Old Toronto Houses


304 pages
Contains Maps, Index
ISBN 1-55297-731-5
DDC 971.3'541





Photos by John de Visser
Reviewed by Steve Pitt

Steve Pitt is a Toronto-based freelance writer and an award-winning journalist. He has written many young adult and children's books, including Day of the Flying Fox: The True Story of World War II Pilot Charley Fox.


Describing the domestic architecture of Toronto is no easy task. In less
than two centuries, Torontonians have embraced and discarded scores of
architectural styles, ranging from squared-off log houses to ornate
redbrick Queen Anne mansions. Toronto is also a city that grew unevenly.
Sometimes whole neighbourhoods rose up under the direction of a single
developer. Other times, solitary homes popped up like mushrooms on
vacant lots with facades that reflected the wishes and sometimes
unfortunate whims of a single owner.

Faced with this challenge, author Tom Cruickshank and photographer John
de Visser spend the first half of this lovely book just reviewing 20
major architectural influences that are commonly found in Toronto. The
second half tours nearly a dozen well-known Toronto neighbourhoods:
Yorkville, Cabbagetown, Parkdale, The Annex, Rosedale, Wychwood Park,
High Park and the Junction, The Beaches, Forest Hill, Kingsway Park, and
Bayview Heights. De Visser provides the gorgeous photographs, while
Cruickshank supplies the text, which elegantly discusses the economic,
political, and construction trends that influenced each community. Many
of the homes featured are well-known landmarks that most Torontonians
would recognize instantly. Others are out-of-the-way baubles that only
immediate neighbours and old-house-hounds like Cruickshank and de Visser
would notice.

Interestingly, the house that appears on the book’s cover—the McKee
House at 53 Walmer Road—is described by Cruickshank as one of the
city’s most un-Toronto-like structures. The house, with its mushroom
dome, he suggests, would have fit perfectly into one of Montreal’s
prosperous neighbourhoods. Toronto, it seems, has been reluctant to
embrace its charms.

The book includes a sources page and a glossary of architectural terms,
but Cruickshank’s highly informative, informal prose virtually negates
the need for additional references. Reading this book feels like a
stroll down one of Toronto’s tree-lined streets on a warm summer day.


Cruickshank, Tom., “Old Toronto Houses,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 21, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/17536.