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March 21, 2024 | Buying

Home of the Week Feature – The Globe & Mail – 79 Amelia Street, Hamilton

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By: Shane Dingman – Reporter for The Globe & Mail

Full article on The Globe & Mail can viewed by clicking here

79 Amelia St., Hamilton

Asking price: $2,499,900

Taxes: $12,920 (2024)

Lot size: 75 by 246.43 feet

Agent: Luke O’Reilly, Broker with The O’Reilly Group, Royal LePage State Realty

On Amelia Street in Hamilton is one of Toronto architect Jerome Markson’s signature mid-century modern buildings, his first residential commission, built in 1955 for his aunt and uncle, Jesse and George Goldblatt. In articles written about the Goldblatt Residence it’s sometimes mentioned that there are two more of his houses on the street, but rarely noted is that there’s a second Goldblatt Residence just up the way at 79 Amelia St.

This “Goldblatt II” was built in 1957 for Malcolm and Sondi Goldblatt (Malcolm’s father, Morley, was partners with his brother, George, in the family metals business Interemetco, sold in 1997 after 100 years of operation under the Goldblatt name). Mr. Markson’s style was in full flight on Goldblatt II, with rectangular slabs and cantilevered spaces leaping out over voids. Unfortunately, some of the exterior signatures of the home were erased over the decades by subsequent owners, even if the form and function and the interior flow remains.

In 2008, Jenn Stooke and her husband, Todd, were tooling around Hamilton looking for potential neighbourhoods to move to for more space than their Toronto semi-detached home had to offer. “As soon as we got to the top of the street we saw the For Sale sign,” said Mrs. Stooke. “Within two weeks it was ours. My husband loves mid-century modern, and we just fell in love.”

There were a lot of alterations to the home’s original shape that dated from the 1980s and 90s: A primary bedroom had been added on top of the carport and the original brick had been covered over with stucco. Inside the original modest modernist kitchen on the back corner of the house had been blown out to become a much larger space, and much of the interior woodwork had been painted over. But some things couldn’t be obscured.

“Ours was the least desired of the three [Markson houses on Amelia]. We saw the potential to go in and bring it back to what it should be,” said Mrs. Stooke. “The day we went to put in an offer it was pouring rain; it was so miserable out. But when we were inside, we felt so comfortable.”

The house today

Buildings by Mr. Markson, who died in 2023, both in his private commissions and later in public housing have some distinctive features. He often incorporated light wells and courtyards into his designs.

To get into Goldblatt II you pass through an iron gate set next to the carport and into a courtyard that was originally landscaped by well-known Japanese-Canadian designer George Tanaka to incorporate a stream that passes under the house from the escarpment above.

Today, the original floating stairs and light metal railings are gone, replaced by concrete stairs and slabs that fill in the courtyard. The addition of the new bedroom suite above the carport closes off the side of the courtyard that was once open to the neighbourhood. But the courtyard still serves to connect the interior spaces of the house both to the outdoors and to rooms on the opposite side of the house.

There are actually two entrances to the house. The formal foyer is off the courtyard and opens into an L-shaped living and dining space with floor-to-ceiling windows looking into the courtyard and backyard.

A short stairway down from the foyer is a living room bracketed by window walls that open onto patios in the front and back. This room was updated by the Stookes – new floors, new windows and doors – but it maintains the floating stairs and wood shelving. There’s an opening to the formal dining room a half-level above for light and sound to travel.

Back upstairs the foyer extends to a sitting area (with a hallway to the upper level behind it) with a big beefy flagstone-clad wood-burning fireplace, made warmer by walnut paneling that was one of the most recent restoration projects.

“I just love the grains, I can’t even explain it; the depth of the colours,” said Mrs. Stooke. Her COVID project was to strip off 60 years of paint (beige, white and a little robin’s egg blue) to bring it back to what it was. “I come from a place with oak antiques and quarter-cut planks, and I don’t think I’d ever owned any walnut furniture. It reminds me of my dogs, with dark black and caramelly colours.”

Originally the kitchen wrapped around the back side of this walnut panel wall, and opened into the dining room. But a 1980s addition made the kitchen larger but closed it off from the dining room. The kitchen is one room Mrs. Stooke hasn’t done much to change, with its bricked oven, terracotta floor tiles and bay window sunroom.

When they first moved in, Mrs. Stooke was able to get in touch with Mr. Markson and they talked on the phone about the original house and her hopes for restoring it.

“He was quite lovely, he had sent me some original photos,” to help her see the way things were intended. Later, she found a magazine article from Canadian Homes in 1960 that showed even more of the ways the house has been changed – not always for the better it seemed to Mr. Markson. “I don’t think he was super happy about them,” said Mrs. Stooke.

Behind the kitchen is a stairway leading to the lower level, next to that behind the walnut-clad fireplace is the hallway to the upper level with the bedrooms.

At the top of the stairs is the original primary bedroom with ensuite bath. Before the kitchen addition there was a private patio off this room with a Marksonian privacy screen of masonry with rectangular cutouts. Now, that rear space is a narrow enclosure that could either be a large closet or part of the living space.

There are five bedrooms on this level, up from the original three, and there are four bathrooms where there used to be two. But one of the functional features of this level is unchanged, which is a hallway that runs along the inner courtyard with windows cut at regular intervals. Kids have used these deep window boxes for hide and seek, but they bring light into this part of the house and allow anyone in the bedrooms to peek out their doors to see the other side of the house through the courtyard, and vice versa.

The new bedroom above the carport is large and the back half of the space has three segments that house different parts of the five-piece-ensuite and no fewer than five different closets.

Like the original primary bedroom, this space has little contact with the inner courtyard, but it lacks a connection to the outdoors central to mid-century design.

A doggy world

There’s another whole side of the house on the lower level, initially designed as a large recreation space for Malcolm Goldblatt’s young children, this area was retrofitted for Mrs. Stooke’s mid-career passion: dog grooming.

“When we moved to Amelia I thought: ‘Look at all the space in this yard, I can now have a Leonberger,’” she said. Leonbergers are big dogs: a Germanic breed with a shaggy waterproof coat and they can weigh up to 170 pounds. Even though Mrs. Stooke first learned of them when living in Toronto she felt it was too much animal for tight spaces. “When we moved to Hamilton I finally visited a breeder, and once I met them that was it, they are big teddy bears.”

By 2010 she was showing and breeding them herself (she now has three in the house) and their thick coats require a lot of grooming. It was a neighbour that suggested she should start grooming professionally, and that’s when the downstairs level was converted into a full-on dog-grooming studio that picked up more and more customers over the years by word of mouth.

Off the gated entry is a door to the reception area, through which is the former rec room that has been refitted with a raised tub for scrubbing without bending over, a grooming table, durable flooring and an array of high velocity equipment for drying.

Between the grooming studio and the kitchen is an atomic-age man-cave with bar and seating area, and just off this space is the lowest level with laundry room, mechanical room and storage.

Mrs. Stooke is shutting down the grooming business, before it gets too hard to manage physically and the kids are grown and moving out of the house. While they are staying in the area, 4,500 square feet of mid-century modern is a lot for just two people – even if they have three person-sized dogs.

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