A big Toronto red home to match Casey House’s big red heart

After years of fundraising and renovations, the mansion is ready.
After years of fundraising and renovations, the mansion is ready / © Dave Leblanc

Those who know Casey House, Canada’s first stand-alone HIV/AIDS hospice, know that their logo consists of an open door and a big red heart.

Now, they’ve got a big red home to match.

If you hadn’t noticed the 1875 Italianate building at the corner of Jarvis and Isabella Streets until now, you’re forgiven. Designed by Langley, Langley and Burke – designers of the Royal Conservatory of Music on Bloor Street West – for wholesale clothing merchant William R. Johnston, the home had been dubbed “The Grey Lady” by locals when heritage-restoration superheroes ERA Architects were handed the keys in 2012.

Behind unkempt shrubbery, battleship-grey paint obscured architectural delights of bright red brick and bands of decorative, pinky-beige sandstone, most of which was in an advanced state of deterioration. Dirty white paint on window frames caused the eye to skip over their delicate beauty. And while Casey House had used the grand old mansion for outreach services upon acquiring it in 2000, they were forced to retreat back to 9 Huntley St. in 2009, where they’d been since 1988, because of safety concerns.

Indeed, ERA’s assessment listed windows and doors to be in “fair to poor condition,” found many areas of spalling brickwork and, inside, documented multiple ceiling cracks, issues of peeling paint and crumbling plasterwork and water damage – all to be expected, of course, but still a tall, expensive order.

Today, however, after years of fundraising, report writing, drafting, power tools, hand chisels and the combined sweat of hundreds of experts, those deficiencies are but a memory as staff prepare to move in, officially, in June. And where there was a small coach house at the rear of the property, there now stands an amazing, modern building by Hariri Pontarini Architects that provides the main entrance to the hospital. […]

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