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Historic home in Paris, Ont. up for sale for $4.8M

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A historic home in Paris, Ont., with a history of entertaining famous guests, has hit the market.

The Gothic estate at 1 Banfield Street is listed for sale through Sotheby’s International Realty Canada for $4,895,000.

The listing calls the five bedroom home “one of the most unique and prominent period homes in the entire region.”

The current owner of the home, philanthropist, art collector, and movie industry insider Salah Bachir, agrees.

“I’ve been around the world and never really seen a house like this,” he told CTV News on Thursday.

Bachir began working in publishing in 1980, working on several notable publications and projects. He become the founding president of Famous Players Media and Cineplex Media. Cineplex would eventually buy and rebrand one of Bashir’s magazines as Cineplex Magazines.

He also hosted more than 100 fundraisers, giving back to numerous causes throughout Toronto, the Greater Toronto Area and beyond.

That work continued at his home in Paris, where he held numerous fundraising events.

“It’s always been a party house but with a purpose, in a sense,” he smiled. “If you could pay money for a certain fundraiser, you’re allowed in.”

Even people who couldn’t afford the cost of a fundraiser found joy in the historic home, thanks to the extravagant Christmas light displays put together by Bachir and his husband Jacob Yerex.

Preserving the past

Sotheby’s Realty said the home was originally built in the 1850s by Charles Whitlaw, the owner of the Paris Mills.

Charles Whitlaw is pictured in this undated photo. (Submitted: Sotheby’s International Realty Canada)

“Henry Ford was friends with one of the previous owners and was a frequent visitor here. Alexander Graham Bell, because obviously he made the very first phone call just down the street here, so he was friends with the original owners and spent time at the house,” Kevin Haight, senior vice president of sales for Sotheby’s International Realty Canada, said. “When the Queen was on her jubilee visit to Canada, she stopped at the Old School Restaurant. A bouquet that was presented to her was brought from this house, from the gardens of this house. The gardens here are spectacular, as you can imagine. They’re worthy of a royal bouquet.”

A sketch of what was known as “The Whitlaw House.” (Submitted: Sotheby’s International Realty Canada)

Despite its age, the home is sumptuously decorated with lush carpets, exquisite furniture, and eye catching art.

“I love it,” Bachir said when asked about the home décor. “I love doing it wherever I can and doing it in our style and what we like. I love colour – brilliant colours.”

Sotheby’s Realty said the home features 18 chandeliers, including 12 custom-crafted pieces.

“[The home] has the original slate roof, the original masonry, been repointed, all the chimneys are in working condition. It’s extraordinary.” Haight said. “It’s a one acre property. All the exterior fencing has been reconstructed or refurbished back to its original condition. It’s one of a kind.”

While paying homage to the past, the home also includes many modern comforts, such as a large outdoor pool and a finished basement featuring a home gym.

“Salah and Jacob have done a great job modernizing it without really affecting the character of the house. That’s not an easy thing to do and it’s not an inexpensive thing to do,” Haight said.

Family and famous friends

Through the years, Bachir has held many events for those dear to his heart.

“We’ve used this house for a lot of fundraisers over the years. And every family occasion from Mother’s Day underneath the magnolia tree to Christmas,” Bachir said.

Bachir said there’s been some high-profile guests there.

“We’ve had Margaret Atwood who has been here, Christopher Plummer when he was in Stratford came quite a few times. Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Hollywood royalty, came here on the 55th anniversary of the Second World War and went down to the cenotaph and did a little speech,” he explained. “There was a woman here in town who hadn’t been out of her retirement home for a couple of weeks, and her son brought her in a wheelchair because he was her matinee idol. Fairbanks kneeled down and stayed there for ten minutes talking to her. He must have been in his 80s at the time.”

The home is replete with memories for Bachir, after living there for more than 30 years. But he said it is not the home itself that he will miss.

“I don’t miss places. I miss people,” he explained. “I think somebody else should have those memories here, create those memories. My friends – we used it as a house. People came to relax and get away and recoup and rejuvenate. It is really magical. But I never really missed a place.”

When asked who he hopes moves into 1 Banfield Street, he said he hopes it is someone who gives back to the community.

“Someone who cares about the character of the house and someone who enjoys that half as much as we did. And they’ll have us as their neighbours next door,” he said.

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