We live in a Leaside teardown, and we don’t mind it a bit. In fact we might mind it it more if our house stopped being a teardown.
We think our house is doomed when we sell it because, as is happening throughout Leaside and much of residential Toronto, a much better house could be built on our property. Although it was in fact architect-designed, our current house, built around 1950, has impossibly small closets, a distinctly un-modern layout, poor over-all insulation, an undistinguished exterior, and doesn’t lend itself to easy modification. When it gets knocked down, no one is going to miss it.
Well, we will miss it a bit if we survive its demise. But, as I’ve written before, we’re entirely happy in our Leaside house and will have to be carried out of it in the end.
Like most people who live in a house for many years, we’ve adjusted it to meet our needs, and we’ve adjusted to its peculiarities. We made a major structural change 30 years ago to give us more space, we’ve fiddled with the interior to maximize its comfort and convenience, and we know how to live comfortably with its limitations.
Ironically, we were able to use a serious fire in the house, caused by lightning in 2008, to make another series of improvements that gave us a better living space. In any case as soon as the children left we had all the room we needed in our empty nest. We have no need to do anything much more with our house than maintain it. We live very well in a comfortable old shoe of a house.
I can be as scathing as anyone about the tasteless pretentiousness of some of our Leaside faux-chateaux, and I consider it monstrous when builders find ways of bending or ignoring the rules that are essential for neighbourly co-existence. And I’m a bit sorry to see old residential Leaside gradually slipping away.
But I don’t think it would be fair or fruitful to try to freeze our community by putting new controls on the teardown/rebuilding process. It wouldn’t be fair because a new level of, say neighbourhood heritage designation, would inevitably constrain the market for properties like ours, diminishing the value of our chief capital asset, and our descendents’ inheritance. It wouldn’t be fruitful because the new Leaside is at least as aesthetically pleasing as the old (which itself was less aesthetically pleasing than the farmland it replaced).
As a historian, I deeply value our built heritage, and I believe that many unique and important buildings should be preserved. Our home is unique and important to us in our everyday lives, and we hope it will be for a good long time. But there isn’t much of a market in comfy old shoes. When we leave here we won’t be the least surprised if the buyers decide to build a chic new shoe of a house. Let’s hope they hire a good shoemaker.