Across from Trinity Bellwoods Park, in a neighbourhood that has an established sense of authenticity, you will find the Chocolate Company Lofts. The Chocolate Company Lofts are located at 955 Queen Street West, a traditional looking building in Queen Street West, between Crawford and Massey Streets. The current structure both links and complements two existing historic buildings, though you would almost never recognize them now.
Confectionery production greatly increased in Canada in the early 1900s with the establishment of several major producers, including William Neilson Ltd in Toronto in 1908, Willard’s Chocolates Ltd, Toronto, 1914, and Fry-Cadbury Ltd, Montréal, 1920. Walter M. Lowney Co of Montréal and Walter Baker Co of Canada, Toronto, also became established during this period. In these formative years the industry was concentrated in Eastern Canada, a situation that prevails today, although in Western Canada a number of smaller manufacturers emerged during this period and new companies are still appearing.
The building was not a chocolate factory per se, but was home to the Patterson Candy Company, who was known for their chocolates. Since the Candy Factory Lofts name had been taken a few years earlier, Plazacorp had to play with the name a bit. John Patterson and Robert Wilson launched the Boston Candy Company as a retail store on Yonge Street in 1888. Soon after Wilson’s retirement in 1891, Patterson bestowed his name on the company and expanded into manufacturing with a successive series of plants along Queen Street West.
They were manufacturers of high-grade chocolate and candy. They sold a range of candy, and they were advertised as a manufacturer of high-grade chocolate and candy. But it was their crispy crunchy triangles coated with rich dark chocolate-called Patterkrisps that was their top seller.
Among the company’s claims was the opening of Canada’s largest soda fountain on Yonge Street in 1911, which promised patrons “the most delightful cooling drinks you’ve ever tasted.” After Patterson’s death in 1921, his sons William and Christopher took full control of the company. They sold the business to Jenny Lind Candy Shops owner Ernest Robinson in 1947, who maintained the Patterson brand for at least another decade.
At the time of Robinson’s purchase, it was noted that many of the employees had long tenures with the company, possibly due to benefits like a cafeteria, music during working working hours (not specified if it was live or piped in), paid holidays, and a generous health plan. Judging by the number of Patterson-sponsored athletic teams mentioned in the sports sections of local newspapers, and sizable donations given to the YMCA, it appears that the company was very interested in the physical health of their employees or wanted to prevent them from suffering the ill-effects of overindulgence on the production line.
As competition increased, companies attempted to come out with new chocolate candy bars to stay ahead of the competition. The Patterson Chocolate Company of Toronto at one time had such bars as COO-COO-Noodle, the Wildfire chocolate bar, the Patricia chocolate bar – rich cream centre and walnuts. Circa 1930, there was a cookbook produced that advertised and recommended recipes for their “Moonlight Mellos” marshmallow product.
The most enduring legacy of Patterson Candy is the plant it built at the corner of Queen Street West and Massey Street in 1912. After an expansion in 1928, the five-storey plant included a printing plant and paper box manufacturing equipment amid its 60,000 square feet of air-conditioned work space.
Now all but forgotten, the candy factory once had 220 employees and was “one of Canada’s oldest confectionery manufacturing concerns,” according to a Toronto Daily Star article from 1947. Full O’ Cream and Wildfire bars may be long gone, but you can live sweetly in the old Patterson premises in its current incarnation as the Chocolate Company Lofts. They also appear to have had another factory in Brantford.
A side note about the Patterson company… Many companies started sports teams and leagues to give their employees recreation – and they were not indifferent to the added benefits of publicity. The first hockey team in Preston, Ontario, was started and managed by Dolph Hurlbut of Hurlbut Shoes, for instance. The Sunnyside softball leagues were started by M.H. McArthur of Hinde and Dauche and William J. D’Alesandro of the Seiberling Rubber Co. of Canada. Both companies became well known through their sponsored teams. The best players were usually recruited. Fanny ‘Bobbie’ Rosenfeld, a Jewish immigrant from Russia who grew up in Barrie, was induced to Toronto in 1922 by the Patterson candy company, which promised her a job and the opportunity to play for top teams. Rosenfeld played hockey, basketball, and softball and competed in track and field. She scored all six goals when the Pats won the two-game, total-goal, provincial hockey final 6-0 in 1926 against the Ottawa Rowing Club. Patterson’s major competitor, the Planters Nut and Chocolate Co., soon copied them.
The Chocolate Company Lofts are simply breathtaking. Consisting of a mix of vintage loft architecture and modern loft design, the units offer loft living at its finest. Among their features are wood slate ceilings, steel beams, exposed duct work, hardwood floors, wooden pillar and column style construction, beautiful exposed brick walls, very large windows, and high ceilings. The suites also boast french balconies and a few private entrances. Some of the units are 2-story penthouses with private terraces that allow for spectacular views of the city.
The experience of building the Chocolate Company Lofts on Queen Street West was not exactly sweet. It was a daunting design task and incredible engineering feat. The design and construction teams took two early 20th-century buildings and added a third brand new building along Queen Street West to link and extend them.
The problem was that the two older structures were built about 25 years apart, so there was no correlation between them in terms of ceiling heights or anything. It was incredibly challenging. The result is a mixture of old and new. There are units with wooden beams and exposed brick, some with exposed concrete walls and ceilings, and others with large windows and Juliette balconies.
The former Patterson factory was converted in 2004 by Plazacorp. The building houses 144 lofts and is situated opposite the lovely Trinity Bellwoods park in the design district. It has arguably one the best locations of any Toronto loft development in the city. The building offers a 24hr concierge, cool party room and a basic exercise room.