Did you know that Canada's first community housing project was built before World War I?
Originally called Riverdale Courts, The Bain Housing Co-operative was one of the two housing projects (the other being Spruce Court in Cabbagetown) built by the Toronto Housing Company.
Image courtesy of Torontoist Newsletter
To address the housing crisis, the Toronto Housing Company employed the well-known English-Canadian architect Eden Smith, and his firm, to design Riverdale Courts. This was the first community housing project in Canada aimed at improving working-class conditions.
Image courtesy of Bill Andersen
Constructed east of the Don Valley in Riverdale on Bain Avenue in 1913, the co-operative consists of 260 apartments, ranging in size from one to four bedrooms, located in 25 three-storey buildings spread over two massive city blocks. This unique set of buildings adheres to the principles of Arts and Crafts architecture that was popular in England at the time.
Image courtesy of Juwan Salsa' (article writer)
Steeply-pitched shingled roofs, small-pane casement windows, tall chimneys, and traditional red brick were the “honest” building materials and designs for the project. Simple and unadorned, the Arts and Crafts aesthetic, which lacked ornamentation, was understated.
Image courtesy of Carolyn Neal
Smith’s Bain Housing Co-operative is now registered as a heritage site, not only due to its historic value architecturally, nor as one of Canada's first social housing projects, but because it's beloved by Torontonians. The Riverdale Courts neighborhood remains fully occupied, and still operates as a co-operative today. It's worth a visit.
Interested in more of Toronto's heritage sites? Visit BlogTo's The top 25 historical buildings in Toronto
Interested in seeing some more extraordinary heritage buildings in Canada? Check out these Houseporn.ca articles:
Researched and written by Juwan Salsa', a designer based in Toronto with a Bachelor of Honours in Architectural Studies from the University of Toronto.
Posted In: Ontario