The dream house: ‘Yellow Bordello’ in the charms of Warkworth
With his Victorian house repainted in its original butter color and a sign that says “The Yellow Bordello,” Jackson Thurling isn’t surprised when strangers call him.
“Men knocked on the door,” he laughs. “I say it’s a mess and tell them we serve everyone.”
In fact, the pretty mansion on Main Street in the village of Warkworth was a popular bawdy-house a century ago. So Thurling, who bought it in 1992, dressed most of the 17 pieces this way.
“Imagine Belle Watling’s place in Gone with the Wind,” he suggests.
From the feel-me red velvet walls of the vestibule to the ooh-la-la of the silk tent ceiling in the dining room, the painted lady impertinently reveals her charms.
Thurling, who moved to Warkworth full-time in 2020 with his 19-year-old partner Randy Pearle, says their house started out as “a very basic farmhouse” built in 1850 by the British Army major and founder of the city Israel Humphries.
During its colorful past, the residence served as a rooming house and then a triplex in the 1930s and 1940s, with tenants that included a popular blind piano tuner and an English Anglican minister.
“He was a friend of the Queen Mother and the only resident of Warkworth to receive Royal Mail,” said Thurling.
The house was filled with negative energy and troublesome spirits, so he had it “ghosted” about 10 years ago.
“There was so much activity, she spent the weekend,” he says, noting that the house was “brighter and brighter” afterwards.
When he bought it 30 years ago for $ 75,000, it was a rental triplex, and Warkworth was not the destination and the thriving arts community it is now, Thurling explains, a Sotheby’s International Realty Canada real estate agent who helped revitalize Main Street.
Inside the house, which was painted in ‘wicked’ colors of lime green, orange and pink, he tore off the walls and followed the old plinth to resurrect the original floor plan. , reducing the eight chambers to six. Now the four rooms on the ground floor can accommodate up to 125 people with the furniture pushed back, he says.
The restoration cost several hundred thousand dollars and required skilled specialists, says Thurling, citing the replacement of the side veranda as an example. While the original columns and the gingerbread have been preserved, other parts had to be recreated by a master craftsman.
It was a similar situation with the decorative moldings and 19 antique ceiling medallions of the “King Eddie Lounge” on the second floor, named after the pair of beautiful wardrobes that once stood in the lobby of the King Edward Hotel. Thurling picked them up from a ReStore for the reduced price of $ 500 apiece – a bargain slightly offset by the $ 2,000 in freight charges 150 kilometers from Toronto.
His handyman skills were a godsend for the budget, even though they’ve turned blue. “It took a lot of bad language, trial and error,” he recalls the delicate business of pleating, draping and stapling Egyptian silk to the dining room ceiling.
Less of a problem were the walls of the original living room – now called “The Ballroom” – where he made antique stencils in place of the wallpaper at $ 800 a roll.
Other pieces from the past catch the eye in the lobby where a glittering 1932 chandelier salvaged from the demolition of a Rosedale mansion hangs from a convincing plastic reproduction of a pewter ceiling. Inside the lobby, the walls are covered in red velvet from the former Pantages Theater (now the Ed Mirvish Theater) in downtown Toronto. An antique xylophone awaits visitors to announce their arrival.
Area: 3,300 square feet
Total number of rooms: 17
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