One of the community’s oldest homes is also one its most distinctive. Facing the Blessed Sacrament schoolyard on Bedford Park Avenue, the house is dominated by a large shingle-domed tower on the front east side.
When it was built in the mid-1880s, probably by Henry Mason, there was nothing else around it. The Mason farm, which ran between today’s Bedford Park and Woburn avenues, from Yonge to Bathurst, included just one notable feature: the gutted mansion that had belonged James Metcalfe (Blessed Sacrament school stands on the site).
To get to Mason’s imposing house, it was necessary to cross a wooden bridge spanning Lawrence Park Creek (now flowing beneath the schoolyard and the municipal parking lot). It was the first house to be built on the dirt road that was soon named Bedford Avenue and later changed to Bedford Park Avenue. Looking from his windowed tower, Mason had an unobstructed view to Yonge Street. To the south was Samuel Lawrence’s farm and a few houses at the Yonge-Lawrence intersection. These included the small-but-busy general store that had just been taken over by John E. Atkinson.
The house is actually better known as Houle House, named after Albert Houle, a florist who bought it in 1907. He moved into the neighbourhood after becoming manager of the Bedford Park Floral Company on the east side of Yonge. Although he held the job for only a year or two, he continued to operate as a community florist and remained in the house until 1922.
During that time, Houle’s family watched as a growing number of houses sprang up on Bedford and the streets to the north. This was largely the result of the major housing development by his neighbours across the street — Philip and William Ellis — who had restored the old Metcalfe place.
During the 20s the house sat vacant for a few years and was then owned by Norman Lockhart. In 1928, Toronto manufacturing agent James Bolton Reade bought the house and lived there for the next two decades. When he first moved in, the house number was changed from 34 to 31. The renumbering of houses in the early days wasn’t unusual. Reade’s house likely needed a new number to fall in line with Toronto’s practise of using odd numbers on the south side of streets and even ones for the north side.
In 1950, lawyer Frank Hogg bought the home and lived there until the mid-50s. He was followed by Toronto musician John Levis and teacher Hugh Fraser. Levis owned the house until the end of the 1980s. In the 90s, the home was largely restored to recapture its original grandeur.
This article, written by Gary Schlee, originally appeared in the Winter 2008 issue of Community Life.