One year later, Rogers and Lind led a group of investors who formed a new company on a 500-acre site in the limestone-rich region near St. Marys, Ontario. They called the company St. Marys Portland Cement Company Limited. The plant cost $250,000 and went into production in November of 1912, employing 90 people. It had two 165-foot rotary kilns and its initial capacity was 180 tonnes a day. The product was named “Pyramid Brand” Portland Cement and sold for $9 a tonne. It was an immediate success and the company prospered.
A view of Uplands; the home of Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Rogers; on Bayview
The house at 28 Valleyanna Dr. has a singular perch in the city – sitting high atop a promontory that slopes down to the Don River Valley below. Over the span of a century or so, the setting has inspired three of Toronto’s most notable architects, with Eden Smith, Gordon Adamson and Raymond Moriyama each adding a layer to the historic estate.Records show that the address known today as 28 Valleyanna Dr. was part of a vast farming estate in the 1800s when Robert Jones and his family held the land for 90 years. In 1920, the Jones family sold the estate to Herbert Bruce. Dr. Bruce was a prominent surgeon who founded Wellesley Hospital in 1911 and served as a lieutenant-governor of Ontario in the 1930s. He christened the 110-acre property Annandale in homage to his Scottish roots and commissioned Eden Smith to design a Jacobean-style house.
Mr. Smith was born in Britain but he made his reputation in Canada by bringing the tenets of Arts and Crafts to this country. The movement rejected the ornamentation of the Victorian era in favour of simplicity and an appreciation of nature. The house sat in a bucolic landscape of gardens, meadows and meandering riding trails.
In the early 1930s, Dr. Bruce sold Annandale to coal magnate Alfred Rogers. His family was a different branch of the prominent Toronto clan that would include – a few generations later – Ted Rogers of Rogers Communications.
During Alfred Rogers’s tenure, the family’s coal supply business was one of the largest in the Commonwealth. Mr. Rogers was also a well-known sportsman and equestrian. He took over Annandale during the Depression and spent a lavish $250,000 on expanding the house. Mr. Rogers also hired the landscape architect Lorrie Dunington-Grubb and her husband and business partner, Howard Dunington-Grubb. In addition to working on the Royal Botanical Gardens and Lawrence Park, the couple founded Sheridan Nurseries. A photo of the gardens at Annandale remained on the cover of the Sheridan Gardens catalogue for years.
Mr. Rogers renamed the estate Uplands and remained its owner until his death in 1953.
The 1950s was a decade of expansion in Canada and a new owner by the name of James Crothers came along with his own vision for the area.
The house today
Mr. Crothers was an entrepreneur who built his business by establishing a Caterpillar dealership to sell heavy equipment. He became a land developer in Florida and the Bahamas and brought the Howard Johnson Hotels and Restaurants chain into Canada in the 1970s.
Mr. Crothers purchased Uplands for his family and sub-divided the surrounding land to create Valleyanna Drive, which is a quiet enclave with number 28 at the end of the cul-de-sac. The estate’s Tudor-style gatehouse was sold as a private home and still stands at 2 Valleyanna Dr. today.
For his own family home, Mr. Crothers wanted to replace the Eden Smith house with a striking new residence. He hired modernist-influenced architect Gordon Adamson.
“You do not look back. You look forward,” was the credo of the late Mr. Crothers, recalls his son-in-law, George Moore.
Toronto residents are more likely to be familiar with Gordon S. Adamson & Associates’ roster of industrial and civic buildings, including the Ontario Power Building on University Avenue, the North York Civic Centre and the Redpath Sugar Refinery. But Mr. Adamson took on a few select residential projects.
Barbara Ann Moore says her father and Mr. Adamson had been friends for years.
Her mother, the late Irma Crothers, wanted “simplicity, quiet and safety” in a new home, she recalls.
The new building was situated so that the construction wouldn’t disturb the long-established Dunington-Grubb gardens. Landscape architect George Tanaka was brought in to enhance and extend the landscaping.
The mid-century house was built with five bedrooms, nine bathrooms and an open plan that allowed one room to flow into another instead of opening onto a hallway. The design puts an emphasis on simplicity and enjoyment of the vistas over the valley. The principal rooms have expansive windows overlooking the valley while the bedrooms and kitchen face the gardens.
The house, with more than 12,000 square feet on two levels, is set low in the landscape and clad in brick. A two-bedroom coach house is connected by a walkway.
“They built the coach house first just to see what the bricks looked like,” Mr. Moore says.
While Mr. Adamson built an entirely new house, Ms. Moore points out the vestibule doors and walls of solid wood panelling that her mother was determined to preserve from the Eden Smith house.
The new home had lots of elements that were avant-garde for their day, including a sound-proofed film screening room with 32 seats, a central music system, indoor grills and ensuite bathrooms for each bedroom.
“Anything new and up-to-date he had to have,” says Mr. Moore of his father-in-law.
The master suite has wall-to-wall windows overlooking the manicured gardens, the long reflecting pool and a sundial. There are his-and-hers dressings rooms and a large ensuite bathroom clad in marble.
The lower-level family room is above-grade, with a well equipped wet bar and doors that slide open to a large outdoor terrace.
Ms. Moore says the lower level was designed for the weekly dinners and movie nights her parents held for friends and business associates. Often Mr. Crothers brought in the chef from the popular Lichee Garden restaurant in Chinatown to prepare Chinese food for the guests.
The curving indoor swimming pool is lined in elaborate mosaic tiles, with a poolside lounge, his-and-hers change rooms and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the valley. A separate spa and beauty salon has a vintage hooded dryer and hair-styling station.
Outside, Mr. Crothers had one expanse of land turned into a three-hole golf course with a small lake, an island and a footbridge to one of the greens. He hired an emerging star in architecture, Raymond Moriyama, who designed a Japanese-style teahouse gently place on a small hill. Mr. Moriyama was awarded the 1961 Massey Medal for Architecture for the project.
When Mr. Moriyama won the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Gold Medal in 1997, his convocation address included his memories of designing the teahouse by staying at the site late into the night with Mr. Tanaka, the landscape architect. Mr. Tanaka was an influential mentor, Mr. Moriyama says, and the two spent many hours working out how to achieve a seamless integration of land and building.
Since Mr. Crothers would mostly be enjoying the outdoors in the evening, the pair wanted to see how the moonlight reflected in the pond, for example, and how the landscape looked under the setting sun.
Years later, Mr. Moriyama was invited back to Valleyanna Drive for tea.
“After nearly 40 years the project has mellowed and is better than new,” he said.
The golf course is now a meadow but the teahouse remains in the landscape.
The best feature
The nine-acre property includes a dramatic precipice, formal gardens, tumbling waterfalls and untamed swaths of land.
On an expanse of table land above the ravine, the manicured Dunington-Grubb gardens still stand surrounded by mature trees. A 1927 magazine article about the estate described elaborate gardens that included Japanese gardens, aquatic plants in the reflecting pool, formal hedges and a rockery.
Decades later, Mr. Tanaka designed a series of steps, walkways and retaining walls that still wind down the hillside and around a waterfall that originates in a pool next to the terrace and tumbles to the lake before eventually leading into the Don River far below.
The panoramic vista and storied setting are incredibly rare, says real estate agent Elise Kalles of Harvey Kalles Real Estate Ltd.
“It’s just unbelievable,” says of the sightlines from the living room over the treed hillside to the teahouse in the distance.
At one time the estate continued on the other side of the Don River but Mr. Crothers donated that portion after the deadly Hurricane Hazel hit Toronto in 1954.
Over the years, improvements have been made to the walkways, patios, water fountains, and retaining walls, and the natural fish pond in the valley has been restored.
Mr. Moore points to the many mature evergreens and deciduous trees that have been long established on the property.
“There are three or four Copper beech that are just magnificent.”
The tranquil landscape is home to lots of wildlife, including foxes and deer. After last week’s snowfall, Mr. Moore spotted prints that showed a rabbit had hopped along the length of a garden path.