Fortress Bramalea – an editorial

When Bramalea was first built, it was designed to have a sense of community, have housing for all “walks of life”, and to be a safe place to raise a family. As a part of the design, greenbelts interconnect the various neighbourhoods in the early phases, and they still provide routes to schools, recreation centres, places of worship and shopping. Houses backing on to these greenbelts connect with the surrounding neighbourhood on two fronts – the street and the greenbelt.

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Toronto Daily Star. March 2, 1968.

Yet, somewhere along the line this sense of a larger interconnected community did not carry through in certain housing developments, so much so that walls were built around a number of pockets within Bramalea. This is especially the case for some of the townhouse complexes and towers built in the 1980s and 1990s. I do not mean to be critical of these enclosed enclaves (they are noteworthy designs in their own right), but I feel as though they do not align with the larger fabric of what Bramalea was supposed to be.

 

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Carriage Walk condo. Toronto Star. September 12, 1987.

By design, these walled and gated complexes are either condominiums or rentals. Bramalea has a rich history of these types of housing developments, but they were designed and built in a very different way in the early years. For example, on Balmoral Drive at Dixie Road are Ontario’s first condominium townhouses. These units are completely open to the street and every much a part of the community as the detached and semi-detached houses in the area. Likewise, Bramalea’s first tower, Clark House (at 78 Braemar Drive), is open to the surrounding neighbourhood. There are fences on the sides and back to define the property boundary and create some privacy, but the front of the building is still open to the street.

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Townhouses on Balmoral Drive. Some are condos and some are rentals. Courtesy of Google Maps.

With time, as condominium complexes added common amenities like pools and playgrounds there was a movement to define the boundaries with fences on all sides and even restricting access. Even so, there are ways to strike a balance between defining the boundaries, but also in staying connected to the greater neighbourhood beyond. Many of the fences around these complexes are metal and visually open, thus defining the boundary, but still not fully cutting off the houses within.

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The Briar Path complex has metal fences that still visually connect the houses to the surrounding area. Notice how the units on the left do not even have wooden privacy fences in their rear yards. Courtesy of Google Maps.

Interestingly, The “Gates of Bramalea” complex has a gate posts and a wooden fence surrounding it, but the fence drops down to a lower height at the entry linking the houses to the community beyond.

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The Gates of Bramalea at 475 Bramalea Road. Courtesy of Google Maps.

The Village in Bramalea townhouse condominium complexes in the G-Section have outdoor pools and playgrounds, yet they still manage to connect to the surrounding neighbourhood by turning the fronts of the houses on the edge towards the main street.

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The Village in Bramalea. Builder brochure, c. 1975.

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The Village in Bramalea. Courtesy of Google Maps.

Conversely, the two Carriage Walk condominium townhouse complexes, built years later in the H-Section, turn their backs to the neighbourhood and have large walls surrounding the edges with “no trespassing” signs at the entry points.

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Carriage Walk. It is hard to even see the houses. Courtesy of Google Maps.

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Carriage Walk entry post. Photo by author.

The most disconected developments in Bramalea are the condominium towers with gatehouses. These gated enclaves restrict access by the public, yet the residents in the towers can visually monitor the public realm from their heights. There is something fortress-like about the whole concept, cutting off the residents from the fabric of the surrounding community.

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Laurelcrest Condo gatehouse. Courtesy of Google Maps.

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Bellair condominiums gatehouse. Courtesy of Google Maps.

Instead of being connected through greenbelts to greater Bramalea and its public recreational amenities, like the earlier phases of the city, these walled and gated communities have their own private parklands and amenities.

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Toronto Star. April 1, 1989.

I am curious as to why things changed along the line and these types of housing developments were built in Bramalea. Was it simply a marketing tool by the builder? Is it more prestigious to have a wall or gatehouse? Is there truly a need for security in Bramalea? Are these complexes actually safer?

I am curious to know what my readers think, so please feel free to comment!

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Toronto Star. April 19, 1986.

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Toronto Star. November 19, 1988.

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Teardrop

And now for some shameless self promotion: Back in December I started publishing chapters on Wattpad from my epic historic-fiction novel, based on Bramalea (so it relates to this blog): The Dream That Was. I have finally published the entire book online, and I have now begun to release chapters from one of my other novels: Teardrop. It is a fast-paced mystery/thriller, so if this is a genre that interests you, please check it out:

Teardrop

The Gates of Bramalea

When: Built circa 1970-1971

Where: 475 Bramalea Road

Who: Consolidated Building Corporation and Ontario House Corporation

What I Know: I am missing the floor plans for the houses in this area, so if anyone has them, I would love to share them!

The two-story units have a carport, instead of a garage, but this allows for front-facing windows on the main floor (in the kitchen, I believe), something that would not be possible if there was a garage out front.

As with most of the townhouse complexes built in Bramalea at the time, there is an outdoor pool and play areas as part of the common elements.

Interestingly, the advertisements for the houses indicate that they came with a refrigerator, stove, hood fan and clothes dryer…but not a washing machine.

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Toronto Star, October 17, 1970

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Toronto Star, November 21, 1970

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Toronto Star, January 2,1971

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Toronto Star, January 30, 1971

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Toronto Star, May 1, 1971

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Toronto Star, September 4, 1971

Miscellaneous Bramalea Articles and Advetisements from the 1980s and 1990s

Below are a series of articles and advertisements about Bramalea Limited from the 1980s and 1990s. They show the rise and success of the company as it rapidly expanded beyond the borders of Bramalea itself, but then start to become more negative as the company struggled in the mid-1990s, ending in bankruptcy. The last newspaper image below is perhaps the most tragic of all, as it is an auction notice to sell off the very last remains of the company’s assets, including office furniture.

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Toronto Star, August 25, 1984

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Toronto Star, August 8, 1987

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Toronto Star, June 27, 198788jul9

Toronto Star, July 9, 198888may28

Toronto Star, May 28, 198892feb22

Toronto Star, February 22, 199292nov21

Toronto Star, November 21, 199292oct17

Toronto Star, October 17, 199293feb27

Toronto Star, February 27, 199395apr27

Toronto Star, April 27, 199595mar31

Toronto Star, March 31, 199595mar31b95may21

Toronto Star, May 21, 1995

Historical Newspaper Articles on Bramalea

I recently realized that I have a number of general newspaper articles on Bramalea that should be shared on the blog. They are great snapshots of the history of Bramalea and the company that built the city. Below are a handful of articles from the 1950s and 1960s:

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Toronto Daily Star, May 14, 1959

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The Globe and Mail, November 15, 1958

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Toronto Daily Star, June 16, 1961

 

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Toronto Daily Star, January 17, 1964

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Toronto Daily Star, March 1, 1965

 

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Toronto Daily Star, May 31, 1968

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Toronto Daily Star, August 2, 1969

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Toronto Daily Star, August 23, 1969

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Toronto Daily Star, May 14, 1969

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Toronto Daily Star, September 12, 1969

North Park Manors

When: Built circa 2006

Where: New Hampshire Court

Who: Century Gove Homes

What I Know: This in-fill development was built on land that appears to have been set aside for a school.

The layouts of the houses are very much a product of the time. The lot widths are narrow, but the garages are set in to the massing of the houses, as opposed to sticking out in front common with the houses built more than a decade before just one street to the north. With the inset garage and rooms above them the second levels of these plans are larger than the main floors, allowing room for large ensuite bathrooms and walk-in closets. Two of the designs have a one-car garage and thus have large front-facing windows on the main floor. This mixing of one-car and two-car garage houses is something that Bramalea Limited did in other parts of Bramalea many years earlier.

There are a handful of other in-fill sites in Bramalea that were built on some time after the surrounding area was developed. These sites remained vacant as they were originally set aside in the master plan for schools, places of worship or shopping, that were never built. A few such sites that come to mind include the southwest corner of Howden Boulevard and Dixie Road, the townhouses on Vodden Street East between Laurelcrest Street and Lone Oak Avenue, and the extension of Locksley Place at Hillside Drive. I am missing the plans for the latter two mentioned, so if anyone has them I would love to share on the blog.   

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The Site Plan below has a different name for the street. I am glad that they changed the name to New Hampshire Court to fit in with the N-Section.

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The Dream That Was

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Hello Bramaleans past and present! In addition to posting on bramaeleablog, another creative outlet of mine is writing fictional stories. I will be posting one of my books chapter-by-chapter on Wattpad to share it with the world. The storyline may be of interest as it is inspired by real events connected to the development of Bramalea – although I have created a fictional family and used a pseudonym for Bramalea. I invite you all to have a read of the first chapter and hopefully you will be drawn to continue reading as I post each chapter.

Below is the synopsis of the book:

Seeking a better life for his children, a father embarks on the ambitious project of designing and building a new city from the ground up. As the city grows and changes so to do his children, each influencing the other over the decades. In many ways, the city takes on a life of its own, with an outcome that the founding father could never have imagined. Inspired by an actual city built from scratch, and real events surrounding its history, this saga tells the tale of a fictional family from the postwar period up until present day.

Here is the link:

The Dream That Was

Hampton Landing by the Lake

When: Built circa 1996

Where: Provincial Place

Who: Begun by Bramalea Limited, but completed by Aspen Ridge Homes

What I Know: I cannot remember if Bramalea Limited actually begun construction in 1994/1995 before they went Bankrupt. I do remember visiting the model homes at the site in 1996 when Aspen Ridge Homes took over.

The format of these plans are large – 22 x 17 inches when opened, so they were a challenge to scan! I am not sure why builders moved to the format (many still have large plans), but they sure do make them hard to store, scan and share.

I am missing the plans for TH6 shown on the site plan (I am not sure what the name of the plan was), so if any of my readers has the plan I would love to add it. Also, if anyone has the original marketing materials from when Bramalea Limited had the project they would be good to share. I have always wondered if they had the exact same floor plans – as the images in the newspaper advertisements look the same.

The townhomes in this area are designed with tunnels leading from the back of the garage or basement to the yard allowing access for bringing a lawnmower through. This design element removes the need for right-of-way access through adjacent back yards as is the case in some freehold townhouse developments.

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Toronto Star, October 1, 1994
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Toronto Star, October 22, 1994

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95jan14
Toronto Star, January 14, 1995

 

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Toronto Star, February 25, 1995
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Toronto Star, May 4, 1996
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This site plan from 1988 appears to be for condominium towers proposed for the site. I seem to recall reading or hearing about how there was local backlash towards this proposal as towers were seen as inappropriate for the area with its low-density housing.
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I am not sure where this article if from, but I found it among the plans I have for the P-Section.

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Historic Bramalea Photos

I would like to start a new series on this blog to share older photos that people have of Bramalea. I am sure that many of my readers have photos of Bramalea from the early years and/or when it was being built. In particular I am interested in photos of houses, buildings and streetscapes. You can send these photos to me at Bramaleablog@gmail.com and I will share as many as I can.

Here is the first batch that a blog reader sent to me. A big thank you to Nigel Carpenter for allowing me to share these photos courtesy of John Carpenter of the E-Section being built. In particular many of these are of Edgebrook Crescent being built, c. 1968.

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My beautiful picture