Monday, June 6, 2011

Case Study 3.4: Rosedale

Rosedale is home to Toronto's elite, with homes rarely selling for less than a couple million dollars. While certainly not as expensive as the Bridle Path and perhaps a bit less expensive than Forest Hill, those neighborhoods are younger and therefore much more like generic suburbs (think McMansions on large plots). Rosedale dates to the end of the 19th century and has many historical homes. It consists of two parts, North and South Rosedale, which are divided by a ravine. North Rosedale developed slightly later, after 1909, when a bridge was built across the ravine. Although known for being home to the city's "Old Money", in recent years it has attracted young families interested in being close to downtown and the subway.

Of particular interest to me is the neighborhood's role as one of the first out-of-town suburbs. Its development parallels the Garden City movement, which can be seen in the winding roads and larger plots, in contrast to the older The Annex which has a traditional grid layout and narrow, tall homes. I certainly do not support large plots, and I think Rosedale is at the limit of acceptability in this regard, but it offers an example of the direction contemporary suburbs could go. We're now building homes that are far too large, on large plots, with big and useless front lawns, so let's now reign it in towards something like Rosedale, which I think most middle class Americans would be perfectly happy with. 

Growing up in the suburbs, I would often stare at the gap in between my family's and my neighbor's home and think another large home could fit there. In these image of Rosedale, I think you'll agree that slightly closer spacing is a positive and nothing to fear, especially for those who think that neighborhoods in San Francisco go towards the other extreme of too little space and too little greenery. But do try to look at the images with a critical eye and not be distracted by the large and impressive homes! 

Originally dating to 1834, this is the oldest private home in Toronto, though it has been remodeled since
Alas, some front lawns are way too big!
The density of buildings is better understood from above, also the large amount of greenery
This 4 bedroom home on Dale Avenue in South Rosedale, small by local standards, is on the market for $1.25 million
Framing a front lawn with a fence and plants creates a more intimate, usable space
I like these homes, the exaggerated proportions confusing the sense of scale

These homes on Maple, from left to right, were built in 1902, 1906, and 1903
Far right, Mary Davies House, 1898
Who doesn't like towers? 1888, one of the oldest homes in Rosedale
Gravel driveways always manage to embed a more rural, gentry spirit
This elegant Victorian with the fantastic turret, built in 1896, is on the market for $3.75 million
If you must have a large front lawn, at the least fill it with greenery like this home
A change of pace now, Avondale Road is less dense
Col. John P. Coulson House, 1913
A rather unusual building, quite different from anything else in Rosedale
The span of grass between the road and sidewalk does nothing. Never used, it just serves to increase the sense of distance between homes
From now on we're across the ravine in North Rosedale. I wish the home on the right was of equal interest as the home on the left
This well-maintained home on Roxborough Drive was built in 1913. This seems to have been Rosedale's boom years
It's clear the residents of Highland Avenue take pride in the presentation of their homes
It's easily overlooked, but notice these historical homes are not dominated by garages. It actually looks like they're homes for humans
It's safe to say Rosedale is the most suburban neighborhood I'll ever feature on reCities, but it was important to show the Toronto reality as well as a lesser evil of what suburbs could be. Sure Rosedale has some obscenely large, pastiche homes, but most homes are quite modest and there are even some semi-detached/duplex. There's no doubt it's a far more sustainable neighborhood than just anything upper middle class Americans choose these days. Crucially, it's within walking distance of downtown, the subway, schools, shops, etc. That Rosedale is so expensive has a lot to do with its proximity to downtown, not so much the quality of housing, but no doubt prices are also boosted by the lack of other such neighborhoods in Toronto.

With its mix of large, elegant historical homes on tree-lined streets, its easy to see why the neighborhood appeals to so many. It's something of a halo area for Toronto, often mentioned on forum discussions. I'm quite confused as to why it's so much more popular than Cabbagetown, for example, which to me has much more charm and architectural interest, but I suppose Rosedale has over 100 years of fame going for it. It was and remains to this day a top area for wealthy Torontonians.

A link with plenty of Rosedale images.

Next, the concluding Toronto post.

T.H. Wood House, Binscarth Road. flickr: ettml