225 Brunswick Avenue
A Long And Unique History
A place of importance in the neighbourhood for well over a century, it has also been a place of community, spirituality, and learning. Most recently its use as an office building had made it arguably out of sync with its origins, as well as its residential surroundings. With its thoughtful conversion into a boutique multi-residential space, it has now been given new life, and a new role in an area as special as it is. The building of 225 Brunswick Avenue has a long rich story, which includes its use as both a Christian and then a Jewish place of worship, making it one of the few places to have done so. This history can still be seen in its distinctly unique architecture.
A Special Neighbourhood
At the turn of the century the Annex was home to some of the wealthiest citizens in the city. The establishment of the University of Toronto just east and an increase of new immigrants, in the late 1850’s, provided the impetus for the building of more homes in the area, which took place largely between the 1870’s and early 1900’s. Overall, the houses come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Each house is whimsically decorated with Victorian accents that all blend together to form one of the most pleasing streetscapes of any Toronto neighbourhood, and 225 Brunswick is no exception.
A Place Of Worship, Learning, and Community
It was at this time that the two and half story red brick structure, with its ornamental design, was built. Its gorgeous red brick likely originating from the quarry at avenue and davenport, would have been carted by horse down the hill off Spadina. It was originally constructed as a Christian Gospel Mission Hall, and used as such for its first two decades. As the area became more diversified with working class immigrants, many from Eastern Europe, the Mission Hall was acquired by the Jewish congregation Shomrai Shabbos Anshei Estrich Minhag Sefard. The congregation converted the Gospel Mission Hall for synagogue use, which included the creation of two entrances on the west side, one for the male congregation and the second for the female congregation (these same entrances have been preserved and will now be the dedicated entries for two of the upper units). They practised on the site until 1965 when they expanded and moved to a larger location up town. The building was then occupied from 1972 to 1988 by the Toronto School of Arts before being converted to offices for several non-for-profit organizations.
A New Purpose
We are exceptionally excited to convert this special building for residential use, while refurbishing much of its historical architecture, and evolving its design. Many years of working extensively with the city’s planning departments, local area councillor, heritage conservation, and the Harbord Village neighbourhood taxpayer’s association have gone into the design. Many people have worked extremely hard through dozens of variations to find a design that maintains the heritage of the building, while evolving and reinvigorating it for a new purpose. These types of character units are very rare in the city, and are considered a part of what city planners describe as missing middle projects, which refers to smaller multi-unit projects within neighbourhoods (versus tall condo buildings on main city streets). For us this type of project is exactly what the city needs more of, and we are very excited to share them.
Home To The Famous And Gifted
The Annex and Harbord Village have, and are still home to a magnificent blend of notable people, and if nothing else, it is fun to list a few of them. Perhaps the most recent person of notability is Megan Markle, who lived only a couple of blocks away from 225 Brunswick, having moved just after marrying Prince Harry. Admiral Road is still home to the world-renowned writer Margaret Atwood, as well as John Ralston Saul and his wife, the former Governor General of Canada Adrienne Clarkson. Her ex-husband Stephen Clarkson lived on nearby Lowther Avenue, across from former MP Belinda Stronach. Loblaws CEO Galen Westin JR and his family still live around the corner. Former Prime Minister and Nobel Laureate Lester B. Pearson lived at 12 Admiral Road from 1925 to 1928, and David Suzuki lived for years on Bernard Avenue, as well as Catherine O'Hara who lived in the Annex for many years. Explorer Norman Elder owned The Norman Elder Museum at 140 Bedford Road. The noted urban theorist and activist Jane Jacobs lived at 69 Albany Avenue from 1971 until her death in 2006. CBC writer, producer and actor Ken Finkleman and members of the rock band Sloan also reside in the neighbourhood. It is the home of Canadian poet and children's author Dennis Lee, Oscar-winning (for Chicago) sound engineer David Lee, and sociologist Barry Wellman. It is the current home of novelist and playwright Ann-Marie MacDonald, as well as Major League Baseball All Star Outfielder Goody Rosen.