Inside an Epic Gothic Victorian Home That Has Its Own Postal Code

This 170-year-old Ontario estate once entertained guests including Henry Ford, Margaret Atwood, and Queen Elizabeth, and it could be yours — if you have $5 million to spare.

By Josh Sherman | 5 minute read

Jun 28

Image credit: Mshati Productions for Sotheby’s International Realty Canada.


Broker Paul Maranger and REALTOR® Christian Vermast have never seen anything like the Victorian Gothic estate recently listed for sale at 1 Banfield St., near the rushing waters of the Grand River in the town of Paris, Ont.

“We don’t even see trim and crown moulding like this in Rosedale,” says Maranger, referring to the luxe Toronto neighbourhood known for its affluent residents and a wealth of historic homes. Maranger, the broker and senior vice president at Sotheby’s International Realty Canada, together with his colleague Vermast, senior vice president, sales, is representing the listing, which hit the market earlier this month. 

The ornate Victorian Gothic estate dates back to 1854. It was commissioned by wealthy industrialist Charles Whitlaw, who wanted to put his success — and Paris’s status as an industrial boomtown at the time — on display for all to see. “The home was built to showcase his newfound wealth, and also it was absolutely made to impress,” says Maranger, who notes Whitlaw was also mayor of Paris, which today is known as the Cobblestone Capital of Canada for its charming main street. 

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Now the iconic mansion is available for $4,895,000 and could become a weekend retreat for an affluent Torontonian, or, perhaps, a tech entrepreneur’s main address, given Paris’s proximity to Kitchener, Cambridge, and Waterloo, which is an innovation hub.


Wahi caught up with Maranger and Vermast to go over some of the opulent home’s unbelievable details, as well as educate buyers on what they need to know before putting an offer in on a designated heritage home like this one. 

living room

The home’s current owner, Dr. Salah Bachir, a Canadian artist and entrepreneur who purchased the home — which comes with its very own postal code — about 30 years ago. He then spared no expense in restoring the property to its former glory while also adding new and even more luxurious features.

Perhaps no room exemplifies Dr. Bachir’s investment and attention to detail than the redone living room. “What was already a palatial room in and of itself architecturally was made even more grand by Dr. Bachir’s addition of gold leaf in that room,” says Maranger.

If that wasn’t enough, custom chandeliers imported from Murano also have gold trim.  “[Dr. Bachir] saw them in Paris and then had them replicated,” Maranger explains. 

The Abbey

Given the original owner’s status and business dealings, the home was built with privacy and discretion in mind. The interior walls are two-feet wide. “[Whitlaw] could entertain business guests in complete privacy and there was no noise throughout the house,” says Maranger. “I’ve never seen that in any house in my over 25 years in this business.” 

living room

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Originally designed as a maids’ quarters, a secluded guest suite continues the theme of privacy. “Off of the kitchen is a little staircase up to the former maid’s quarters,” says Maranger. “It’s this getaway room,” he adds, noting, “If you’re a guest, you’d love to stay in that area because it’s completely private with its own staircase.” 

The Victoria Royal Church lofts

Above, there’s a sprawling attic, which could be developed into additional living space, should the next owner need more than the 3,400 square feet on the main floor and 2,391 square feet on the second floor. “It has soaring vaulted ceilings,” says Maranger.


living room

The home’s exterior reflects Dr. Bachir’s respect for history. He’s had the original slate roof, copper eaves and downspouts, and chimneys painstakingly restored to their original glory and materials. 


living room

One of the modern touches is the basement. “Remember that most homes of this vintage — they certainly didn’t have basements as we know it,” explains Maranger. “They would’ve had cellars, and the cellar was generally meant to store fruit and vegetables off-season — it was never an attractive area.” Dr. Bachir changed that. He undertook a full excavation to create a spacious basement complete with a fitness centre.


living room

Another modern element is the pool, which Dr. Bachir had put in about seven years ago. Like everything else in the home, Dr. Bachir went big. “The pool is monumental in size,” says Maranger. The pool measures  Surrounding the pool, Dr. Bachir added a pergola for open-air dining and a change room.


living room

Whether you’re in the market for a multi-million-dollar victorian estate, or a more modest historic estate, there are a few things to keep in mind when shopping around for a Canadian heritage home.

What You Need to Know Before Buying a Canadian Heritage Home

Whether you’re in the market for a multi-million-dollar victorian estate, or a more modest historic estate, there are a few things to keep in mind when shopping around for a Canadian heritage home.


1. Understand the Restrictions

There are different levels of heritage designations, including federal, provincial, and municipal, and each come with their own restrictions. Homes can be protected as part of a heritage district, or individually, and protections can be applied to the exterior or, in rarer cases, even the interior of a home. 


Understanding which rules apply is important if you’re going to be renovating or doing maintenance work to a heritage home. “If you’re repainting [your home] and you live in a non-heritage house, then you don’t need anyone’s permission — you could paint your house mauve if you wanted to,” say Maranger and Vermast.  “With a heritage home, it must be heritage correct colours authentic to the period, and you need permission from the heritage [authority].”

Maranger and Vermast recommend contacting the local heritage authority to get the lay of the land before buying or undertaking any home-improvement projects afterwards.

2. Prepare for Higher Costs

As with other unique older properties, such as condos in former churches, heritage homes are more expensive to maintain. “On the residential side, people need to know what are the restrictions and what are the increased costs,” say Maranger and Vermast. “There’s a big difference between a white-vinyl replacement window and a window that’s heritage grade.”

Generally, Maranger and Vermast recommend working with architects and other professionals who are well-versed in heritage. “They’re going to know exactly what are the colours that are authentic to that period, for example, [and] what can and cannot be done.”

3. Heritage Status Could Boost a Home’s Value

A study of more than 2,700 homes with an Ontario Heritage Act designation found that the vast majority of these properties (74%) had values higher or equal to non-heritage homes in their locales.

“People love it. It’s a draw,” says Maranger of heritage status. He notes that he and Vermast haven’t necessarily noticed a significant trend of heritage status increasing values here in Ontario, but research out of the U.S. suggests there is a correlation between heritage and higher values in some markets.

On the flipside, Maranger and Vermast say selling these homes requires finding buyers who are passionate about history. “As a buyer you have to love heritage, you’re not going to buy a home like this (1 Banfield) unless you absolutely adore history and period homes.”

Josh Sherman

Wahi Writer


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