Norwood, Etobicoke (1916)

Posted in: Snippits of History | 0

11 Gibson Avenue in north Etobicoke is for sale. I wish I had the $5.5 million they are asking for this beautiful old home on a huge lot. The property is behind advertised for subdivision or redevelopment and the house itself is being sold as is, so maybe it isn’t in the greatest shape. It is not a designated heritage building like the nearby Grubb family homes at 19 and 23 Jason Road. But I would love to preserve this beautiful piece of land and ensure that the home itself is also saved!

Made of Humber riverstone, the house was originally built in 1916 by the Reverend Robert A. Sims and his wife Beatrice. The couple and their four children enjoyed their home that was surrounded on three sides by open verandahs overlooking the Humber River valley. The Sims called their new home with one storey at the front, and a large lower level down the hill at the rear, “Norwood”.

Robert and Beatrice Sims sold Norwood in 1946 and returned to Toronto. Robert died that same year and Beatrice lived until 1954. During some of the time they had lived there, one of Robert’s sisters, Florence – a retired teacher, bought the lot immediately south of Norwood and lived in a small cottage on the property until her death in 1937. That cottage was later demolished.

The home has since had a few owners, with one of them changing the name of the house to “Torhaven”, meaning “refuge on a rocky peak”. The home was still known by this name in 2016 when I visited it (the exterior) on a Heritage Toronto tour and we had a chance to talk to the current owners at the time, the McIlraiths. Other changes have also been made to the home such as enclosing the porches and opening up the attic with dormers. And no doubt the interior has been modernized as well. Set very far back from the road, it is very challenging to see the home as you are driving or walking by. I’m really glad I had the opportunity to enter the properly legally and take a little look for myself.

Dr. John McIlraith died in 2017; his obituary mentions how much he loved family gatherings at Torhaven. His wife Sheila died in 2022 and I imagine this why the property is now up for sale. And the Sims? They are remembered in a short little curve of roadway, connecting Jason Road with Gibson Avenue, known as Sims Crescent.

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I have been interested in history for almost as long as I can remember. My mother and grandfather took me to see the King Tut exhibit at the AGO in 1979 when I was six years old. An interest in “Dead Canadians” might seem a far distance from ancient Egypt, but not really when you consider that both relate to the study of funerary practices and remembering the deceased.

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