What kind of neighbourhood houses celebrities, acclaimed writers, fraternities and university students alike?
Rachel McAdams the movie star, Margaret Atwood the celebrated author, David Suzuki the beloved environmentalist, and lesser-established frat boys and students at the University of Toronto have all called the Annex home due to the neighbourhood’s central location, gracious dwellings and distinct aesthetic that sets it apart from other parts of Toronto.
The Annex is a neighbourhood characterized by its large merchant-class homes built in the late 19th century that were heavily influenced by prominent Toronto architect Edward James Lennox. He left his mark on Toronto through designing some of the city’s most beloved buildings including Casa Loma, Old City Hall, and the King Edward Hotel. Casa Loma, one of the few castles in North America, demonstrates Lennox’s diverse range of influences as he traveled around Europe for a year prior to designing the castle. As a result, Casa Loma borrows motifs and themes from English, Scottish, French, and German castles.
Casa Loma’s rear retrieved from Wikimedia Commons
Old City Hall retrieved from Wikimedia Commons
While E.J. Lennox is best recognized for his contributions to Toronto’s civic buildings, he also had a strong influence in the up-building of the city, being commissioned for several elite private residences. He also is renown for borrowing from marrying architectural elements from the British Queen Anne and Edwardian architectural styles with American Romanesque features. The result? A fusion of many styles into one which is distinctly Torontonian - the Richardsonian Romanesque - which can be found throughout The Annex neighbourhood.
Benvenuto Palace retrieved from City of Toronto Archives
Lennox used a variety of decorative elements such as Romanesque-inspired arches, large bay windows, turrets, and ornate trim to create his own distinct aesthetic. Local construction materials that make these house even more distinctly Torontonian. For example, the bricks used in construction came from the Don Valley Brick Works while the sandstone came from southern Ontario.
Robert Brown House retrieved from Wikimedia Commons
Retrieved from City of Toronto Archives
Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons
E. J. Lennox is one of the few architects Toronto can proudly called its own. Cultivating his own unique architectural aesthetic, The Annex neighbourhood is a great place to complete a walking tour to see his work. It's a stunning collection in an elegant high-coveted downtown locale. It's easy to see why Jane Jacobs, the established urban theorist and urban activist, called The Annex home.
It’s also one of the few neighbourhoods you stand a chance to run into renowned personalities after leaving a frat party!
Researched and Written by Nour Chatti, Undergraduate Student of Human Geography and Urban Studies at the University of Toronto