The John Douglas House stands placidly in the heart of the Cabbagetown Metacalfe Heritage Conservation District as a 2 storey residential rowhouse of unique Classical Revival features. Unlike many other prominent styles in Cabbagetown, the Classical Revival trend can only be found at this location and one other — the Canadian Bank of Commerce on Carlton Street.
Interestingly enough, the John Douglas House was first modelled after the Italianate style in 1875. It wasn’t until 1891, when architect John Wilson Gray took the initiative to remodel, that the home transformed into an example of Classical Revival, which by that point had become outdated. By the turn of the century, the John Douglas House had been sold off as apartments, after being remodelled once more, and stands as we see it today.
Classical Revival Architecture (1820-1860)
The Classical Revival style differs greatly from other forms found in the Conservation District. It favours the analytical rather than the ornate, implementing Greek and Roman building plans as opposed to borrowing Classical embellishment. Although this style is associated with civic structures and the plantain mansions of the South, many of the style’s features can be found in wealthier Canadian heritage homes. The John Douglas House is one such example, displaying the following dominant Classical Revival characteristics:
- Simplicity, monumentality, and purity exercised in the interior and exterior design
- Rectangular frame
- Two rooms deep, with the long gabble-front facing the street
- Walls of brick, stucco, stone or wood
- Two-story white portico with a triangular pediment supported by four grand square-based columns
- Paneled door beneath a semicircular or elliptical fanlight
The Work of John Wilson Gray
Gray’s unconventional style can be found in a two other locations in Toronto:
As can be seen, much of Gray’s work involved offices and low-rise multi-unit structures. For this reason, it is not a surprise that the John Douglas House would be created in a unique, civic-like image. Besides the Classical Revival style, Gray was also a strong advocate of the Gothic/Romanesque Revival and the Chicago, both of which he commonly combined in his work.