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May 6

Toronto, Ontario

Toronto's Half House

Willy Wonka would love this weird half-a-home. 

No, this isn’t a trick of Photoshop. Nor is it the world’s nastiest spite house; rather, this bonafide half-home shares more with its nail house brethren after witnessing a history of blight and zoning changes.

The lone row home at 54 1/2 Saint Patrick Street dates back to Toronto’s slums in the late 19th century. Built somewhere between 1890 and 1893, this bay-and-gable relic from a bygone era once was a one of six identical, structurally intertwined homes on what was then known as Dummer Street. 

Time passed, the street names changed, and a particularly sharky land holdings company began buying up property throughout the neighborhood in the middle of the 20th century. Eventually, the owners of the row houses caved, but not as a unit. Each half of the row houses’ wholes were torn down at an excruciatingly slow pace… until 54 1/2 remained the only one left. 

This begs the question: how does half a building cleave away so cleanly only to leave the rest of it standing?

Very carefully. In a miraculous feat performed with clumsy and powerful machinery, a demolition crew managed to tear down 54 1/2’s neighbor to the north with such precision as to not disturb any of the original facade on the building that was to remain. The white, exterior wall had once been a load-bearing wall hidden internally to divide the neighbors’ bedrooms and living rooms from each other. One slip with an excavator and the half-house would have come tumbling down. 

As of 2013, the house was reported to be privately owned and vacant. As it begins to show signs of wear, its status as last bastion of the neighborhood’s less pleasant days are beginning to show on its craggy, half-face. Then again, if any house has earned its character, it’s this one. 

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