The Modern Beach Lofts at 952 Kingston Road is a unique 26-unit building which marks the first (and still pretty much the only) loft conversion project in this area of the city. This property is steeped with history beginning life as the Scarboro Theatre in 1936.
When you look at the upper level of the building you can see the Art Deco influences in stone details and linear motifs. The residential entrance of the building recalls the sense of the original theatre grand entrance. Upper levels house distinctive curves, glass facades and terraces.
This design gives a sense of light and space to streetscapes to balance the historic solidity of the lower levels. Some of the other features include indoor parking, spacious balconies and contemporary kitchens all in a vintage urban setting.
The conversion of the 1936 Scarboro Theatre into 26 modern art deco loft residences has become a landmark in the Upper Beaches neighbourhood. Stainless steel appliances, 10 ft. ceilings and polished concrete floors are some of the many features that the Modern Beach Lofts has to offer.
It is the upper level addition that gets the most attention. I think it is beyond cool that the addition on top pays homage to the Streamline Moderne movement. You would not think it was new construction. Kudos to Charles Gane of Core Architects for his work on it.
Streamline Moderne is a later, stripped-down version of 1920s and 1930s Art Deco style that favoured simple horizontal banding over ornate decoration. Buildings done in this style are few and far between in Toronto, since modernism eclipsed the emerging style in the 1940s before it could pick up much steam. So when a Toronto Streamline Moderne building is lovingly restored, it’s a cause for celebration.
And that restoration was not without its trials and tribulations. During excavation for the parking garage at the Modern Beach Lofts, for example, the team found the original sloped, eight-inch-thick reinforced concrete theatre floor. But because of the tight site, they just couldn’t bring in heavy equipment. So they ended up with four labourers going at it with jackhammers – a process that was really time-consuming and expensive.
The Modern Beach Lofts was the first loft conversion project in the Upper Beaches, and remains the only one that I can think of. This loft conversion features glamorous lofts with reclaimed brick walls, exposed ductwork and polished concrete floors. The five-storey boutique building offers 26 suites ranging from 642 to 1,679 square feet.
The Scarboro Theatre was originally numbered 960 Kingston Road, on the north side of the street, west of Bingham Avenue. It was in the area of Toronto that for decades was known as the Beaches, although today it is officially named The Beach (even though there are 4 beaches in the area, and years of historical precedent for the Beaches name). And then us Realtors named this area the Upper Beaches.
Completed in 1936, the theatre’s architect was Herbert (Henry) Duerr – who also designed the Hollywood Theatre on Yonge Street, as well as the Village Apartments at 404 Spadina Avenue in the Forest Hill Village. I wasted many an afternoon at the Hollywood in the 1980s!
When Duerr designed the Scarboro Theatre, he created a building with an unadorned facade of yellow brick and a plain cornice of stone, the design reflecting the Art Deco style. The original licence for the Scarboro was granted to a Mr. Slate, but was held by the B&F chain of theatres. Its auditorium contained almost 700 plush seats, with no balcony. It possessed water-cooled air conditioning.
The theatre’s ownership changed from B&F to 20th Century Theatres in 1948. The same year, in October, a candy bar was installed. In 1949, a fire broke out in the women’s lounge, started by a cigarette. The furniture in the room was totally destroyed and the plaster severely damaged. The cost of the repairs was $500, a considerable amount of money in that day. Until smoking was banned in theatres, fires were a constant worry for theatre owners.
The Scarboro showed mostly second-run or low-brow ‘B’ pictures. This is probably the reason that in 1957 the Adam Beck Home and School Association refused to place ads for the theatre in its bulletin, deeming their films “detrimental to our young people, especially teenagers.” Were 1950s Beach teens in danger of becoming So Young So Bad or Rebels Without a Cause? Maybe local Greasers were trying to wear jeans to Malvern High…
Many theatres in Toronto gave free dinnerware and silverware on weeknights to encourage people to attend. The Scarboro engaged in these promotions as well, but it was one of the very few that gave away a volume of an encyclopaedia when a patron purchased a ticket. Some might remember when the Steinberg Supermarket chain did this, and the brand of encyclopaedia was Funk and Wagnalls. Perhaps it was the same time type at the Scarboro Theatre. I remember having 3-4 encyclopedia volumes as a kid, probably came from the grocery store – did anyone ever collect a full set?
The Scarboro Theatre closed in 1967 and morphed into Scarboro Billiards, then Mr. Slate Sports Bar before conversion to lofts by Streetcar in 2007.