The listing: 403 Queen St. S., Hamilton, Ont.
Asking price: $3,995,000
Taxes: $28,081 (2016)
Lot size: 1.18 acres
Agents: Cheryl Thompson and Cheryl Dorricott, Sotheby’s International Realty Canada
The Back Story
Susan and Sam Perez were living amongst the vineyards and horse farms of Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe region when they realized that they were spending far too much time driving into Hamilton. Their son and daughter attended school in the city and, on weekends, the parents ended up waiting around while the kids attended birthday parties and social events, Mr. Perez says.
Mr. Perez also couldn’t be too far away from the offices of Kushies Baby. He is chief executive officer of the company, which sells baby gear around the world and has a manufacturing facility in nearby Stoney Creek.
The couple began looking at the genteel homes of the Durand area of Hamilton. The city’s wealthy business titans had built mansions of stone and brick when the industries built around Hamilton Harbour were flourishing in the 19th and 20th centuries.
William Delos Flatt was one of those tycoons. He made his name in real estate by surveying a swath of land that was once part of the Durand farm below the Niagara Escarpment. Records show that Mr. Flatt held the deed for the property at 403 Queen St. S. in the 1900s.
The Georgian-style house that still stands today was built by Pigott Construction. The well-known firm built many local landmarks, including the courthouse, the city hall and Hamilton’s first high-rise, which is still known as the Pigott Building.
With successive generations, the family-run business expanded to become one of the largest construction firms in the country.
The house was owned by another of Hamilton’s well-known families. The Moodies were bigwigs in the textile business and it was James Moodie – a son of the founder – who purchased the house on Queen Street.
Decades later, the mansion was carved up into a rooming house for students. It was badly neglected during this time, according to Mr. and Ms. Perez.
In the early 2000s, a local doctor purchased it and undertook an extensive renovation, Mr. Perez says.
He did a lot of restoration to the interior, Mr. Perez says, and updated the mechanical systems.
The winding three-storey staircase was refurbished and the foyer clad in marble. Three small rooms were opened up into one large kitchen with a granite-topped island.
Outside, the doctor had the property surrounded by a tall, black wrought-iron fence with electronic gates.
He also cut down the many mature trees in the backyard to make way for a large in-ground swimming pool and patio. The landscaping facing the street was redone with perennial gardens.
When the house hit the real estate market in 2007, Mr. Perez was quite interested in another house for sale in the neighbourhood. The real estate agent pressed him to pop into the Queen Street property just for a look.
He raced through the many rooms because he was on his way to meet Ms. Perez at the other house, but he knew right away that he preferred the grandeur on Queen Street.
“The minute I walked in the foyer, this was the house.”
When Ms. Perez visited, the owner had lit each of the home’s eight fireplaces, including one outside on the back terrace.
Ms. Perez agreed with her husband that they had found their new home.
“It really called us,” she says. “There’s something about this house that’s alive.”
The House Today
Much of the refurbishment was finished, but Ms. Perez brought in a designer from Connecticut to help with choosing the colour palette and furnishings.
Finding a purpose for seven bedrooms, eight bathrooms and 8,200 square feet of living space became a mission for Ms. Perez.
An old-fashioned porcelain sink in the basement was brought upstairs for use in a main floor laundry room. The former laundry room has become a private sanctuary for the family cat.
“I made every room have a use.”
There’s a key room in the downstairs hall which still holds dozens of vintage keys for the various locks in the house.
On the second floor, the couple’s son had a suite with a bedroom, sitting room, private balcony and ensuite bathroom.
The master suite is also on that floor. There is an ensuite bathroom with a 1930s Hollywood vibe and his-and-hers dressing rooms. The large bedroom has a private terrace in the treetops.
“We liked to sit here for a glass of wine – especially when there were lots of kids around,” Ms. Perez says.
On the third floor, the couple’s daughter had a 290-square-foot suite with a separate guest bedroom for friends sleeping over. The bedroom has deep dormer windows and nooks for reading and relaxing.
Ms. Perez says their kids, who are now away at university, often had friends stay over on the weekends. “We used to just count the shoes on Saturday morning.”
Throughout the house, original doors, hardware, baseboards and light fixtures are still in place.
“You still, after 10 years, notice little things,” she says.
In the dining room, for example, a built-in china cabinet with leaded glass doors hasn’t changed since circa 1929. In the conservatory, windows topped by leaded glass fans bring light in on three sides.
“Every latch works so well,” Ms. Perez says, opening an original casement window.
There’s a wood stove for warmth and French doors leading to the back garden.
Ms. Perez says many film productions have used the house as a backdrop. The mini-series The Kennedys, which starred Katie Holmes as Jackie Kennedy, was one.
“Katie Holmes used my bedroom as her dressing room.”
The house sits right below Hamilton Mountain, as the city calls the Niagara Escarpment. The Bruce Trail and other hiking paths wind along the face of the cliff just above the one-acre property.
Outside, there’s a large in-ground saltwater swimming pool with water fountains, a rose garden and extensive lawns.
The couple added an outdoor kitchen under one covered porch and a separate living area with a television under another.
“We decided that we would take indoor living and make it outdoors,” Ms. Perez says.
Mr. Perez notes that Queen Street, which is one of the routes up and down “the mountain,” can have quite a lot of traffic, but the house also has a back gate and driveway that opens to the less busy Hess Street.
He adds that people sitting in the back garden can’t hear the vehicles passing in front.
“You’re right in the heart of downtown and you would never know it.”
The cafés and nightclubs of Hess Village are within walking distance and there’s a buzzy artists’ community in the James Street North area.
When she wants to visit friends in Toronto, Ms. Perez walks to the nearby GO Train station and takes the train into Union Station.
The Best Feature
The grand three-storey open staircase winds up from the foyer at the centre of the home.
“I love the view looking up,” Ms. Perez says.