Down on the funny farm: One dad creates the ultimate recreational retreat for family and friends

The two bowling lanes are just part of the massive entertainment complex, which includes billiards, pinball, a bar and a humidor (the latter two not for the kids, mind).
Harvey Kalles Real EstateThe two bowling lanes are just part of the massive entertainment complex, which includes billiards, pinball, a bar and a humidor (the latter two not for the kids, mind).

In overblown real-estate lingo, where houses are forever being described as jaw-dropping, unique and unbelievable, it’s a rare treat to find one that actually fits the superlatives. In this case, it’s an exceptional farm named Luso — lusso meaning luxury in Italian — in a lovely setting bursting with trees and wildlife, located an hour northwest of Toronto.

“This is a one-of-a-kind property, a wild and crazy retreat,” says Jamie Erlick, a real estate agent with Harvey Kalles, referring to his $3.8-million listing, which can be viewed at

Erlick isn’t kidding. Both scenic and activity-packed, the eccentric gated farm rambles over 100 leafy acres and is a second, recreational property for the homeowner and his wife, who have three kids under the age of 12.

A range of outdoor fun keeps everyone happy. “The original owner diverted a waterway that goes through the property and created two naturally fed fresh-water ponds — one is two acres and the other about an acre,” says the homeowner, who likes to fish there.

Harvey Kalles Real Estate
Harvey Kalles Real EstateOne of two ponds on the property that offer tranquil fishing spots with their naturally fed freshwater.

He and his family also play tennis and basketball on the courts to the sound of birdsong or take out one of the dirt bikes, ATVs or snowmobiles. “We’re close to the Bruce Trail. I’ve hopped on a provincial snowmobile route to almost Quebec City,” the homeowner recalls.

Adds Erlick, “Whether someone is looking to open a resort or a family retreat, the property opens itself to broad uses — it could be converted to a camp.”

Harvey Kalles Real Estate
Harvey Kalles Real EstateThe 5,000-square-foot entertainment complex includes plenty of options to keep any family busy.

As for the buildings on the grounds, there are six of them: a four-car garage with sleeping quarters above it; a 5,000-square-foot pine-panelled entertainment complex kitted out with a killer arcade (hello, retro pinball machines), two bowling lanes, bar and humidor; a workshop; a guest house with its own indoor pool; and finally a large barn, which has become famous among the homeowners’ friends for the outrageous Halloween bashes held there.

Oh, the games headquarters also has a Ping-Pong table, shuffleboard, a competition bocce court, poker tables and an archery range.

“We have a Halloween party every year in the barn, where we invite 300 guests,” the homeowner says. To make the Halloween experience extra special, he had a life-size pirate ship built for kids to climb aboard (it’s included in the sale of the property).

Harvey Kalles Real Estate
Harvey Kalles Real EstateThe Halloween party area in the off-season is spooky enough; imagine it in the dark and with lights and sounds going.

“And we’ve got a permanent electronic maze in the barn,” he says. “It’s long and complicated and very spooky.” Walls are on a motion sensor to heighten the suspense, so that when mini Dora the Explorers weave through, they’re met with flashing lights and protruding figures that yell and chuck gooey faux brains. The scary shenanigans make for a memorable Oct. 31, even if wee Dora won’t sleep through the night for the rest of her life.

“A lot of smaller kids won’t go in there,” the homeowner admits, “so we do an outdoor version, made out of 2,000 bales of hay in a maze format.”

Harvey Kalles Real Estate
Harvey Kalles Real EstateThe twin playhouses are connected by a bridge, from where kids can access the 800-foot-long zip line (which even brings the kids back).

Less traumatizing is the adorable pair of playhouses built outside for the couple’s children. With their peaked roofs and porches, the purple and yellow dwellings — each an amazing three storeys tall — look lifted out of the pages of a fairy tale. They’re equipped with trap doors (a kid’s dream!), while a connecting bridge allows the denizens to scramble back and forth between the two.

To really throw it over the top, the playhouses are linked to an 800-foot-long zip-line course that sends thrill-seekers on an exhilarating tour of the farm. “You put a harness on, hook onto a thing and you slide over the river and the ravine,” the homeowner says. “It’s cool for kids — and it comes back automatically.”

As you might have guessed, the farm that originally stood here looked vastly different. Dating back to the 1800s, it was built by the Petrie family, who sold it in 1903 or thereabouts to the Jameses, a prominent Toronto family. Their legacy lives in James Gardens Park in the Toronto suburb of Etobicoke. Once the estate of Mr. and Mrs. Fred T. James, these 21-acre botanical grounds are now a favourite backdrop for wedding photos. Not far away on Edgehill Road, the James’ red-gabled house, built from Humber River stone, still stands.

City or country, James was clearly a get-up-and-go type. Back on his farm, he not only diverted the ponds the current homeowner is so fond of, but during the ’50s, in conjunction with a government agency, bred ducks that were resistant to diseases.

Harvey Kalles Real Estate
Harvey Kalles Real EstateIf you're not exhausted by all the fun yet, you can always do laps in the pool or hop on a treadmill.

In fact, it was called The Mallard Farm when this homeowner bought it eight years ago. Back then, his plan wasn’t to build an extravagant homage to games — it was actually more Rockwell and less rebel.

“I wanted a [small] horse farm,” he says. “So I renovated the barn and added stables.”

He also filled the stalls with horses. “I was going to attach an arena to the barn, too, but it ended up nobody was really interested in horseback riding.” (He converted it into the games area two years ago.)

The family has enjoyed their adventures. “We used it every summer and winter. My three kids learned to walk here — it’s a beautiful place; I would love to keep it,” the homeowner says with a sigh. “But my wife wants a cottage.”

Harvey Kalles Real Estate
Harvey Kalles Real EstateOne of six similar structures on the 100-acre property, which is also close to the Bruce Trail for exploring the area.
Source: National Post, 1/13/2016

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Sharon Chung

Sharon Chung

CENTURY 21 Atria Realty Inc., Brokerage*
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