It was the bottom of the recession. Cortleigh was a quiet wooded street with some unremarkable old stone houses and a short walk to synagogues on Bathurst Street. There was no construction going on except ours and we got jeered every Saturday by walkers on their way to assembly. I found the land which was the back part of a larger property sunken into a ravine. It was considered difficult to build on. But wanting to set an example and to build a luxury home efficiently, I proceeded to build the first dignified Georgian house on the street. The backyard was the ravine.
The lot was wide but shallow, hence the ultimate shape of the floor plate, sixty foot wide and twenty foot deep. The exterior of house itself was nothing special. The “Georgian” taste was inferred rather than overt : the regularly spaced tall double-hung windows, the quoins, the pediment over the front entrance and the old-fashioned wrought-iron window guards, gave enough of a hint to the classical English style.
The house was built in two phases. The original house was a long rectangular box. Six years later, an addition was built in the rear of the house making it an L shape.
The original house had the living room, foyer, dining room and kitchen all lined up in a straight line. The two story addition provided a library adjacent to the living room and a new master bedroom with a balcony looking out into the backyard with a full view of the ravine.
The library was outfitted with Honduras mahogany coffered ceiling, paneled walls, built-in bookcases, fireplace mantel and mahogany flooring. The entrance into the library was a pair of tall mahogany paneled doors. The bookcases were fitted with a sliding mahogany ladder on brass rail and casters. The full wall of windows overlooked the ravine backyard.
The new master bedroom was crowned by a barrel-vaulted ceiling, the precursor to the great domed ceiling in a later project. The bedroom had a limestone fireplace mantle with a wood burning fireplace. The floor was natural Canadian maple. A new walk-in closet that was part of the master bedroom suite was fitted with leather tiles on the floor.
The client soon moved to New York City where his career flourished. Two years after my client sold the house, American architect Robert Stern built a large stone mansion a few houses down at great cost. Twelve years later, we were to build the same client another house when he came back to Canada. The client always regretted that he could not live in this house longer because he really loved it. The mahogany library was designed for him to read and relax in. The view in the back was lovely and he had made many friends in the neighborhood that had remained close to this day. At the time he owned two large dogs which he used walk all over the ravine, parkland and neighborhood streets.