The Language Of Architecture: Toronto’s Many Roofs

To accomplish anything in life takes a lot of hard work and perseverance, take it from us – establishing a solid reputation as roofing experts in Toronto is no easy feat. We’ve been in this game a long time and we’ve come to know Toronto and its inhabitants extremely well. We’ve seen some incredibly old roofs on weathered, historic buildings and we’ve helped install sleek flat roofs on hyper-modern structures as well. Something that we’ve come to appreciate – and something we feel like everyone should enjoy – is Toronto’s unique architectural language.

Toronto is a city that prides itself on having a myriad of neighbourhoods that are culturally, ethnically and stylistically diverse. If you start studying the buildings of any given neighbourhood you start to see a story unfold, told in the language of architecture. While most of the city’s downtown land is being snapped up and developed into condominiums that reach into the sky, we have a deeper appreciation for those old simple houses that give Toronto it’s particular charm.

To take a bit of a trip back in time, imagine Toronto in the 19th century: a small, industrial city that was organized around the harbour on Lake Ontario. The Gooderham and Worts whiskey distillery was one of the first major structures in the city, as well as Massey Ferguson’s factories for manufacturing farm equipment. Towards the end of the century the railway made the city more accessible and the population grew rapidly into the twentieth century, eventually spreading into the first planned community in Canada: Don Mills. As you can imagine, roof repairs in Toronto became a pretty big industry as the city rapidly expanded into the suburban megacity that it is today.

While modernism has become the most prominent style of architecture in the past few decades – hence, our decision to specialize in flat roof problems – we certainly have a soft spot in our hearts for the good old fashioned bay-and-gable, Victorian style houses that are ubiquitous in Toronto.

Bay-and-gable houses are a throwback to Victorian architecture. There was a resistance to typical American design when Toronto was being developed, and this caused Torontonians to gravitate towards Victorian and Georgian architecture. Osgoode Hall and The Campbell house at Queen West and University are two prime examples of how British architecture shaped the city. Ironically, at the time when Toronto was adopting Georgian architecture, is was going out of style in England and was already considered passé.

Bay-and-gable houses are typically semi-detached houses two-and-a-half stories high with big bay windows that take up much of the front of the units. These houses have pitched roofs and the big windows allow for lots of natural light to penetrate deep into the main rooms. Once you know what they look like, you will start to notice them everywhere and see just how much they are a part of Toronto’s architectural language.

Typically, they can be seen in Little Italy, The Annex and especially in Cabbagetown, which comprises many gorgeous old houses that scream Toronto. So take a walk, look around and learn to appreciate a different dimension of the city you live in!