The Claremont Lofts at 62 Claremont Street is one of those rare gems of a loft-conversion building, hidden safely away just north of West Queen West. Never heard of it? Most people haven’t, they simply do not come up for sale very often. And then they do, the prices are getting close to $2-million these days.
On a loft-dense stretch of Claremont Street (Claremont Hall Lofts, Church Lofts, and these Claremont Lofts), this red brick Art Deco edifice was once an association and/or banquet hall. This beautiful building boasts multi-level and spacious units with goodies such as skylights and vaulted ceilings.
The story has always been that the building started life in 1931, as the Casa Do Benfica, a Portuguese banquet hall designed by the architect James M. Cowan. BUT… when you look into Cowan’s work, you find that he designed a Polish Assembly Hall on Claremont Street near Robinson, in 1929. There is also a 1951 edition of the U of T Varsity that lists the University of Toronto Polish Students’ Club as being at 62 Claremont Street. Looks like yet another Toronto loft myth being a little less than accurate.
I found the announcement in the October 7, 1929 Toronto Star that the building was to be built. So it likely came later than 1929. Could be that the Polish Association of Toronto’s new home did actually open in 1931. James Cowan did a lot of work for the Catholic Church in Toronto and his most famous commission is the neo-classical facade of St. Vincent de Paul Church on Roncesvalles Avenue, the center of Toronto’s Polish community.
So it seems it was announced in 1929 and opened in 1931 and was still a Polish presence in 1951. BUT… another big but… Checking MLS for information around the time it was converted in 1999, there is a listing from 1997 with a photo showing “CASA DO BENFICA” in giant red letters on the front. I can’t find anything about the place from 1951 to 1997, but it obviously changed hands – and countries – during that period.
The name of the seller was Benfica House Of Toronto, which still exists today! They mention the building on Claremont, but not with much detail: “They later bought the Claremont building that cost a million dollars back. The appearance of other clubs and other establishments caused that Benfica and the First went through difficulties. Claremont was the point of decline for Benfica. They had to sell the building.” I wish they said when they bought it, I know when they sold it at least (can you believe it, sold for only $596,000 in 1997, about 1/4 of what a single unit is worth today).
Of note, both the Polish Association of Toronto and the Polish Students’ Association at the University of Toronto also still exist. In 1952-1953, the members of the Polish Students’ Association were Stella Czaja, George Grodecki, Alex Luczkiewicz, Lou Macie, Adolph Piotrowski, Adele Smith, Chester Smith, Mrs. Stasior, John Stroz, Bill Ziolkowski. But other than some other photos from the 1960s and 1980s, there isn’t much more information about their history.
Not only is the building’s history a bit of a secret, but it is a rare boutique loft building that is a guilty little secret amongst those of us in the know. The Claremont Lofts is a 8-unit Queen West loft that rarely opens its doors to potential buyers. Ceiling heights soar to up to 24 feet, and views of the city are only a few steps away – steps up to your own roof-top terrace that is!
Speaking of views, one of the lofts even has a glass floor in the bedroom! Like an internal skylight. These are not really your classic brick/beam/concrete industrial lofts. They have a bit more class, renovated and upgraded more like a New York brownstone or rowhouse.
The lofts were converted in 1999. The units have 2 and 3 bedroom, some with dens. They have private garages with their own entrances and there is even a separate guest suite. These lofts are large, the real deal, around 2,100-2,200 square feet each.
As you explore the neighborhood, you will find Trinity-Bellwoods Park to the west, Queen Street West to the south and Dundas West to the north. Enjoy living in the Art & Design District as you meander through the local art galleries that make this area Canada’s most densely art-filled community, or stroll through Trinity-Bellwoods and enjoy your finds at the weekly farmers market – plus the local community recreation centre.
The Queen streetcar will have you downtown in minutes. Driving south will get you parked on the Gardiner in no time. Timeless lofts in a historic neighbourhood, with the city at your fingertips.