Carhartt Lofts – 535 Queen Street East

The old converted workwear factory at Queen & River is a hidden gem, totally unknown by almost everyone and generally overshadowed by the much better known Queen City Vinegar Lofts just to the north

History of the Carhartt Lofts

Overshadowed by the more famous Queen City Vinegar Lofts north across Queen Street, most people don’t even know that the Carhartt Lofts exist. The fact they only come up for sale a few times a decade doesn’t help either. In fact, this is a great area for lofts, with 3 fantastic conversions all within a few hundred feet of the intersection of Queen and River Streets.

Carhartt Lofts – 535 Queen Street East

The plain but sturdy facade of the Carhartt Lofts at 535 Queen Street East

The vintage industrial lofts are housed in the former Hamilton Carhartt Co. workwear and sportswear factory. I am pretty sure that it carries on today as Carhartt, makers of work wear, found in Mark’s Work Wearhouse. At one point they claimed to be the “World’s Largest Overall Manufacturer” and makers of “Celebrated Carhartt Gloves”… “Canadian Made by Canadian Maids” don’t you know! And judging by the old ad, they made ski jackets too. Even though the name of company is (and was) Carhartt with two ‘T’s, one seems to have been dropped in the 1990s when the building was converted.

Carhartt Lofts – 535 Queen Street East

1938 ad for Carhartt skit jackets and pants

I am not sure when and there the company started, but Richard Morawetz moved to Toronto from Czechoslovakia, via the UK, in 1939 as WWII started. He came from a family with a history in textiles, his father having owned a flax factory and a cotton mill. You can see from the sign on the left side of this image, Carhartt was there at least as far back as 1917 when the photo was taken.

Carhartt Lofts – 535 Queen Street East

Carhartt gloves ad on Queen at River in 1917

Shortly after his arrival, Richard bought the Hamilton Carhartt Co. together with his niece Hella and her husband Charles Sachs. Carhartt (which was located at 535 Queen Street East in Toronto) was a manufacturer of pants and overalls. Richard did not entertain any notions that his first-born son, Herbert, should follow him in the business. In his words, Carhartt was just a way to make a living. Herbert went on to become a successful professor of chemistry, and his more business-minded son, John, joined the company in 1946, followed by his son-in-law, Ric, in the 1960s. Carhartt was finally sold in 1974.

Carhartt Lofts – 535 Queen Street East

South side of the Carhartt Lofts, fronting onto King Street East

I cannot find any information on the period from 1974 to 1994, though… It is entirely possible that the building was vacant all that time. If you look closely, you can see that the building is actually two buildings. Again, with the dearth of information available, I have no more information. At least we know that in 1938 there was a frontage on Queen Street, according to the ski jacket ad. The 1917 photo just doesn’t have quite the right angle to see if the northern part of the building existed yet.

Carhartt Lofts – 535 Queen Street East

The huge basement loft with all of the vintage pieces intact

Regardless of when it was built, it certainly does not come up for sale very often. There have only ever been 10 sales, just 8 units have changed hands. That means that 3 original owners still live there. I have seen two of them, both the lower level units. One was pretty amazing, stretching across half of the bottom of the building – including ramps, stairs, and a kitchen built on a concrete stand where one of the factory’s presses once found its home.

Carhartt Lofts – 535 Queen Street East

An upper level Carhartt Loft showing the fantastic wooden beams

Others were pretty rough when sold. One of which went in 2014. It was a cool space, the south half of the basement level. It walked out directly into the parking lot of King Street, so it wasn’t entirely below ground, but it needed work. The units on the upper 2 floors are much more traditional. Enormous windows and concrete or wood flooring add to the ambiance in these lofts, and they range from 1,300 square feet to 1,600 square feet.

Carhartt Lofts – 535 Queen Street East

Note the remains of old machinery above the dishwasher – these are the wonderful little details that abound

On the edge of the King East neighborhood and a short walk to Riverside, the Carhartt Lofts is truly a unique building in a unique location. Once a Corktown clothing factory, this small boutique loft building now features eleven live/work units with post and beam construction, exposed brick, and ceilings reaching as high as 12-18 feet. Some have roof top decks. I believe there are only two, split into 1/3rd and 2/3rds parts. I don’t know for sure, as I have never been up there, I am just going from the very scant builder info I could find. As with many hard lofts, 535 Queen is zoned live/work. One unit was even divided, with the owner living in the front part and renting out the rear 800sf portion.

Carhartt Lofts – 535 Queen Street East

Large second floor unit that looks to span the entire width of the building

Because of its location, transportation is a breeze. The streetcar is only steps away and the Don Valley Parkway is easily accessible. The Carhartt Lofts is also close to a myriad of entertainment and amusement options – King East is famous for its excellent restaurant scene and high-end designer furniture stores, while Riverside, only a stroll away, is home to some of Toronto’s best cafes, burgers, and brunch restaurants. It has a Walkscore of 92!

Carhartt Lofts – 535 Queen Street East

Side view of the Carhartt Lofts from River Street – note the addition built on the north (right-hand) side

With so much at your fingertips, there is no need to venture far from your home at the one-of-a-kind Toronto lofts building, Carhartt Lofts.

Carhartt Lofts – 535 Queen Street East

Large warehouse windows and exposed brick walls make a loft authentic

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