Now and Then explores the stories behind Toronto’s historical plaques and monuments. Brought to you by Heritage Toronto’s Plaques and Markers Program.
A few weeks ago, we brought you the story of how Heritage Toronto makes its historic plaques. One of the projects Heritage Toronto’s plaque program works on are the century house plaques, which are for houses that are over 100 years old.
Chris Bateman, one of the team members for the plaque program and a Torontoist contributor, leads the century house plaque project. Anyone who suspects their house might be at least 100 years old (built in 1916, although houses from 1917 will qualify in a few weeks) can apply online and pay a $250 fee. Once the application comes in, Bateman will check the 1913 fire insurance map to see if the house appears. If it’s not there, he will go to the Toronto Archive to check the tax records for the relevant year.
If the house is at least 100 years old, the home owner is shipped a plaque with their house number. “It’s a way for people too show the pride they have for their historic house,” Bateman says.
Sometimes, homeowners apply for a plaque without realizing their home is listed as a heritage property. In that case, Bateman will tell them that their house is protected and historic, and they may choose to fund a bronze plaque as part of Heritage Toronto’s historic plaque program, which has more detailed information about the first person to own or rent the property and who the architect was.
Bateman says that the plaques can seem viral—once one person in a neighbourhood has one, they see more and more applications from the area come in. Because many houses on a street are the same age, if you see someone with a century house plaque in your neighbourhood, your house is likely eligible as well. And this year has been the best yet. There are 173 century house plaques in the city—and 117 of them are from this year alone. When the program started in 2013, only one plaque was made. Two went up in 2014 and then 53 in 2015, but this year had a huge jump. Bateman hopes that Canada’s 150th birthday next year will inspire an increased interest in history. “As the program grows more and more people become aware of it…I think there are a lot of people out there who are justifiably proud of their old homes, and I hope that Canada 150 will spur some people to apply,” Bateman says.
This article is brought to you by Heritage Toronto.