Living the High Life

Behind the Victorian façades above Broadway lives a lofty community devoted to the many delights of downtown living.

September 13, 2012 | | Back Issues

Barb McDiarmid (right) and her partner Rae Brown occupy a full two storeys above Broadway. Barb loves the leafy view from the windows and being able “to walk everywhere.” Photo by Rosemary Hasner.

Barb McDiarmid (right) and her partner Rae Brown occupy a full two storeys above Broadway. Barb loves the leafy view from the windows and being able “to walk everywhere.” Photo by Rosemary Hasner.

Pale blue above, pastel clouds at the horizon, from my back deck I see Venus, the morning star, keeping company with Jupiter and a sliver of moon in the early sky. Out front, across Broadway, works crews have already set out orange cones to stop cars turning up Second Street as the first vendors arrive at the Orangeville farmers’ market.

This morning early arrivers hold steaming coffees close to their chests, cupped to warm both hands. They shiver and shake off lingering sleepiness as they arrange tents and tables. By eight o’clock it looks like a carnival has set up beside Town Hall. And from my second-storey window I have a ringside view.

When Susan and I decided to move onto Broadway, we considered it a temporary step, but soon settled into a warm and growing community. Four years later, we’re still here, and have no plans to move on.

One of our new neighbours, Barb McDiarmid, an artist with a studio at Alton Mill, moved into a two-storey condominium on the north side of Broadway five years ago. She and her partner Rae Brown are thrilled to be living where almost everything they need is so close at hand. “I can walk anywhere,” Barb says, “the library, the bank … sometimes I take my dog Magoo to Canadian Tire because they let me take her in. Inevitably I run into someone I know. The shopkeepers are all very friendly and welcoming.”

And in spite of living downtown, Barb says, when she looks out to Broadway from her lofty windows, “I see trees and leaves and flowers.”

You have no doubt walked right by our homes, but you’ve got to look up to see them – up to the second and third floors above the storefronts. The skillful work of the early tradesmen is still evident in the intricate brickwork of the Victorian façades, but today, behind those façades are comfortable apartments, well suited to contemporary living.

Another of our Broadway neighbours, real estate agent David Maguire was instrumental in recreating some of the living space above Broadway. He now lives in a spacious loft over a store east of the Town Hall. Forty years ago a major fire gutted the building that encompasses 117 to 123 Broadway. What saved the adjacent buildings was thick, triple-brick walls. The owners at the time replaced roofs and installed false ceilings to get the stores back in business quickly. But above them, they left things much as the fire had – a gaping emptiness – no floors, only exterior walls supporting the roofs.

Real estate agent David Maguire was the driving force behind developing condos in the burnt-out second and third floors of buildings on the north side of Broadway. He now occupies one of them, which is large enough to accommodate his considerable collections of toys, books, pinball machines and other memorabilia. Photo by Rosemary Hasner.

Real estate agent David Maguire now occupies one of them, which is large enough to accommodate his considerable collections of toys, books, pinball machines and other memorabilia. Photo by Rosemary Hasner.

Years later, when the building came up for sale, David encouraged a group of Toronto investors to rebuild the upper floors as condominium apartments. The same group renovated another building on the south side that had also been empty for a long time. In fact, scrawled on one wall was graffito signed by the Island brothers who lived on the farm that is now under Island Lake. It was dated 1897. “We were leaving our footprints in decades of dust,” David says.

Some of Broadway’s apartments, like Barb’s, have two full storeys. David’s has a cathedral ceiling and sleeping loft. And some, like ours, have decks or accessible rooftops, green oases above the bustle of downtown.

You might think living above Broadway harkens back to a time when merchants lived above their stores, but Wayne Townsend, curator at Dufferin County Museum and Archives, says that was not always the case. Often the upper floors housed offices for lawyers and other professionals or businesses, such as photography studios or stationery stores. “The merchants themselves,” he says, “lived just off Broadway in the houses along First Avenue, Zina and York.”

Not so Kathleen Henning, owner of Henning Salon. She started her business in her home in an Orangeville subdivision, later moving it to a storefront on Zina Street. But, she says, “I had a vision of my dream salon downstairs and living upstairs.” So when the space at 193 Broadway came up for rent, she leapt at the opportunity. A year later she bought the building and she and her husband Jeff Brown moved into the second floor apartment.

A heritage gem, their apartment still had its original, highly ornate trim, but it was dark and heavily lacquered in the style of its period, and though the ceilings were high, the rooms were small. This year Kathleen and Jeff opened up the space, preserving the architectural details, but painting all the trim a gleaming white, with the exception of a built-in, glass-front dining cabinet. The result is a bright and airy contemporary space that sweeps the length of the building.

Nathan Hathaway and Norm Gray also finished a recent kitchen renovation that involved removing walls in their condo, creating enough space to host a recent family dinner for 18. Photo by Rosemary Hasner.

Nathan Hathaway and Brenda Gray also finished a recent kitchen renovation that involved removing walls in their condo, creating enough space to host a recent family dinner for 18. Photo by Rosemary Hasner.

Nathan Hathaway and Brenda Gray used the same design strategy for their place in one of the condominiums David Maguire had helped bring back. “We wanted a bigger place to entertain,” says Nathan. “So I took down a wall and really opened it up. We had 18 here for a family dinner.”

Even so, many of us who have moved to new urban quarters above Broadway have had to do some serious downsizing. Susan and I had difficult decisions about which of our art and crafts to keep or give away. Barb McDiarmid had the added challenge of closing her antique business when she moved. “I tried to get rid of as much as I could,” she says. “Still, there are so many things that you think are special.” When the dust settled, one of her bedrooms was piled to the ceiling. It took her another year and a half to get rid of it.

David Maguire kept all his special things. Or so it seems. His loft is filled with collections of toys, books, pinball machines and other items he has been buying, trading and selling for decades. Still, the process of moving was “brutal,” he says. “I sold about half my collection at auctions and toy shows. I still have two storage units.”

However, it wasn’t just years of accumulation we all left behind. We no longer have lawns to mow, driveways to shovel, or gardens to weed – though I still have a garden of sorts – pots on the deck where we grow tomatoes, herbs, salad greens and flowers. (In fact, our large back deck really serves as another room, where we can sit quietly with our morning coffee, read in the afternoon, dine and entertain in the evening.)

Writer Tony Reynolds happily gave up lawn mowing and snow shovelling, but retains a gardener’s pride in the tomatoes and other vegetables and herbs he and his wife Susan Reynolds grow on the spacious second-floor deck of their Broadway apartment. Photo by Rosemary Hasner.

Writer Tony Reynolds happily gave up lawn mowing and snow shovelling, but retains a gardener’s pride in the tomatoes and other vegetables and herbs he and his wife Susan Reynolds grow on the spacious second-floor deck of their Broadway apartment. Photo by Rosemary Hasner.

And the best part? We don’t have to drive. We walk everywhere, whatever the weather.

When we’re hungry, we can step out to enjoy the tastes of Japan, Jamaica, or an English pub. We can linger over a fine meal at one of several downtown restaurants or grab a quick bite, such as a healthy smoothie from Euphoria or a sweet treat with fresh coffee from Mochaberry. On Saturdays we can be first in line at the Farmers’ Market, and come back with a cornucopia of fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, artisanal cheeses, breads and cakes.

One winter Susan and I had planned a family get-together at One99 on Broadway, but a blizzard blew in and we ended up being the only two in the restaurant. We enjoyed it immensely, and trudged home along the silent street through hip-deep drifts as the snow made halos around the street lamps.

We’re also an easy walk to all kinds of arts and entertainment, including the paintings and craftwork at Dragonfly Arts (and the art supplies at Maggiolly), the plays at Theatre Orangeville, and the live music on Thursday nights at Mochaberry (and the music lessons at Aardvark). During this summer’s Blues and Jazz Festival, Susan and I sat under the canopy on our deck in the drizzling rain with glasses of wine and listened to the music from the main stage. Indeed, when any parade or festival comes to town, we have front row seats.

“It’s a simple life,” said Kathleen Henning, “Everything you need is right here.” David Maguire concurs. “It’s a unique lifestyle, not for a family really, but a single person or couple. My brother lives near Waterloo and has been coming down for years. He says it’s one of the nicest downtowns in Ontario.”

In the dark of early morning, the cars drive east along Broadway, heading toward the cities and work. At night the same parade heads west. I can’t help but wonder if the drivers know how much they’re missing.

————————-

Editor’s error: In the print version, Brenda Gray was misidentified in the caption to the photo of the kitchen she renovated with Nathan Hathaway. Her name has been corrected on this site.

About the Author More by Tony Reynolds

Tony Reynolds is a freelance writer who lives happily above Broadway in Orangeville.

Related Stories

Main Street Moxie - Feminine verve and know how are a main stay on Main Street. Photo by Pete Paterson.

Main Street Moxie

Sep 13, 2012 | Julie Suzanne Pollock | Community

Feminine verve and know-how are a mainstay on Main Street, learn how women retailers revive downtowns.

Eleanor, her brother Howard, and her Eaton’s Beauty Doll, playing on the first-floor roof at the rear of the hotel, overlooking the barns. Photo Courtesy Eleanor Mcmillan Jamieson.

Memories of Broadway

Sep 13, 2012 | Tony Reynolds | Back Issues

The creamery was where The Banner is now. Every two weeks Mom would send me over to pick up three pounds of butter and a large can of buttermilk.

Comments

2 Comments

  1. Enjoyed, “somewhat,” reading the articles “Living the High Life” and “Memories of Broadway” by Tony Reynolds in your last issue.

    I would like to make it clear however, that real estate agent David Maguire does not occupy a fire salvaged condominium as alluded to in “Living the High Life,” but rather an apartment that my late wife Ingrid Scott and myself toiled seven years to create at 83 Broadway (the first phase) and later after her death, in Dec. 1999, five years on the last phase (see photos before and after below). So to those who know Dave and have been in his/this/my apartment, and to those who, after reading the article, have to also know, it was never a burnt out hulk as Mr. Reynold’s story suggests. Different part of Broadway altogether. These are displeasing errors of lazy fact finding/reporting to me. Yes, I know the “theme” of the story is downtown living, and that message is correct, however if my building at 83 Broadway is involved, as it was, then it better be correct.

    Ingrid, and those who remember her when she operated her business downstairs at 83 Broadway as “Ingrid Interiors,” was the “driving Force” behind the creation of what is now Mr. Maguire’s apartment above. This all began in circa 1991 and long before Mr. Maguire and his involvement with “the condo’s on the North side” referred to in the “High Life”article. Long before anyone else in the post recession downtown “movement” for that matter. Long before “In The Hills” that bore this article. Half Broadway was “boarded up” when we began and virtually in the mid to end of the 1989 – 93 recession (Gulf war/GDP decline US/Canada, Mulroney defeat). It was our home, that apartment, in those early years before she died and mine after, up until Dave took it over as my tenant in 2008. Anyone that came along after the year 2000 or so and set up shop on Broadway, I refer to as the “Rainbow” people. They are here after the storm (the 90’s decade). No boarded up storefronts as there were when we began. No divisive WalMart debacle (1997). Vacancies are now filled rather quickly on the whole.

    The medians, in recent times and amid some controversy, were a needed and finishing touch.

    The building at 83 Broadway, circa 1877, was, in later years, (after 1947) known as the McNeilly building when Sam McNeilly bought it, (1947) and who later built a concrete block addition at the back (now Nurtured Boutique), from where he operated a shoe repair business a few short years before he died in 1960 (members of the McNeilly family still visit from time to time…they were raised in this building). Next door at 85 Broadway was the Armstrong creamery (1930’s to 60’s). It is now Broadway Convenience, Shoo Kat shoe, Dr. Nails and recently Coriander Kitchen, an East Indian restaurant. The store at 83 Broadway where Ingrid operated her business, Ingrid Interiors, from 1992- 1999, is now occupied by “Genesis Space Creations” and owned by Margo Young.

    I still own 83 Broadway and have many great memories of the times when Ingrid and I lived there and the fun we had designing and building what it is today, and yes everything about downtown living is true. Dave Maguire is a devout promoter of that lifestyle, lives it, and holds the torch high. He did not however, have anything to do with the building or apartment he occupies as intimated (driving force) in Mr. Reynolds article.

    One final note about Broadway and the stormy 90’s, more specifically the WalMart invasion in 1997 and their ultimate success in locating where it is today; all of Broadway was against this (WalMart coming to town) for obvious reasons. Michael Hill was the head of our BIA at the time and, although opposed by many, myself and Ingrid included, he initiated a deal to have the WalMart consortium sign into our BIA before allowing them in. Mr. Hill’s action, in retrospect, was the right thing to do and this has contributed significantly (added BIA funding) to the success we now see on Broadway today (BIA area…old downtown). Thank you Michael.

    Thomas Matz
    48 Meadow Drive,
    Orangeville, Ontario


    Editor’s note:
    We regret the error. It occurred in the caption to the photo of David Maguire’s condo. It was an error by the editor, not the writer. It has now been changed on this site.

    Below is photo of rear building (McNeilly shoe shop) at 83 Broadway taken in 1991 and before reno’s.
    Below is photo of rear building (McNeilly shoe shop) at 83 Broadway taken in 1991 and before reno’s.

    Photo of rear of building at 83 Broadway after reno’s and the removal of shoe shop building above.
    Photo of rear of building at 83 Broadway after reno’s and the removal of shoe shop building above.

    Thomas Matz from Orangeville on Sep 21, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

By posting a comment you agree that IN THE HILLS magazine has the legal right to publish, edit or delete all comments for use both online or in print. You also agree that you bear sole legal responsibility for your comments, and that you will hold IN THE HILLS harmless from the legal consequences of your comment, including libel, copyright infringement and any other legal claims. Any comments posted on this site are NOT the opinion of IN THE HILLS magazine. Personal attacks, offensive language and unsubstantiated allegations are not allowed. Please report inappropriate comments to vjones@inthehills.ca.