The bay-and-gable is a distinct residential architectural style that is ubiquitous with the older portions of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The most prominent feature of the style is a large bay window that usually covers more than half the front façade of the home, surmounted by a gable roof. The bay window typically extends from the ground level towards the roof, although a variant of the housing form exists where the bay window fronts only the first level; known as a half-bay-and-gable. The housing form may be built as a stand-alone structure, although it is more often built as a semi-detached, or as terraced houses.
The form emerged during the 1860s, with architects adopting elements commonly associated with English villas and Gothic-styled buildings due to their popularity with local residents during that period. As the city underwent significant population growth in the latter half of the 19th century, scaled versions of the bay-and-gable design were built by developers as they proved to be efficient housing forms that could be built at a pace that kept up with Toronto’s population growth. The housing form was also popular amongst homeowners who sought more ornamentations on their homes, with the gables and large windows providing areas that could be decorated with minimal investment. A large number of bay-and-gable homes were built until the late 1890s, when it was supplanted by other housing styles. However, the housing form has re-emerged in the late-20th and early 21st century, with several residential developments within the city and the Greater Toronto Area being infilled with bay-and-gable variants.
The bay-and-gable design was first employed on freestanding, detached homes in Toronto, although the design was later adopted with semi-detached homes. From the mid-to-late 19th century, the semi-detached bay-and-gable design became a popular residential style with developers and residents in Toronto. The design was widely adopted for several reasons; due to its efficient use of spaces and windows and local building materials, the design’s ability to be easily mass produced, and because it could be adapted for stand-alone buildings, semi-detached, or as terrace houses. Bay-and-gable homes were viewed by its occupants as a home whose façade could be improved and somewhat individualized with minimal investment. Most homes were further decorated by homeowners to some degree with additional bargeboards with detailing, terracotta tiles, or stained-glass windows. Conversely, the housing form was viewed by property developers as particularly cheap and efficient buildings to build, as well as scale down on narrow properties. The housing form were typically built to take advantage of the length of a narrow property, with the length of some bay-and-gable homes extending 46 metres (150 ft) in length. The average lot for most bay-and-gables are 5.5 by 39.3 metres (18 ft × 129 ft).
Most 19th century bay-and-gables have the lines of the two-storey bay window aligned with the crowning gable of the home, the bay window often times taking up more than half the front of the façade of the house; resulting in most bay-and-gables to appear skinny, but tall. The use of large bay windows are necessary in order to allow natural light to reach the depths of narrow lots, and to allow air to circulate; a necessity for 19th century homes that had coal-burning fireplaces. In order to allow light into the home, many bay-and-gables had their kitchen wings narrowed compared to the front of the home, allowing for windows to be placed in the rear. Windows were also placed on top of the front door in order to further increase the amount of natural light that entered the building. However, variants of the style exist, where the bay window only fronts the first level of the building. The half-bay-and-gable variant is typically used to allow for a balcony to extend along the frontage of the second level. The variant is also used for smaller lots, with the two-storey bay window variant requiring a larger lot size. The front façade of most bay and gables also typically feature carved gable boards, supporting brackets, and Italianate and Gothic architectural ornamentation. Many semi-detached and terraced bay-and-gable homes in Toronto had polychromatic brickwork around its windows and gables, a common elements of High Victorian Gothic architecture.
The bay-and-gable design has proliferated throughout Toronto, becoming a ubiquitous style found in many of the city’s neighbourhoods. The term bay-and-gable was first coined by historian Patricia McHugh, in her 1985 book Toronto: A City Guide.