The Consulate General of Italy in Toronto is situated in an elegant Victorian house built in 1872, which is one of the few buildings of the 19th-century Toronto and one of the oldest examples of Second Empire style in the city. Originally, this building was called Chudleigh House, named after the town in Devonshire, England where George Lissant Beardmore, wealthy and successful tanner and first owner of the house, was born and raised. Between 1872 and 1934, Chudleigh House was an important meeting place for Toronto’s high society.
From 1890 to 1901, by order of Beardmore’s son, George Whaten, the house was renovated by the architect Eden Smith, following the Second Empire architectural style, which emerged in France during the reign of Napoleon III as a variation of Neo-Baroque. In particular, a two-story wing was added to the west side of the building along with a 20-foot brick and stone wall, and mansard roofs were placed to resound with the late-19th-century style.
After Whaten died in 1934, the building was the subject of several negotiations and changes of ownership, until 1960, when it was re-purchased by the Italian Community and transferred in trust for the Italian Government in 1962. From that moment, the building housed COSTI (Centro Organizzativo Scuole Tecniche Italiane), a training center aimed at favoring the integration of Italian immigrants into Canadian society. Fifteen years later, in 1977, Chudleigh House became the home of the Consulate General of Italy in Toronto and has been used as such ever since.
In order to make the building suited to hosting the Consultate, further extensive works of renovation began on September 1977. These works, which were entirely funded by the Italian Government, were completed at the end of 1978. On January 1979, the new Consulate was inaugurated by the then Ontario Prime Minister William Davis and the then Italian Undersecretary to Foreign Affairs Hon. Franco Foschi, in the presence of the then Italian Ambassador in Canada Giorgio Smoquina and the then Consul General Guido Nicosia. Starting on January 1st, 1979, the building was opened to the public, and become the home of the Consul General and the Institute of Italian Culture, which would be moved to its current seat in Huron Street in 1982.
On March 7th, 1980, in order to acknowledge the quality of the works of renovation, on the occasion of the Civic Honor Day, the then Lieutenant Governor Pauline McGibbon and the then Mayor of Toronto John Sewell, bestowed the Consulate General of Italy with the Historical Board Award of Merit, “in recognition of an outstanding contribution to the preservation of the history of the city.”
From an architectural standpoint, Chudleigh House is a classic example of the Second Empire style of French origins. This style spread in Canada in the 18th century thanks to the French influence on the Province of Québec, but it became more and more popular in Ontario too in the 19th century. In Toronto, several members of the high society wanted to build their houses following this architectural style: even just by walking on Beverley St., other than Chudleigh House, you can notice, among the others, Devon House and George Brown House.
The building housing the Consultate General is characterized by many elements which are typical of this style: the French mansard roofs and the decorated dormers, the eaves resting on adorned brackets, the off-centre turret breaking the house’s symmetrical design, the chromatic contrast between the golden bricks of the building and the dark shingles of the inclined roofs. In addition to these typically French elements, the house has some details which remind of the Victorian style, in particular the bay windows. In 1981, further renovations to the exterior of the building were carried out: in particular, the perimeter wall was completed, the garden along Beverley Street was extended, and a pole was positioned in the highest point of the building so as to hoist the Italian flag from there, as it was demanded by many Italians in Toronto. As far as the interior is concerned, noteworthy are the ample halls which are still decorated in accordance with the Victorian style of the 19th century. Equally remarkable are also the exquisite stuccos and the stone fireplaces located in the main hall.