SOLD. Back in the early 1980s I lived for a year on Bagot St, right down near City Park. I’d only been in Canada a year or so and now I’d started a film degree at the university. It was all quite lovely but also a bit disorienting. That old Talking Heads line, How did I get here? felt as if it was written just for me. I didn’t feel particularly in control of the way my life was unfolding. I was an observer to its own little post-punk machinations. I slept late and studied poorly.
I persisted with film and wrote some stories, some awful sad-sack poems. The future Globe and Mail writer Russell Smith lived in the grand old Annandale condo building, and I remember standing against the glass in his place, staring down at the red-brick townhouses along William St. I had no real estate ambitions back then; I just liked the way that row followed the slight curve of the road as it worked up towards Sydenham St, and the archways for the horse and carriage traffic. In some minor ways I was reminded of Oxford, where I grew up, although the bricks here in Ontario seem more red, more immediate, than those I remember in the oft-grimy environs of Blackbird Leys and Cowley.
It’s entirely possible I focused my attention back then, at least fleetingly, on 135 William St, albeit with no clue how important the house would become. Or how I would one day wander its elegant hallways, putting flowers in vases and organizing for photographers to visit, and eventually for my sign to be installed on the front lawn.
Life is like that for all of us. Futures unknown, roads taken and not taken, odd little tears in the fabric through which it feels one should be able to squint fiercely enough to glimpse an older version of someone with the same name.
I’m more than okay with the way things have turned out. My office window lets in plenty of light. The work is interesting. The clients mostly delightful. And I get to write (albeit in a format I never imagined) about the colour of pine floors, the shape of a high window and the puddle of light it allows into a front hall where it curls up on the floor like a fallen leaf.
So yes, we’ve arrived at 135 William St again. Let me count a few of the ways it moves me.
There are the book-lined walls for starters, and also the wall of windows in a wonderful white kitchen like something out of Provence. There’s that red-brick face of the house, nearly scarlet, as if it had run a mile uphill to get here. And in contrast, the quiet grey-white courtyard at the rear. There is the beautiful study off the master bedroom, torn from a Victorian novel, one of those rooms that surely contains a passage to another world behind all the first editions. There is the really well-finished lower level with its exposed limestone. I would turn off the TV, I know I would, and run my hands over the stone down there, hunting some whorl of fossil. And of course there are the pine floors gone the colour of honey though which you’d pad serenely every morning.
The pleasures of 135 William St, at the heart of Sydenham Ward in downtown Kingston, will not be reduced to a mere real estate listing, of course they won’t, even as florid an effort as this one. But it’s a start.
More prosaically I’ll mention almost in passing that there are three bedrooms here (with the possibility of a fourth), and far-away ceilings, two bathrooms, laundry, that fine kitchen again with its granite and its oceanic light. There is parking out beyond the patio, and uncountable architectural bits and pieces that speak to an attention to detail that has served this elegant townhouse well for the last 118 years.