Belgravia Mansion

From A Burnt Out Shell

On St. Clair Avenue West was the Timothy Eaton Memorial Church. In 1994 the house next to it burnt down. It was under renovation but was inactive for a long period of time. One night it caught fire. When we bought the property, the burnt out shell of the house was still on the lot and had been there for over a year. The only salvageable thing left was the cement tile roofing which we donated to charity. We proceeded to demolish the shell, remove all the debris from site and excavate for a new foundation.

Part of the main floor was constructed of precast concrete coreslabs twenty foot long. A crane was used for hoisting the precast units. A policeman was hired to direct traffic because the hoist truck took up half of the width of the street.

The Belgravia Style

The house was intentionally designed to look “old”. It had the appearance that it was built in the 1910s. Forest Hill was prestigious because of its grand old houses, not the new pretenders. The style of our house was borrowed from that of a London Belgravia mansion. It had an orderly front elevation punctuated symmetrically by tall double-hung windows with thin muntins protected by fine wrought-iron window guards. The prominent stringcourses divided the façade horizontally. The stone lintels over the windows were intersected by a keystone in the middle. The entrance portico was flanked by a pair of Tuscan columns with entasis. Ours were the first new stone columns to use entasis twenty years ago. The portico was topped by a Juliet balcony with stone balustrade. The paneled oak front door was fitted with a beautiful Georgian fanlight above. The overall style was Georgian with classical overtone. It was orderly, controlled and low key – the kind of style that would not go out of fashion in a neighborhood like Forest Hill.

The Interiors

The interiors similarly appeared “old-fashioned”. The floor in the main hall was white marble. The library was dark English oak. The living room was screened from the hallway by a colonnade of Tuscan columns. The full wall fireplace mantel in the living room was dark English oak paneled with Georgian shell motif inserts. The breakfast nook in the back of the house was a rotunda with windows all around. Going up the stair to the second floor, when you looked up, you were greeted by a fifteen foot square Georgian fanlight skylight grille made from a combination of wrought-iron, plasterwork and wood. The whole assembly was lit handsomely by hidden lights in the light-troughs.

Value of Classical Architecture

Many clients resented the notion of having their houses looked old.  Hence builders couldn’t wait to dream up new ideas for their inventions.  But at the same time their clients wanted to look upscale and respectable.  One could not re-invent Classical Architecture which was already cataloged in detail by Roman times.  Like a dead language, we could only learn and follow.  We were imitating a Belgravia style.  We were imitating the imitated.  But at least the house in Belgravia was worth over fifty million British Pounds.

See another house we built for the same client : Red Brick Tudor .