the way that door became a window and had another placed above it. Pioneer homes did not have many windows. There are steel beams lying on the property which will be used to move the structure but that job appears a distance off. The home has not been underpinned nor is there any foundation waiting for it yet.
John Parker (Ward 26) has sent a general e-mail reporting on the status of the Thomas G. Elgie House, 262 Bessborough Drive. He says that the Toronto Preservation Board last week voted to recommend that City Council state its intention to designate the property a heritage site. He recalls that the large property is located on the heights south of Talbot Park overlooking Leaside High School. Mr. Parker notes that the most recent residents were Mary and Sven Linholm, who are said to be well remembered and fondly so by Leaside residents. The proposed designation identifies specific “heritage attributes” in accordance with the legislation. These include “the building known historically as the Thomas G. Elgie House”, “the original centre section of the two-storey house form building with its scale, form and massing,” the “original red brick cladding and trim on the exposed elevations of the original main body of the house,” “the gable roof and trim, brick chimney and original fenestration” on the east facade (facing Bessborough)” and “the original window opening” on the west wall. Mr. Parker’s mail is lengthy and will be of interest to those who know the property. It may be read in full on this page.
Further to messages I have circulated on this matter over the past year, I am pleased to report that the Toronto Preservation Board last week voted to recommend that City Council state its intention to designate the property at 262 Bessborough Drive under Part IV, Section 29 of the Ontario Heritage Act.
262 Bessborough Drive is the large property located immediately south of Leaside High School. Its most recent residents were Mary and Sven Linholm, both fondly remembered by many Leaside residents. The original dwelling dates back to the latter part of the 19th Century, and is stated in the formal heritage study report as “a rare surviving farmhouse and the oldest residential building in Leaside.” The City process leading to last week’s proceedings before the Board was initiated last winter at my request.
I appeared at last week’s meeting and confirmed my support for designation. The proposed designation identifies specific “heritage attributes” in accordance with the legislation. These include “the building known historically as the Thomas G. Elgie House”, “the original centre section of the two-storey house form building with its scale, form and massing,” the “original red brick cladding and trim on the exposed elevations of the original main body of the house,” “the gable roof and trim, brick chimney and original fenestration” on the east façade (facing Bessborough)” and “the original window opening” on the west wall. It is to be noted that only the original home and its elements are identified in the proposed designation, not the large additions that comprise a significant part of the present structure.
A bit of news in the report that I found interesting: the east elevation, which for about a hundred years has been the front of the house, was originally a side wall. The original front door faced south; something that few current local residents would have been alive to have seen. For that reason it struck me as particularly interesting that one of the enumerated heritage attributes includes “the specific location, setback and orientation of the building on the west side of Bessborough….” That is to say, the declared heritage attributes consist of not only the house itself, but also its location and – at least some of – its surroundings, including its relationship with Bessborough Drive.
I suggested (unsuccessfully) at the Board that the matter of location and context might better be expressed in terms of the home’s placement on the high point of land overlooking the broad expanse of land below to the south, which clearly did not include Bessborough Drive at all, in as much as there was no such road at the time. The matter of location and context could turn out to be important points where the future of this property is concerned.
Keep reading. 262 Bessborough Drive has recently become the focus of particular local interest for reasons unrelated to its heritage character. This was prompted by the appearance of a For Sale sign on the front lawn last November, quickly followed by speculation of a potential town house development. When this came to my attention my immediate step was to contact the City’s Preservation Services department to enquire as to the status of its file on the property. I had always been made to understand that the home was a “heritage property” and was therefore surprised to find that the department responsible for heritage matters in fact had no file on it. Accordingly, I then put into motion the heritage designation process that resulted in last Thursday’s proceeding. My next step was to track down the listing agent and let her know that I had done that.
The eventual designation of the existing house eliminates the potential that the property can be razed and treated as a development site. The recognition of “location, setback and orientation” as specific heritage elements can itself be expected to be a limiting factor on any proposal to subdivide the property. In short, upon designation, any development activity that takes place on the site will only be accommodated in the context of addressing the heritage elements in the designation.
Questions of development will be assessed not only according to Planning Act criteria such as the City’s bylaws and Official Plan and other customary considerations, but by the unique criteria relating specifically to the Ontario Heritage Act as well. I see the heritage designation of the Elgie House as an important step in preserving an important part of our community’s earliest heritage. I see it also as a pivotal factor in determining the future of the property at 262 Bessborough Drive and its impact on neighbouring properties.