Some lofts have a long and tangled history, some turn out to have origins completely different than what popular opinion always thought. And then there are some that are simply a building, built for a purpose, who served that purpose without complaint for their entire working lives. The High Park Garage Lofts in Roncesvalles Village are just such a building.
It all started when Edward Earl Wheler (thank you to his grandson for help interpreting the signature on the permit) took out a building permit to construct a brick garage on Fermanagh Avenue, just east of Roncey. Oddly enough, the lot was owned by Norman Carruthers (a cousin of Earl Wheler’s wife) and his wife Matilda. But it seems that Norman and Mr. Wheler were partners in the garage they built and opened. The red brick building would have been erected in 1913, as it first shows up in the 1914 tax assessment rolls.
It may be that the city building department got the name wrong, as there is a long list of names associated with the garage. From the original Whelan, to Earl Wheeler who worked with Norman in the mid 19-teens, with other variations including Whelen and Wheler through the years. We can be sure, though, that is was Earl Wheler and his wife Ella Jane who owned and ran the garage from its beginnings in 1912 through to its sale in 1965.
For the most part, it was a standard garage, repairing the automobiles of the day. In the 1930s they installed a pump and started selling gasoline as well. The Wheler family was very much a part of the High Park/Roncesvalles community. Earl & Ella’s son Edward got married in Roncesvalles, and there is even a great-grandchild still living in the area.
At some point business must have slowed, as they started to rent space to various other companies, such as the Armalite Company, William Atkinson Novelties, Charles Wright Manufacturers and Character Creations of Canada. In 1960, Earl passed away and his son Edward took over the garage, as his mother’s age made it hard for her to continue alone.
And then, just 5 years later, Josip (Joe) Vinski buys the garage. It is his name that lives on, for some reason everyone forget the people who built and ran the High Park Garage for the previous 52 years. Vinski moved to Toronto from Croatia in 1958, but had trouble finding work as a tailor, his previous profession. So, he re-trained as a mechanic and bought the old garage for $52,000. Sounds like it was a pretty good idea, as he found success on Fermanagh Avenue for almost 40 years.
It was a Realtor who bought the old car repair shop, interestingly, one who threatened me for even reaching out to ask questions about the development. Needless to say, I won’t be mentioning his name here. Apparently he had had his eye on the old red brick garage for years, and jumped at the chance to buy it. He and his partner created HPG Lofts in 2004 and the old auto repair shop was turned into 4 large townhouse-style freehold lofts.
They are all big, around 2,500 square feet each. Plus private parking and outdoor space. Truly, they are more like houses than condos. Expect wood and steal beams, exposed brick walls, concrete and hardwood floors. These are the real deal, authentic hard lofts. Luxury features also abound, from heated floors to skylights, you name it.
It must have been nice in those days, to go to the Committee of Adjustments and have the local residents actually support your plan (as opposed to today’s rampant NIMBYism). They much preferred it to another proposed plan – the Toronto Parking Authority had talked about buying the property (and the one next door at 117 Fermanagh Avenue) to raze it all and create a Green P lot! I think we can all agree this is a MUCH better result.
HPG rebuilt the facade and retained the sign (which actually pre-dates Vinski and can be seen in photographs from the 1950s) keeping 2 garage style doors that open into the front-facing units. The walkway through the building provides access to a private courtyard, as well as entry to all 4 units.
The neighbourhoods of Roncesvalles and Parkdale go way back. This spot was mainly influenced, though, by Colonel Walter O’Hara, a prominent member of the British army in the 19th century. He participated in battles fighting Napoleon before immigrating to Toronto, where he participated in the Rebellion of 1837 on the side of the government, helping to defeat the rebels of William Lyon Mackenzie.
Many years later, in 1850, O’Hara was granted a 400-acre property on the western border of Toronto. It was this land grant that formed the basis of the Brockton and Parkdale villages. Fermanagh Avenue was named after the county of O’Hara’s birth in Ireland.