Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Explore the George Brown House: Restored and Well-Preserved Residential Heritage

Screenshot: Doors Open Toronto: George Brown House, 2010Screenshot: Doors Open Toronto: George Brown House
186 Beverley Street, Toronto, ON M5T 1L4
Architect and year: William Irving / Edward Hutchings, 1874-76
Do you remember the music that introduces the Harlem Globetrotters? Well that tune is called Sweet Georgia Brown and during Doors Open Toronto, I visited his home – one recognized as being the best preserved example of Second Empire homes in Ontario. There is no denying it. Looking at this home and its details, George Brown was a very important part of our history.

Located at the corner of Baldwin Avenue and Beverly Street, near the Italian Consulate and Toronto's China Town, this building has a formidable square footprint with almost 9000 feet of interior space with 16 foot ceilings. The doors to each of the rooms on the main floor are adorned with walnut canopies that include the lion from this Father of Confederation's family crest. All in all, there are 15 fireplaces in the house that spans 3 floors and basement. And the space that used to be the kitchen for this house now is used as a mid- sized board room.

George Brown was a proponent of the anti-slavery movement and was also the owner of the Globe newspaper (now the Globe and Mail). A number of years after Canada's confederation, the senator, father of confederation and paper baron, was shot and wounded in the leg by one of his employees. It was a minor wound but infection set in and he subsequently died from his injury. Hanging on the wall of one of the salons is a line-art drawing of his funeral with thousands of attendees in a throng about his home and the corner of Baldwin and Beverly.

Following Brown's passing, the house was purchased by Duncan Coulson, president of the Bank of Toronto, who renovated the dining room to reflect the current trend of Art Nouveau style. And, at the end of Coulson’s life, the house was purchased by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind for office space.

Wrapped on two sides by Victorian gardens and flanked on two sides by a school for children with special needs, the house is a national historical site operated by the Ontario Heritage Trust, its library collection of books preserved and maintained by Parks Canada and the rooms on the second and third floors now generate revenue – rented as offices to pay for the house's good repair. Uses for the common areas of the house include weddings and conferences and during Doors Open Toronto, it will receive more than 800 visitors each day.

George Brown's house is an important part of Canadian history and our local heritage. It is wheelchair accessible, open to the public during Doors Open Toronto and should be visited by anybody with an interest in the grand days of Canadian architecture, seeing the home of one of our founding fathers or just to see what life was like in the middle 1800's.
This article was contributed by Ari Berman, a Management Consultant from Toronto, Canada, with a specialization in operations and process change. He has helped companies spanning aircraft builders to soda drink manufacturers to increase their value - finding and improving important details that never got attended to in past. His work in the construction industry includes overseeing commercial construction projects in retail shopping malls across Canada. He can be reached at 647-235-8181 or via e-mail on

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