Croft Lofts – 8-16 Croft Street

The holy grail of Toronto loft living, the Croft Lofts is an incredible conversion of a laneway factory near College and Bathurst

History of the Croft Lofts

Everyone always associates the Croft Lofts with Eastern Rug Cleaning, but there is actually a longer history of car repairs at the site. I had always heard, as well, that it was once a munitions factory that made shells for WWI, but there is nothing at all in the historical records to substantiate that.

The 2 phases of the building was built around the time of the First World War, so there is that. The first part, at 10 Croft Street, seems to have been built around 1914-1915, with 6-8 Croft the following year. There may have been a stable on the site around 1905, but it is hard to confirm.

Croft Lofts – 8-16 Croft Street

Croft Street is a hidden gem, full of unique re-purposed live/work spaces

Originally known as the rear of 89-97 Lippincott Street, it seems that the estate of Edward Rush built the buildings at the rear of the family property along Lippincott. Not sure why. This came a few years after what was originally known as Ulster Avenue (not surprising given the large Irish population in Toronto at the turn of the century) was renamed Croft Street in 1908. There are no official records in the archives as to the reason for the name change, but it seems to be general knowledge that it was named after John Croft, the sole fatality of the great fire of 1904. He wasn’t actually killed in the fire, though. He was an explosives expert that was called in to level some of the burned out buildings, and one of the dynamite charges blew up unexpectedly as he was setting it. And no relation to the John Croft who built the Croft Building, now the Worx Lofts, at 436 Wellington Street West.

Croft Lofts – 8-16 Croft Street

Mural dedicated to the Great Fire of 1904 at the south end of Croft Street

Although technically a lane as Croft Street is mostly lined with garages, it is a very wide and roomy example paved like a street (thanks to residents who lobbied City Hall), so could be considered the avenue of laneways. Believe it or not, Croft Street used to be a significant north/south thoroughfare connecting Bloor Street to College. As the area around it became more developed, it took on many of the functions typical of Toronto lanes, such as the provision of garages and vehicular access to the houses flanking Croft east and west. However, a number of houses, coach houses, and warehouses remain that reflect the street’s history.

Croft Lofts – 8-16 Croft Street

Brick walls, high ceilings, multiple levels… the Croft Lofts have it all

The first tenants of the Croft buildings were odd and varied – from tire tube manufacturers, to an ice cream maker, to Albert Henderson and his “experimental laboratory”. But as Toronto entered the 1920s, garages and car repair settled in on Croft. Leonard Train ran his repair shop from the 1920s until his death in a plan crash in 1932. In 1933 Alfred Capp was arrested for fencing stolen car batteries from his shop on Manning Avenue. Not long afterward, he moved to Croft Street… one can assume he was looking for a clean start in a new location. For a period during the 1920s, John Wahmoud also operated a garage at the site. Believe it or not, it appears that Mr. Capp may have stayed on Croft through to the 1980s.

Croft Lofts – 8-16 Croft Street

A Globe & Mail article from 1928 concerning a robbery at Train’s garage, an ad for his work in 1931 and his death notice, due to aeroplane accident, in 1932

We don’t see the Ounjian brothers and Eastern Rug Cleaning until 1927, but then they are a permanent fixture through to the buildings sale and conversion almost 60 years later. But from all the records I have gone through, they would appear to only have ever been tenants, never actually owning the building. The Rush family retained ownership of 10 Croft Street from the beginning of the century through into the 1960s at least. Arthur Miles owner the other half for decades, selling to Alfred Capp in 1945, whose wife still owned it 20 years later.

Croft Lofts – 8-16 Croft Street

An ad for Eastern Rug Cleaning from 1931, the Croft Loft’s previous incarnation

Then the 80s came along, a time when many business struggled due to the recession at the beginning of the decade, marked by high interest rates and high operating costs. We see a lot of buildings come available during this period as their owners run into trouble. It was likely something similar that caused the old building on Croft to come up for sale.

Croft Lofts – 8-16 Croft Street

Hard to get much more urban than the Croft Lofts, on a gritty near-alley just off College Street

A group of people purchased the warehouse in 1987 with the intention of converting it to live/work lofts. Strangely, their proposed conversion to residential use was turned down at the Committee of Adjustment in the fall of 1987. It was appealed and approved at the Ontario Municipal Board in the spring of 1988. Sounds like the process hasn’t changed much in 30 years!

Croft Lofts – 8-16 Croft Street

Speaking of urban, how awesome is it that you could park your scooter inside your loft?

Littlewood Hess was the architect (who also did 39 Roehampton, something completely different). It seems generally accepted that this conversion was done in 1989, though I have seen one for sale as far back as 1987, but that is it. No record on MLS of the people buying the original building to convert. This is another one of those weird ones that is almost impossible to get a history for. And it is rare indeed, only a few have been for sale since the early 1990s.

Croft Lofts – 8-16 Croft Street

The rooftop terraces of the Croft Lofts have stunning views of the downtown skyline.

The Croft Lofts are one of the very few freehold lofts in Toronto. Ideal as true live/work lofts, the ground floor of the Croft Lofts were designed to work as independent offices or apartments. Each loft has its own address – 8, 10, 12, 14 and 16.

Croft Lofts – 8-16 Croft Street

The Croft Lofts have some of the most amazing spaces in Toronto – but they almost NEVER come up for sale

The old warehouse building had 10,000 square feet of open space on two floors, with windows on all four sides. The masonry walls are a mix of clay brick and concrete brick. The structural system is a combination of timber and steel beams, and mill-flooring decking throughout. There is no at-grade outside space on the property, as the building fills the property right to the lot lines. But each of the lofts has a lovely roof-top deck.

Croft Lofts – 8-16 Croft Street

Brick archways create some very dramatic parking spots at the Croft Lofts

The building was divided vertically to create five equal size loft spaces, each with a total area of about 2,000 square feet. Since each was designed by its individual owner, they all have different floor plans. Inside there are amazing open stairs that span the full height of the loft. Wood burning fireplaces, ceilings up to 25 feet, roof decks and more. With the building divided vertically, each loft is much like a townhouse.

Croft Lofts – 8-16 Croft Street

Interior space and volume are hallmarks of the Croft Lofts (in this rather dated photo)

Three large arches were cut out of the front masonry wall on Croft Street and five parking spots were carved out of interior ground floor area. The newly created exterior space also provided a recessed entry area and storage facilities for each loft.

Croft Lofts – 8-16 Croft Street

Exposed brick, multiple levels, loft living at its finest at the Croft Lofts (in another old photo, as recent pix are VERY hard to come by)

To help replace the missing ground floor space, a third floor was added. The party walls defining each loft were continued up through this volume, making a new third-floor room flanked on either side by decks. The siting and massing of the third-floor volume was designed to minimize the impact on the neighbouring houses, both in respect to privacy and shadows.

Croft Lofts – 8-16 Croft Street

Croft and Ulster Streets, signposts to Toronto’s history

Most of the lofts have their main living area on the second floor. Ceilings can be high on this level, up to 14 feet. Walls, stairs, doors… different units use different elements to create separate spaces. Some units have catwalks across open spaces! Up again and you will sleeping areas at the top of the lofts – with access to the rooftop decks and amazing views of the Toronto skyline.

Croft Lofts – 8-16 Croft Street

The old ivy-covered building at Croft and College continues to tempt Toronto loft lovers

Rare. Incredible. The Croft Lofts are one of the penultimate examples of loft living in Toronto.

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