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New book, MODEST HOPES to be released in September
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New book, MODEST HOPES to be released in September

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Celebrating Toronto’s built heritage of row houses, semis, and cottages and the people who lived in them.


Too often, workers’ cottages are characterized today as being small, cramped, poorly built, and disposable. But in the late 1800s, to have worked and saved enough money to move into one was an incredible achievement. Moving from the crowded conditions of boarding houses, or areas such as Toronto’s Ward or Ashport’s “shanty-town,” just east of the city, to a self-contained, six-hundred-square-foot row house was the result of an unimaginably strong hope for the future, a belief in it, and a commitment to what lay ahead.

For the workers and their families, these houses were far from modest. The architectural details of these cottages suggested status, value, and pride of place; they reminded the workers of where they had come from, with architectural roots from their homeland. These “modest hopes” are an undervalued heritage resource and an important but forgotten part of the Toronto narrative about the people who lived in them and built our city.

DON LOUCKS is an architect, urban designer, and cultural heritage planner, with forty years of project experience. He is committed to environmental, economic, and cultural sustainability, and to preserving the variety of rich urban forms that contain the stories of our communities’ history. He lives in Toronto.




LESLIE VALPY is a conservation practitioner, researcher, and writer, with a passion for built heritage, history, architecture, and conservation. Working with both intangible and tangible dimensions of heritage, she has participated in a range of projects throughout Ontario. She lives in Toronto.




Key Talking Points

— Modest Hopes traces Toronto’s history through the lens of its original housing architecture, focusing on the people who lived in the semis, townhouses, and cottages built from 1820 to 1920.
— This book reflects upon the history of Toronto’s immigrants and working class, highlighting the stories of eight Torontonians and their modest family homes.
— With these houses in Toronto quickly disappearing, Modest Hopes seeks to show appreciation for the accomplishments of those who built them and demonstrate their important social and economic impacts.
— The authors collectively bring years of experience with heritage planning and heritage conservation.
— This book is generously illustrated throughout with line illustration sketches and archival photographs.


Available from your favourite local bookshop, online retailers, and the Dundurn Press website, dundurn.com

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