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home of the week

32 Bristol Sands Cres. in Uxbridge, Ont.Re/Max All Stars

32 Bristol Sands Cres., Uxbridge, Ont.

Asking Price: $2,990,000

Taxes: $12,622.26 (2022)

Lot Size: 615.8 feet by 380.68 feet (2.90 acres)

Agent: Rachel Kavanagh, broker, Re/Max All-Stars Benczik Kavanagh Team

The backstory

Northeast of Toronto, just past the megacity region when farmer’s fields start to outnumber subdivisions, there is a 36-home enclave known as the Estates at Bristol Pond.

For Don Segal, who has made his home there for more than 30 years, it was a compromise he made with his late wife to live “in the country”: It’s on three acres of land and far away from the city, but it’s not the truly agricultural land he once dreamed of. There is a story about why a city boy born and raised in Montreal wanted a slice of rural Ontario to raise his family on, and it starts with a career path he refused to take: dentistry.

“My mother was preaching at me ever since I was two days born to be a doctor or a dentist,” Mr. Segal said. “I killed myself to be a dentist [and got in to McGill’s dentistry program], but to make money for tuition, I took a summer job at Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue,” which is still the site of McGill’s Macdonald college campus, which was farmland converted to an agriculture school. “I actually fell in love with this work and the country air. I had never experienced that in my life.”

Conflicted, he decided to survey dentists the family knew to see whether he should follow his new passion, or listen to his mother. “One of the dentists told me, ‘quite honestly I hate my job,’” said Mr. Segal, who was taken aback. “‘I tell you this for your sake. Yeah, yeah, I make money, but the truth is I can’t handle it anymore.’ So I made the decision to continue and do research and development.”

Even though his mother didn’t speak to him for months, he finished his undergrad and a master’s degree at McGill in 1971 and pursued a PhD in medical sciences at the University of Guelph, which he obtained in 1976. Along the way he had met his future wife, Dody, who was in teacher’s college in Toronto while he finished his work in Guelph, and one weekend they were invited to a wedding being held on farmland way out in recently created Durham Region.

“We had no idea where we were going, I can’t believe we ever existed without GPS,” he said. But once they got there, the vista of rolling hills and thickets of woods was an inspiration. He knew this is where he wanted to live.

Mr. Segal was an entrepreneur, he studied animal husbandry but was keen to find business applications for his knowledge and founded a company that made use of new biomedical technologies for diagnostic purposes. That’s partly why he wanted a farm (his early research had been about raising pigs), but the first time he took Dody out to view a 50-acre rural property she drew a line in the sand.

“I’m not a farm lady, I’m never going to have chickens and eggs,” she said, according to Mr. Segal. They drove around the area a little and saw a For Sale sign for the Bristol Pond Estates, which had an empty lot. “This is a reasonable compromise, there’s people around and it’s not huge. We’ll buy the property and one day this will be our dream home.”

The Bristol Pond enclave was one large site with each property having about three acres each; some had chunks of bush, some backed onto a private pond, and 32 Bristol Sands Cres. was one of four lots inside a loop of road that was fairly open. For years the site languished, and at one time the couple nearly sold it to buy a house in Unionville, but that deal fell through and, in the early eighties, Dody took control of the project. She hired the contractors, marshalled the designers and pushed through to the finished product: a more than 4,500-square-foot house with a pool they moved into in 1986.

The House Today

One end of the L is anchored by the three-car garage, the other end is anchored by the family room. A tiled foyer with closets welcomes visitors, with the main hallway (with staircase that travels up to the second level with its open loft-style upper hallway and also down to the partly finished basement) straight ahead through French doors.

The main floor hall matches the L-shaped layout, and you can head right around the corner and end up in the family room and office, or turn left through a set of glass French doors to a billiards room complete with pool table and windows that look onto the front and back yards. Toward the back of this room is a second set of French doors leading to the formal dining room that looks onto the backyard.

Tucked into the corner of the main hall is a bathroom with double vanity (good for guests, or for multiple kids washing hands) and a second door that connects to the main-floor laundry room and mud room with entrance from side yard. The laundry/mud room also opens into the eat-in kitchen, which forms the outer corner of the house’s L floor plan.

The kitchen has a large space for eating in and doorways that connect to the dining room, to the three-season sunroom, to a separate exit directly to the deck that wraps around to the rear pool area, and back out to the hallway.

Back in the main hall, there is a set of large floor-to-ceiling windows facing the front yard and opposite the entrance to Mr. Segal’s office space (a decent sized room that could also be a guest bed). Just past these is the family room.

This large room has a pitched ceiling lined with dark-stained beams, and has the feeling of an addition thanks to the wall of reclaimed brick on the interior wall. In fact, this aged material was installed in the initial build, and pairs well with the a wood-burning fireplace on the exterior wall that is framed by an antique mantle Mr. Segal says formed a large part of Dody’s inspiration for the house.

“One day she called me from Cabbagetown, she saw a piece of a mantle that’s being torn out,” he said. The construction crew said the mantle was headed for the scrap heap, so she asked her husband to bring the car and pick up this remnant. “This became a centrepiece in her life, I can remember scraping paint off over the months and years, there were maybe 10 or 12 layers of old paint.” It then sat wrapped up in storage, but when the house was under way it was stained to match the main level’s solid-oak floors and installed.

Upstairs there are four bedrooms and a loft space with skylights next to the stairs that’s partially open to the lower level. The primary bedroom is a very large 24-foot-by-14-foot space with a reading nook tucked into a corner and an ensuite bathroom. There are four bathrooms total in the house, and on the upper level there is a hallway-accessible main bath with dual vanities and shower, as well as a jack and jill ensuite between two of the bedrooms. Two of the bedrooms are set up with two twin beds, so that these spaces have become almost hotel rooms for the grandkids.

“I live for my family,” said Mr. Segal, who has kept up the house for his three daughters and their children after Dody passed away in 2004. “In the summer, in the pool, all the grandkids would come.” During the past two years, those visits have been much more limited thanks to pandemic precautions. “That was tough … I’m not going to see my grandkids any more? I found that difficult. It eats you up inside.”

After the sale he plans to downsize and take some time for himself to travel; even though he’s been officially retired for almost a decade, he has been taking on some projects and corporate roles, but maybe that, too, can slow down.

The land

In addition to the large home, the large lot may have started out fairly sparse with trees but today flourishes. “[Dody] took the three acres, and turned it into a park,” said Mr. Segal, who over the years would often come home to find a new tree had been left in position for him to plant, everything from pine trees to red maples and other varieties he can’t even recall. “All I knew was I was digging and digging: I dug for years, but what I didn’t see was the whole picture.” It’s still unfenced, except for the pool area for safety, and Mr. Segal said when the children were small the family dog learned the property boundaries and would herd the children to keep them inside. The landscape was also put to use by two daughters who staged their weddings on the grounds.

But even more unique to the home is that each resident of the community has access to the privately held Bristol Pond, which at 17 acres is no puddle. All the homeowners share in the maintenance – a mere $100 a year for upkeep to the access lane (including plowing it in winter), the dock and the water quality – and there’s a ratepayers association that has formed as a governance model for it.

“It was a lot of fun for our kids in terms of fishing,” Mr. Segal recalls, and even better in the winter. Neighbours will bring out snowblowers and hoses to create skating areas around the pond, and with ice that often reaches six to eight inches in depth, it’s safe for the whole community to be on the ice.

And sometimes, when the weather is right, there can be a little magic.

“One year I can remember clearly: There was a flash-freeze and the entire pond looked like glass,” Mr. Segal said. “My next-door neighbour and I – we played hockey – we went out there with skates and a puck and we were passing a puck all the way across the pond, and it would get there! It would just go on and on, this beautiful surface that looked like a Zamboni made it.”

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