Trudy Kassner is trying to save her Belmont Avenue home. The 94-year-old grandmother/great-grandmother may have moved out last fall, but that doesn’t mean she has abandoned the only home she knew for more than 50 years. Quite the opposite, in fact.
She comes back every week, keeping a close eye on workers who are sprucing up the place. The work is being done in the hope that it will entice a new family to move in, instead of a developer keen to tear the house down and replace it with a duplex or more.
Trudy hasn’t moved far, she’s still in the neighbourhood at the Colonel By Retirement Residence, a testament to her connection to the community, and while she may have preferred to stay in her home, it was the right time to go.
She returned one morning recently to a makeshift lounge in the back sunroom, where dining room chairs were thrown together around a small end table, to reminisce along with two of her children about life on Belmont Avenue.
Trudy was first drawn to both the home itself and the location when she saw it in late 1963. Backing onto Windsor Park, up on a bit of a hill with a view of the Rideau River beyond, the setting couldn’t have been better. With four kids in tow, she knew the park would be a popular diversion, particularly the outdoor rink that she could see from the sunroom, which would become her favourite room in the house.
The home itself was a sturdy red brick three-storey built in 1928 on a rare double lot. It offered four bedrooms, a large dining room and living room, full-size basement and roomy third-floor attic – perfect for a growing family.
Moving from Montreal, the family arrived in early 1964 and immediately set down roots. Eldest son Michael remembers how all the kids would gravitate to the park, winter or summer, how the many bike paths became his roads, how he could walk to school.
“It’s just a peaceful, quiet neighbourhood, but lots of things to do,” he says.
His brother Ron liked to catch frogs in summer and lived on the rink in winter.
“I was out there every possible skating day there was,” says Ron. “I put my skates on in the house and would run through the snow down to the rink. The guys at the rink used to accuse me of waiting until the rink was shovelled before coming down because I could see it.”
Trudy had a signal to let him know it was supper time. “There was a light upstairs (shining toward the rink) and we could turn on the light when he had to come home.”
Just five years old at the time, Ron met his best friend, who lived a few doors down, not long after moving in and marvels that the two are still close so many years later.
“We had a great childhood there and did all the things that kids do. The park was the focus point of everything that we did, especially during the summer.”
Sometimes at lunch, their late father would come home from work and swim at Brighton Beach with the kids, who all learned to swim there.
Now, many years later and with all of those memories, “it’s kind of hard to sell,” Trudy admits.
“Yep, we’ve been here a long time,” Michael adds.
Neighbour and Realtor Lyne Burton, who has listed the home, says the experiences of the Kassner kids are similar to the upbringing of her own children, now in their 20s – out on the skating rink, playing basketball, meeting best friends on the street.
“And now there’s a bunch of little ones just doing the same thing. It just seems to be a cycle, a very neighbourly street.”
Which makes it that much more important to find a family drawn to the home’s charm, character and memories.
To help families see beyond the home’s obvious charms such as original (and refinished) oak hardwood throughout, detailed wood trim, nine-foot ceilings and full-size basement windows, a rendering has been created to show how easily the third-floor could be transformed into a luxurious master suite retreat with the best view in the house out to the river. It showcases the potential of what is already a warm and welcoming home.
Add to that a coveted double lot with mature pine, cherry and apple trees and it’s a combination hard to beat.
“It’s a great lot: for kids to be able to play in the backyard and have big congregations,” says Ron. “My parents used to have big garden parties and all the greenery around the lot is so special and if a big triplex or whatever was built there you’d lose all that. There’s something very special about the greenery around the house and the fact the house fits with all the other houses in the neighbourhood.”