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The St. Clarens Lofts are the kind of loft most people only dream about. Only 11 units in this hidden loft conversion in Dufferin Grove. Some of the big ones range up to approximately 2,000 square feet, with tons of light-filled space, soaring ceilings and dramatic sight lines. Rarely does a unit become available in this unique & eclectic live/work loft conversion.
Converted in 1988, the lofts are all multi-level, with two or three bedrooms. Each loft provides for a unique living and working space set in the diverse neighbourhood of Lansdowne and Dupont. This building’s lofts were designed with work-from-home types in mind.
They are more like townhouses, separate units with two or three levels. No amenities to speak of, there are no real common areas. Unfortunately there is not a lot of original character left, it is mainly drywall. But, if you live here, you would know that the building is over 100 years old.
The building was once a factory for Gray Manufacturing and Machine, an industrial tool company founded in 1912. (The firm got its big break a few years later, when it started recycling brass howitzer shells used on the front lines of the First World War.) The building eventually became a cabinet factory and, in 1988, was converted into 11 condos.
The year 1912 was one of great personal significance for Alex Gray in that it set his family’s course for a century. Alex, now twenty-nine, and two of his brothers incorporated the Gray Manufacturing & Machine Company Limited in September. The letterhead described the company as a “Manufacturer of steam and power pumps and special machinery”.
When the three Gray brothers, Alex, James and Robert, were ready to launch the new company, they went in search of a site. Building a new factory was not in their budget, and yet they wanted a workplace that suited their specific needs. They found it at 686-692 St. Clarens Avenue in west Toronto. It was on the west side of St. Clarens, south of Dupont Street (known as Royce Avenue until the 1950s). This two-storey, red-brick building was ideal because it had a very high ceiling in the centre to accommodate the tall machinery and an overhead crane. There were offices on either side of the ground floor with large multi-paned windows to let light into the premises. From 1912 to 1928, this remained the home of the new company.
Business was going so well, the company needed more space. They left the original factory at 686-692 St. Clarens Avenue and built a new and larger facility across the street. The business had been gradually growing for many years, not only in technology and manufacturing expertise but also in physical space. In 1937, a single-storey addition was added to the west side of the factory. This increased the building size to 43,000 square feet so that it extended the full length of the city block. The company now had three street frontages and was at a main intersection serviced by two bus lines. This made it a site that employees and customers could easily access.
The construction of the current Gray Tools facility in Brampton, Ontario took place throughout the winter of 1969 and the spring of 1970. Thus ended their presence on St. Clarens Avenue. The majority of the factory, behind 686-692 St. Clarens Avenue is long gone, the site now occupied by the Christie Ossington Neighbourhood Centre. The warehouse across the street, on the east side of St. Clarens, replaced by houses.
The original factory was bought Mr. & Mrs. Boxer, who ran a kitchen and bathroom cabinet making company from the site until they sold the property in early 1987. Amazingly it was re-sold only 7 months later for $105,000 more! Unfortunately, there is essentially no record at all of the cabinet makers that were in the building from 1970 to 1987.
The building is tucked away in Dufferin Grove, a community-minded neighborhood, steps from a gorgeous 14-acre park that is the heart of the area. The park has hosted a range of services and gatherings such as potluck suppers and year-round farmers’ markets with a communal outdoor oven; there’s even parkwide Wi-Fi for bench surfing.
Contact Laurin Jeffrey for more information – 416-388-1960
Laurin Jeffrey is a Toronto real estate agent with Century 21 Regal Realty.
He did not write every article, some are reproduced here for people who
are interested in Toronto real estate. He does not work for any builders.