Second Empire architecture is among the most popular styles that can be found throughout Cabbagetown and in many other districts of Toronto. Originally introduced at the end of the 19th century, many luxury homes were built in accordance to this style. Of course, this was not always the case, and there are many modest homes in the city that resemble the characteristics of Second Empire architecture.
130 Amelia Street
One example of a Second Empire heritage home in Cabbagetown is 130 Amelia Street, another property a part of the Metacalfe Heritage Conservation District. As can be seen with the predominant black mansard roof, double-casement windows, and two gabbled dormers, the style of this house is very true to the lavish, boxy shape of a Second Empire. The porch and the door are two exceptions to the style, however, this can be attributed to an inevitable modern influence. Some of the original moulding and iron casing could have been removed in attempt to preserve, considering this was built in 1879.
Second Empire Influence (1-18 Alpha Avenue)
The two-story rowhouses on Alpha Avenue were built in-and-around 1888 and are a part of the Cabbagetown North Heritage Conservation District. Similar to above, these homes are complete with mansard rooftops and single gabled dormers; however, the doors, windows, and property features more so resemble the worker’s cottage. As well, the lack of a porch is contrary to the Second Empire style, but because these are rowhouses, the homes display characteristics working within their size constraints.
Alpha Avenue’s Worker’s Cottage Roots
Although the rows of houses appear to be of the Second Empire style, many homes on this street are fundamentally a reflection of the popular Worker’s Cottage. With that said, it is sometimes hard to categorize homes in this neighbourhood as the designs are convoluted and shared with many other sub-genres of Victorian architecture. At any rate, many of the smaller homes in Ontario were originally based on the loose design of American and British architects of the 19th century, looking to solve the issue of overcrowding in unsanitary living conditions.
Because many of the immigrants in early Ontario were from England, many of the worker’s cottages were inspired by the Gothic. In Cabbagetown specifically, however, many architects experimented with incorporating Second Empire and Georgian styles into the design — as is apparent when taking a walk down Alpha Avenue. What these houses all have in common is the fact that they were built with simplicity and efficiency in mind.