“You could say there are several evolutions of history in this house,” Don Procter said while standing in his approximately 210-year-old living room.
Procter and Bev Dalys own and live in what’s believed to be Toronto’s oldest continuously occupied house – a log cabin-turned Regency cottage on Broadview Avenue. United Empire Loyalist John Cox erected the original dwelling on a 270-acre stretch of land east of the Don River the late 1790s or early 1800s.
The original structure at 469 Broadview Ave. remains largely intact; including part of the original pine-shingled roof nestled under the home’s updated roof. The exterior walls of the original 16’ by 24’ squared log cabin remain behind the centre hall and living room, currently decorated with Victorian finishes.
Builder Edward Langley, brother of famed Toronto architect Henry Langley (known for designing several of the city’s churches), is believed to have lived in the home in the 1870s. He built an addition to the north side of the house and transformed it from a rudimentary log cabin to a Regency cottage typical of Ontario at the time.
The address was also a rooming house for several years.
Updates and modifications to the house have been done with great care in order to preserve the historical integrity of the building. When Procter and Dalys replaced a living room window (pictured below), they hired a heritage craftsman from the Niagara region to build something that would meet the standards of what would’ve been used in the mid-1800s.
Procter and Dalys appear as though they were destined to own the heritage home. In the mid 1990s the self-described history buffs read an article in the Globe and Mail about how the previous owner, while ripping out some drywall in the bathroom to repair a leak, was accidentally tipped off to the important history of his house when he exposed a log wall.
After reading the story Procter and Dalys drove by the home to take a look.
“Then in ‘98 or ‘99 we decided we wanted to buy a house and, you know, we were looking and didn’t find anything right,” Dalys said. “I was wondering if the house on Broadview was for sale and we drove by and there was a for sale sign.”
Serendipity struck again when the couple wanted to replace a dilapidated extension put on the back of the house in the 1920s.
“There was a snow drift in here when we came to see this place,” Procter said.
In 2000, they contacted a man in Port Hope who specialized in saving heritage homes. He visited the couple’s house and, coincidentally, had a three-sided shell of an 1840s log cabin that matched what was needed to the exact dimension.
The extension houses a cozy and modestly decorated kitchen. There’s a radiator in the room, but it’s rarely used.
“The heat bills are nothing,” Procter said, noting the logs provide excellent insulation.
Using the shell of a log cabin as an extension may have seemed like a no-brainer when it came to preserving the original state of the home, but Procter and Dalys said they had a hard time convincing the city of that while trying to get a building permit.
“We showed the drawing, they said ‘What the heck is that?’ I said, ‘log’. And they looked at it and said ‘We don’t build log in the city, what is this?’” Procter said.
“They freaked out about logs.”
In order to obtain the look they wanted for the extension with exposed log walls, the couple employed the apparent final option: “I went to the city in high heels and burst into tears and they gave me a building permit,” Dalys said laughing.
The logs, which were hand cut to ensure a tight fit with minimal gaps, absorb warmth through the day and then release that heat into the house at night.
“This is amazing,” Dalys said. “This is a tree that’s been dead for 200 years.”