Heritage Conservation


Harbord Village was built mainly in the 1880s and 1890s, the era that enthusiastically embraced Toronto’s defining “Bay-n-Gable” housing style. Homeowners on some blocks of Harbord Village have applied to the city for Heritage Conservation designation (HCD) to help the neighbourhood maintain the dignity and harmony of its original appearance. Thanks to the high quality of our two initial applications, two areas with a total of 349 houses have received that designation. An application to make the whole area an HCD has been submitted but not yet processed. Two handbooks are also available here: one with advice about renewing heritage properties, and another about historic walks in Harbord Village.

Aims of a Heritage Conservation District

  • To prevent demolition of the homes that define a community’s character
  • To encourage conservation of the community’s historic character
  • To encourage restoration rather than renovation when home exteriors need new roofs, doors, windows, porches, garden fences or re-painting.

HCD guidelines do not apply to the sides or backs of houses or to their interiors—unless their owners want them to.

Heritage Conservation Grants

The city provides support for owners of heritage properties in Heritage Conservation Districts. Each year, it offers grants for 50% of the estimated cost of heritage conservation work on eligible houses. Forms and information are available online. Note that for 2018, the deadline for application is Wed. Oct. 31. Kristen Flood from Heritage Services is happy to answer homeowners’ questions. Heritage properties that pay commercial taxes are also eligible for Heritage Tax Rebates.

Harbord Village Heritage Applications

HVRA’s two successful applications indicate the characteristics used to define heritage value. The District Plans based on these applications make good reading and viewing.

roofline of 79-85 Lippincott St.

Our HCD Application for Phase III was received in June 2013 by the Heritage Preservation Board, but has not yet reached the top of the list for consideration. Our 25-page document, prepared mainly by Leslie Thompson, provides support material for the application. It’s informative, readable, and interesting for its insights into Harbord Village history. It analyses the range of Harbord Village housing styles, names some of the original builders, describes our laneways, and summarizes population flow into and out of the area. It also includes many more photos like the one above, which shows the rhythm of a distinctive Toronto Bay-n-Gable row at 79-85 Lippincott.

In January 2018, Leslie Thompson was given five minutes to speak on behalf of HVRA to the City’s Planning and Growth Management Committee. Noting the long delay in considering our application, she made a strong case for interim protection of houses in our area. Here are the PowerPoint slides from her talk (a PDF file).

Handbook of Heritage Advice and Resources

Thanks to the generosity of local resident Richard Longley, HVRA can make available on this website, free of charge, an extensive and regularly updated Handbook and Directory of advice and resources for those engaged in Heritage Conservation activities of all kinds. (See below about buying a print copy.) This 72-page handbook covers the following points:

  • What it means to live in a Heritage Conservation District and how HCDs are formed
  • How HCDs are monitored: the HVHCD Advisory Committee, Heritage Preservation Services and Heritage Permits
  • What the “elements” (doors, window, pillars, railings etc.) that have been significantly altered or completely removed from the facades of our properties originally looked like
  • Conservation and restoration consultants, contractors and craftspeople who are qualified to help us conserve and restore the heritage character of our properties
  • Suppliers of the materials and reproduced elements needed to make restoration possible: such items as roofing slate, heritage paint colours, brick, masonry and woodwork.

The Economics of Heritage Development

Two publications sponsored by Architectural Conservancy Ontario (ACO) outline the economic advantages of conserving heritage buildings other than houses—such as, for instance, some of the commercial buildings on College and Bloor in our area.

Robert Shipley, Director of the Heritage Resources Centre at the University of Waterloo, makes the point in both documents that reviving even one heritage building has the effect of motivating further revivals. He also provides solid economic evidence that conserving industrial and commercial buildings brings desirable economic as well as aesthetic effects to their communities. He notes that while the term “preservation” implies that we seek to limit change, the term “conservation” acknowledges the importance of change balanced with retaining identity, character, and key features.

  • The Economics of Heritage Development is a handsome 20-page brochure prepared for the Kitchener-Waterloo Association of Realtors (KWAR). It’s packed with photos of striking heritage buildings, and it presents strong economic arguments for investment in conserving older buildings as the hub of development projects. In the pages answering developers’ likely questions, Shipley also notes the importance of consultation with local residents and city councillors, and deals directly with practical questions such as the cost of retrofitting.
  • The Lazarus Effect: An Exploration of the Economics of Heritage Development in Ontario is a 62-page document reporting the research on which Shipley bases his arguments. It’s also handsomely produced and interesting to read, and it includes photos and analysis of examples from Toronto and a wide range of Ontario towns.

With thanks to local resident Leslie Thompson for drawing attention to these resources.

Historic Walks in Harbord Village

Historic Walks in Harbord Village is a free street-by-street guide to our neighbourhood. It includes introductory pages about pre-settlement history and Indigenous presence in the area, and on 1793 creation of Park Lots by Governor Simcoe. The main portion offers information on the the origin of all street names, some notes on local architecture, and identification of properties which had notable residents in the past. It should be useful to leaders of Jane’s and other walks in Harbord Village and to anyone who is interested in our neighbourhood. Richard Longley has kindly made it available free of charge as a PDF file on this website. (See below about buying a print copy.)

Richard notes:

This guide could not have been compiled without the help of the researchers of the Harbord Village Laneway Project, members of the Harbord Village History Group and other local historians. They include in particular two who contributed to the introduction: Margaret Procter sketched the very early history of the area and its Indigenous populations, and Wendy Smith provided the information about Park Lots. She also found the origins of some hitherto unexplained street names (Harbord Street, notably).

This is a work in progress. Like all histories it can never be complete, but to help move it closer to that elusive goal, all corrections and contributions will be welcome which describe the history of Harbord Village from pre-contact times to the present, as will historic maps, photographs and other illustrations (to help produce an illustrated version in future). Please send your comments and contributions to Richard Longley, longley_fovea@sympatico.ca, 68 Brunswick Avenue.

NOTE: Printed versions of either handbook may be purchased from Richard Longley (contact information above) for a small fee. Any proceeds from sales go to the HVRA.