Industrial Revolution Lofts – 676 Richmond Street West

The Industrial Revolution Lofts (sister of the Industrial Revolution II Lofts next door) are boutique hard lofts housed in an old knitting mill on a quiet piece of Richmond Street West.

History of the Industrial Revolution Lofts

The Industrial Revolution Lofts are located just west of Bathurst street on Richmond, in a building that used to be a knitting mill. The Industrial Revolution Lofts is rare in that the developer put concrete walls between each unit, making this one of the quietest and most private loft conversions in Toronto. That and the fact that there are only 20 lofts in the building make it rather exclusive.

Industrial Revolution Lofts – 676 Richmond Street West

What was once a pair of buildings was unified by Bob Mitchell when he converted the old knitting mill at 676 Richmond Street West to the Industrial Revolution Lofts

The units in the Industrial Revolution Lofts range from 750 square feet to more than 2,000 square feet, with most in the 1,000-1,800sf range. Each unit has a wood-burning fireplace, hardwood floors and high ceilings of 10 to 16 feet. Each loft also has one underground parking space.

Industrial Revolution Lofts – 676 Richmond Street West

Some exposed brick walls can be found in the Industrial Revolution Lofts

Loft conversion fans will love this old knitting mill, featuring large suites with ceiling heights that can surpass 20 feet. Enjoy the hardwood floors, the exposed brick and beam, and the large windows. Other revolutionary loft details include the gorgeous terraces in some of the suites, and the occasional dramatic catwalk. Unfortunately for the revolution, buying one of these amazing downtown Toronto lofts may be quite a feat, considering how rarely they become available.

Industrial Revolution Lofts – 676 Richmond Street West

Some of the larger Industrial Revolution Lofts have wide open spaces with exposed steel girders

The history of the building is rather muddled. I can see houses on the lots on the 1924 map, looks like semi-detached houses at 670 & 666 Richmond. I found 676 Richmond on MLS, being offered for sale on and off from 1989 to 1991 by Lucien Prezes, but that is it.

I always thought that the knitting mill at 676 Richmond was connected to Diament Knitting Mills, but now I am not so sure. The 1950 article about the Apex fire mentions National Knitting Mills as being next door to 670 Richmond. Could be they were bought out at a later day, changed name, hard to say.

Industrial Revolution Lofts – 676 Richmond Street West

For some reason, many of the Industrial Revolution Lofts have drywalled over their original brick

In 1959, a Canadian trademark registration was filed for “Huckleberry Finn” by National Knitting Mills Co. Ltd. of 676 Richmond Street West. The Huckleberry Finn trademark was filed with the description of “Boys’ knitted, woven or fabricated sweaters, shirts, hats, gloves, scarves, socks, vests, pants, underwear, jackets, ties”. The trademark seems to have lapsed around 1990.

Industrial Revolution Lofts – 676 Richmond Street West

Rear-facing units on the lower level have walkouts to private patios

National Knitting Mills is listed in Canadian Government publication from 1951 listing manufacturing establishments employing 50 or more people. Similar publications from 1982 and 1983 has Universal Knitting Ltd. at 676 Richmond. A 1961 document has Universal listed as a sweater maker at 171 John Street, with Gold Crest Products Ltd. at 676 Richmond, listed as a furniture maker. The same listings can be found in 1960, 1961 and 1962.

Industrial Revolution Lofts – 676 Richmond Street West

Page from a 1961 federal government publication listing National Knitting Mills at 676 Richmond Street West

So, assuming 670 and 676 Richmond were built around the same time (I believe they were and that they were essentially one building for most of their existence), the 676 half housed National Knitting Mills from around 1950 to the end of the decade. Gold Crest Products was there in the 1960s, making furniture. Then Universal Knitting moves their sweater business from John Street some time after that, staying until the 1980s or so.

Industrial Revolution Lofts – 676 Richmond Street West

A multi-level example of an Industrial Revolution Loft

I can still see how there might be a connection to Diament Knitting Mills (who used to occupy the i-Zone Lofts on Carlaw Avenue). National Knitting Mills produced knitwear for boys, from hats and mitts to sweaters. Later, when it was Universal Knitting, they were known for sweaters. There is no reason that these could not have been sold through Dylex (of Garment Factory Lofts fame) and their network of 2,700 stores that included Fairweather, Tip Top, Big Steel and Suzy Shier. Plus there was a sportswear manufacturer next door, in the Northwest Building at 670 Richmond.

Industrial Revolution Lofts – 676 Richmond Street West

Entrance to the Industrial Revolution Lofts at 676 Richmond Street West

Sometime in the 1980s or 1990s, as with many small factories in Toronto, the main tenant leaves and there is a period of rental to smaller companies. Maybe even artist lofts and a residential live/work type of arrangement. Then, in 1996, Bob Mitchell converts it to lofts. Then he converted the old Apex/Decca building next door the following year. If you look at old photos from the 1990s, you can see that 676 Richmond used to be 2 buildings, but Mitchell blended them into one facade during the conversion. So no one really knows what was built when, or by who.

Industrial Revolution Lofts – 676 Richmond Street West

A before-and-after comparison of the building(s), showing what appears to have originally been 2 buildings, combined into one – with much larger windows!

Although 676 Richmond Street West is a smaller building, it’s a great place to live. It was a clothing factory previously, but was converted by Mitchell and Associates in 1996-7 to a 20-unit boutique loft. Located in a serene residential area west of Bathurst Street, it’s only steps from Queen Street West in a highly desirable place to live.

The fees are minimal since there is no concierge – and heat, water and air-conditioning are extra.

Industrial Revolution Lofts – 676 Richmond Street West

Imagine the amazing summer afternoons you could spend on a rooftop terrace like this!

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