The pinnacle of Toronto loft living! The old Butterick Publishing Building, built in 1915 and converted to lofts in 2001, is what your loft dreams are made of.
With only 11 hard lofts in the entire building, 2 to a floor (except the first), these are quite exclusive. Private elevator access and 5,000-6,000 square feet each, with 3 walls of windows. The lofts are all done to the nines with 14-foot ceilings, wood beams, exposed brick, and all the hard loft goodies.
Music executives and star athletes live here… if you to ask how much, then it is too much, getting into the $6-million range these days. With no more than two units per floor, the massive lofts in the Butterick Building are some of the city’s largest condos – never mind lofts. And that size, along with the price, makes them rare and unique.
Rumour has it that one of the units here is the city’s largest loft – with three floors of living space and 5 fireplaces. There are some ultra-massive lofts at The Annex Lofts on Dupont, so we’d have to arrange some sort of measure-off to be sure. Even so, the smallest units here are still well north of 4,000 square feet, bigger than most houses. Heck, they are bigger than 2 Leslieville semis combined! And the larger ones are over 5,000 square feet – the biggest is more than 6,000 square feet. Even in Rosedale that would make for a big house!
Amazingly, even with sizes like that in such a boutique building, the maintenance fees are not that high. Around $1,000 or a bit less for all but the biggest unit. Which isn’t bad for 5,000sf and parking! This place will blow you away… The first time I showed one, it was the home of a wealthy hedge fund manager. Imagine turning Casa Loma into a loft… yeah… I am a lucky Realtor, having been able to see multiple units in the building. And I came within an inch of arranging to rent one to a famous Hollywood movie director.
And as strange as it is, the building sits on a still-treed street in the heart of downtown. A lot will change in the future, as the massive former Globe and Mail site across the site is developed into The Well, and the new Bjarke Ingels KING Condos are built directly behind.
A lot has changed since the building was constructed in 1915 by the firm of Yolles and Rotenberg, the designers and engineers which owned the property. Except the original staircase and elevator for the building still stand in the lobby, which is pretty amazing, as there aren’t many original lobbies left in Toronto.
Of Jewish descent and raised in The Ward, Leon S. Yolles had been a developer since the 1920s. Along with his younger partner, Kenneth Rotenberg, he had developed several high-profile projects, including the Park Plaza Hotel debacle in the 1920s and 1930s. Yolles is connected to today’s Page + Steele Architects through one of Toronto’s great Modernist architects, Peter Dickinson. Yolles owned a lovely plot on Avenue Road and hired Dickinson to design the famous Benvenuto Apartments, now exclusive condos.
While Yolles only practiced as an architect from 1910 until 1916, he was one of the first Jewish architects to work in the province of Ontario. He changed his title to “contractor” when he officially partnered with Rotenberg in 1917. The firm of Yolles & Rotenburg, Contractors was one of the earliest property development companies in Toronto. They undertook the design and construction of many landmark buildings such as the Hobberlin Building on Adelaide Street West (1920), the Dominion Building at Bay Street at Albert Street, 1927 (burned 1979), and the Sterling Tower on Bay Street (1928; designed by Chapman & Oxley).
Yolles and Rotenberg constructed 468 Wellington on spec, expecting to lease it out. The Butterick Publishing Company was the first occupant. The Butterick Publishing Company was founded by Ebenezer Butterick to distribute the first graded sewing patterns. By 1867, it had released its first magazine, Ladies Quarterly of Broadway Fashions, followed by The Metropolitan in 1868. These magazines contained patterns and fashion news. In 1873, created The Delineator magazine. By 1876, E. Butterick & Co. had become a worldwide enterprise selling patterns as far away as Paris, London, Vienna and Berlin, with 100 branch offices and 1,000 agencies throughout the United States and Canada.
Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, home sewing’s popularity allowed Vogue Patterns to continue to expand its operation, both domestically and abroad. A successful British edition of the pattern book lead to the establishment of a London manufacturing and publishing facility. Several years later, a similar subsidiary opened in Australia, as did pattern distribution offices in cities across the United States.
Butterick’s sales reached $3.1 million in 1948. By then the company had decided it needed new quarters for manufacturing, stock, and shipping. It purchased advanced printing equipment, including full-color presses, for a new manufacturing plant in Altoona, Pennsylvania. The first full-color photograph appeared on the cover of the company catalog in 1950. Another factory was located in Toronto. The 1950s was a decade of steady sales growth although only modest profit for Butterick. During this decade subsidiaries were established in Italy, New Zealand, and South Africa. Sales reached a new high of $8.3 million in 1960, but net profit was only $121,856.
There are listings throughout the 1940s for Superweave Textiles located on the 2nd floor of 468 Wellington. Not sure if related to Butterick or just a tenant. In the 1950s there are listings for Superweave Institutional and Laundry Textiles.
The actual Butterick printing plant would likely have been in Etobicoke in 1950s. There is a Butterick Road still there near Kipling & Evans Ave. Old photos make it appear that the printing plant faced west (because of the lighting and shadows), and the entire west side of that street has been demolished. Still some smaller one and two-storey industrial buildings along the east side.
The 1955 photo is of a new building constructed for the company. A story in Toronto District Industrial News Bulletin, # 272, June 30, 1953, indicates that the 13,000-square-foot building was built on a 2 acre site on the Queen Elizabeth Way, east of Brown’s Line, Etobicoke, and housed facilities for the manufacturing of clothing patterns, as well as the company’s head offices. That site would be west of Kipling and south of Evans Ave.
In 1961, Butterick licensed the name and trademark Vogue Patterns from Condé Nast Publications, Inc. and purchased its pattern division. The company was purchased in 1967 by American Can Company and became a subsidiary renamed the Butterick Fashion Marketing Co. In the 1970s, sewing lost popularity and sales began to suffer. In 1983 Butterick’s management group headed by Bill Wilson and John Lehmann purchased the company from American Can Company. William Proctor Wilson was the first chief executive officer of the privatized Butterick. In 1988 management sold approximately 60 percent of the company to Robert Bass’s Acadia Investors. In 1988 Wilson was succeeded as chief executive officer by John Lehmann. In 2001, The McCall Pattern Company acquired Butterick and Vogue Patterns, and it still continued printing and marketing sewing patterns in and under all three lines as of 2016.
If the notable Butterick building was the printing plant on Butterick Road in Etobicoke, what was going on at 468 Wellington? Going back through fire maps, the site is empty in 1913, but both in 1924 both 468 and 462 are on the map. So the timing of construction (1915) is plausible. But no names on the map associated with the buildings.
In another fun connection between lofts, the original (and freakin’ gorgeous) Loretto Abbey was almost across the street from the Wellington Lofts. They later moved to Brunswick Avenue and are now the Loretto Abbey Lofts.
468 Wellington was up for sale in 1994 (for only $2,100,000) and the seller was Sarose Investments Ltd. I think Butterick left no later than the 1980s, possibly as early as the 1960s. In 1994 it was being marketed as being good for conversion, being in decent shape but needing work. Relisted in 1994 for $1.9m then again in 1995 for $1.75m. But no record of a sale. Imagine having been able to buy the entire building for less than 1/3rd of what a single loft would go for today.
In 1996 Sweeny & Co Architects Inc. began the restoration and conversion of the historic 468 Wellington Street West. The renovations include restoration of the brick bearing walls, acoustical engineering of floors between units, a new freight elevator and a second stairwell. Upon completion, they moved into units on the first and second floors of the building. And they are still own them today, though I believe they rent the spaces out.
It was said to have been converted in 2001, but the first MLS listings appear in 1999. Well, there was one in 1999 and it was an assignment sale. What went on between 1994-1995 and the original MLS listings for the building Sweeny’s 1996 reno, I don’t know. And what happened between 1996 and the first condo listing on MLS in 1999, also not clear. And the top floor was added at some point, that much is obvious to look at it. But if you check land registry, title for each was transferred on May 24, 2002. So we know for sure when the condo corporation was registered!
It was designed heritage in 2005 because the Butterick Publishing Building is an architecturally significant example of the early tall commercial building type, with its classical organization and detailing. Contextually, the building is an integral part of a group of early 20th century commercial buildings along the north side of Wellington Street West, west of Spadina Avenue, that contribute to the character of the King-Spadina neighbourhood as it developed as an industrial area in the early 20th century. It is part of the reason the King Spadina Heritage Conservation District was created in 2016.
And this area is the heart of all that is awesome in west Toronto. The Entertainment District is just to the north, along with the Theatre District and Restaurant Row. You can literally walk to your six-figure in the Financial District, or even to the ACC where residents of this building have been known to play. There are little green spaces about, if you happen to have a wee poochy. Never mind easy access to TTC, the Gardiner and Billy Bishop Airport.