A walk along Ardwold Gate

Atop the escarpment above Davenport Road and just east of Spadina House, Ardwold Gate meanders through what was once the estate of Sir John Craig and Lady Eaton. Ardwold (“high on a green hill” in Gaelic) was their enormous, opulent Italianate manse, completed in 1911 and demolished only 25 years later. The grounds were then subdivided and upscale homes began to rise among the aged oak trees.

In addition to traditional Georgian and Colonial styles, Ardwold Gate boasts two notable Modernist residences. 17 Ardwold Gate was designed by Gordon Adamson & Associates for St. Clair Balfour, president of the then-powerful Southam newspaper chain, and completed in 1960. The two-storey house presents a very private public face: a starkly rectilinear façade of off-white sandlime brick framed in black steel is relieved only by three windows arranged in an asymmetrical pattern. Low garden walls of matching brick further distance the house from the street. At the rear, however, rows of sliding glass doors open onto a full-width balcony and terrace, capturing southern sunlight and capitalizing upon superlative views over the city below. The Balfour house was a finalist in the 1961 Massey Medals for Architecture competition.

At 95 Ardwold Gate is the Richard Mauran residence, designed by Estonian-Canadian architect Taivo Kapsi and completed in 1968. It’s a striking and highly unusual example of a Brutalist house: the entire structure, including the exterior and interior walls, is of cast-in-place concrete. Kapsi used saw-cut timber forms to achieve a raw, rough-textured finish, the prominent striations adding surface interest and emphasizing the three-dimensional effect of the house’s interlocking vertical and horizontal planes. A front courtyard is screened from view; at the rear, cantilevered terraces appear to float within the dense foliage of Roycroft Park. The weighty, almost primal effect of the concrete is effectively countered by broad expanses of clear glass. Ceilings of cedar boards add a tactile warmth. The second-floor balcony overlooking the street was later filled in, slightly disrupting the house’s visual rhythm but not compromising its powerful presence.

Tragically, Kapsi didn’t live to see his work completed. He died in August 1967 at the age of 31, following an altercation with intruders at a cottage north of Toronto. The Mauran house stands as a testament to his unrealized potential as an architect.

4 Responses to “A walk along Ardwold Gate”

  1. 1 Stan Heinonen October 16, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    I while back I saw in an ad that 17 Ardwald Gate was for sale for 6 million. I recognized in the photo of rear elevation that it as the house that I designed while I was with Adamson Associates. Fred Fletcher was the partner in charge. We had a tight costruction budget of $90,000,and even though we went for sand lime brick partly to keep the cost down, I think we probably blew it. I was pleased to see from the picture in the GLobe of the front elevation that it has aged rather well.

    • 2 robertmoffatt115 October 16, 2011 at 5:41 pm

      Thank you for your comment – that’s a great story! The house appears to still be for sale, and judging by the listing photos the interior is largely original as well. Hopefully the next owner will retain the period appearance.


  2. 3 Alfieboy March 29, 2012 at 2:17 am

    Just did a walk by the place.

    Unfortunately, there has been an application to demolish the residence..

    Sad but true.


  3. 4 Kyle August 12, 2012 at 11:25 pm

    I was just by 17 Ardwold and it would indeed appear that this house’s days are numbered. The house remains, but all of the garden walls have been demolished and every twig of landscape has been removed. It’s unclear as to whether the house will be razed. Shame.

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