By Shaun Markey –
I remember as a little boy when my father would drive our family along Island Park Drive to see the wonderful array of Christmas lights and decorations that adorned so many of the stately homes on that well-known thoroughfare. Off we would go in the family’s 1967 Meteor and within a block the “oohs and ahs” would be resonating throughout the car as we all strained to see one impressive set of decorations after another.
Like me, Rena Borovay was another Island Park Drive enthusiast. But for her, one house in particular was her favourite regardless of the time of year: 239 Island Park Drive.
Dr. Borovay and her husband, Dr. James Borovay moved to Ottawa from Florida in 1977. Rena knew Island Park Drive because she and a cousin drove down the street with some regularity. They both admired 239 from a distance. “It was our dream house,” Rena says, thinking back to those drives she and her cousin took 40 years ago. “We joked at the time that it was so big both our families could live in it.”
Sitting in the gracious living room of the home, she and her husband have owned now for 40 years, Rena recalls the chain of events that led to them purchasing the stately residence with its historic rustic stone exterior. “It wasn’t long after when my cousin called me. She said you’re not going to believe this but the house is up for sale.”
As it turned out there was an open house scheduled for that week. The timing, however, was less than ideal. “We had just bought a house in Ryan Farm,” Rena exclaims. Her cousin insisted they attend the open house. Clearly, it was meant to be. “I loved it from the moment I walked in,” says Rena. “I called my husband and told him.”
As we all know, loving something and having enough money to buy it are two different things. “We had no money at the time” Rena recalls. “And the price they were asking was way beyond anything we could afford.”
At a loss as to what to do and with a wedding to attend in Connecticut coming up, Rena and James decided to submit a low offer. As it turned out, a bank had previously foreclosed on the property and the bankers wanted rid of the house before winter. The offers and counter offers went back and forth and finally, much to their surprise and trepidation, the bank accepted their last offer.
“I couldn’t sleep for a week,” Rena remembers vividly. “We were just young kids ourselves. We had a three-year-old and a one-year-old baby.”
Regardless of their circumstances, the Borovays were now the proud owners of 239 Island Park Drive and moved into the house in March of 1979. The Ryan Farm home was rented until it was sold.
In the ensuing years, the Borovay family grew up in the house. Their three daughters flourished and went on to graduate from university: two doctors and a lawyer. They have their own families now, giving James and Rena six grandchildren and counting.
Through it all, the house, which was built about 1920 and sits on two large lots, has required their attention. Improvements have been made over the years but the Borovays have been careful not to change the original character. All the oak woodwork in the living room and dining room is still intact (although Rena and James reluctantly agreed, on the advice of an designer, to have the woodwork painted white). Some windows have been changed at the back of the house but not the leaded glass ones on the front.
The kitchen has been updated twice. The first time not long after they moved in. “The kitchen had an alcove with built-in benches and table and our children could not sit at it,” said Rena explaining the motivation for the first kitchen renovation.
An impressive feature of the home is the river stone that adorns the entire exterior. The stones are from the Ottawa River just down the street. The use of stone is consistent with the Arts and Crafts style, which emphasizes handmade and natural materials. The oak woodwork in the house, a fireplace made from river stone and elaborate plastered walls and ceilings are also features of the style.
Downstairs, the house has a formal living room, dining room, large office (which used to be the master bedroom), kitchen and a second large sitting room which was part of a two-storey addition in the 1950s. The addition also included a solarium along the south side of the house. Upstairs there are four bedrooms, one of which is now being used as Rena’s office.
As Island Park Drive is one of the major routes leading to the Champlain Bridge, it’s bumper-to-bumper traffic in peak hours. The congestion doesn’t bother the Borovays because their laneway also has an entrance on the street behind. The house sits well back from the street so there is little noise if any from the traffic.
Island Park Drive will always have a special meaning for me – even more so because of the river stone house at number 239. Now I know “who lives here” and I completely understand why the house so impressed a young Rena Borovay when she drove by and decided to make it home for her family so many years ago.
The KT “Who lives here” series takes a closer look at some unique homes and the people who live there. Which Kitchissippi-area homes are you most curious about? It could be an old home, a new one, a big one, or a small one. Email a street address and a photo to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll do the rest. To read other stories in this series, click here.
This feature is brought to you in part by Engel & Völkers Ottawa Central, Brokerage.