Having stood at the corner of College and Euclid, the old bricks of the Movie House Lofts have seen a lot since 1912. Thankfully, the ornate facade of the building was preserved when it was renovated and converted to lofts in 1998. John Berman, Matthew Rosenblatt and Jackson Goad Architects were responsible for the 1998 loft conversion.
With its large arched window, exquisite neo-classical detailing – most notably columns, cornice and dentils – it speaks of a time when architects felt comfortable borrowing from the past to be contemporary. That’s no longer true and as a result architecture is less able to express the full gamut of human experience.
Just 18 units exist in the building, so there aren’t that many people able to enjoy the experience of living in this heritage building, the Movie House Lofts. Most of these units are multi-storey lofts, the living room/dining areas usually have 16 foot ceilings with a mezzanine overlooking the area below. Loft sizes range from a 730 square foot one bedroom on one level, to a 1,300 square foot two bedroom on three levels.
Most of the suites at the Movie House Lofts feature large windows, and/or skylights that let the light pour in. Mezzanine bedrooms that overlook main living space are common too, while top-level units feature rooftop terraces that offer amazing entertaining options. Tons of character is the major selling points for this boutique loft building, not that you should need more than the surrounding neighbourhood has to offer to convince you to consider a purchase here.
There is no elevator, so accessing upper units means you have to use the stairs. Lower units have one level below ground that can be dark. Plus there’s no parking, so if you have a car you’ll need to fight for a spot on the street.
One of the most striking pieces of Toronto’s Protestant history to survive is the former Western District Orange Hall, originally located at 542 College Street, at the intersection of College Street and Euclid Avenue. Plans to build were announced in Toronto World in 1911, with a projected cost of $45,000. The new hall was to replace a smaller district hall that had operated at 273 Euclid Avenue since the early 1890s. The extensive new meeting hall, opened in 1912, was the culmination of planning and fundraising efforts that dated from the establishment of the emerging western suburbs of Toronto as a separate Orange district in 1870. It ended up costing $70,000 and its scale and design (by George Martel Miller – architect of the Gladstone Hotel and Victoria College) reflected favourably on the financial standing of its members.
In the second half of the 19th century, there were a large number of Ulster Protestants living in the city. Lodges of the Orange Order, a predominantly Protestant society founded in 1795 and named in honour of King William III, Prince of Orange, were established in the 19th century. The main meeting halls were the Eastern Orange Hall on Queen Street East, as well as the Western District Orange Hall on Euclid Avenue. The lodges provided social services, health care, and illness and death benefits. The needy received additional aid from the ancillary organizations of the Ladies Loyal True Blues and the Irish Protestant Benevolent Association.
There was no mistaking the function of the building, for the figure of King William astride a white horse is prominently displayed on the College Street frontage and the hall’s foundation stone on Euclid Avenue records its purpose and original ownership. The hall was designed to accommodate the several lodges in the district, and at its official opening the executive committee expressed the hope that “it would be a comfortable home for the Brethren and a good paying proposition,” for it was intended that any spare capacity in room usage should be filled by revenue-paying customers from the wider community.
Even at the Order’s height in 1892 there were only about 2,500 to 4,000 paid members. In addition, there were scores of socially prominent citizens who were granted honorary membership but did not actually participate in official lodge business. Surprisingly, given the prestige of the institution in city life, lodge membership was predominantly drawn from the ranks of the working class. Besides sentimental patriotic or imperialist motivations, many Orangemen joined because the support made it easier to survive the difficulties of working class life.
The deep Protestant flavour to city life gave Toronto the nickname “The Belfast of Canada”. And made the city very inhospitable to the great influx of Irish Catholic immigrants arriving in the wake of the Great Famine. Most Irish Catholics could find only unskilled factory work that offered little opportunity to escape the appalling conditions of the slum neighbourhoods of Corktown and Cabbagetown.
In the end, it was the growing cosmopolitanism and changing demographics of the booming city that finally put an end to Orange influence. In the 1950s, Mayor Leslie Howard Saunders, a leading Orangeman, set off a firestorm of sectarian controversy when his letter on official city stationery celebrating the Twelfth of July was criticized by the press and fellow Orangemen alike as being intolerant of religious minorities. Saunders’s fervent anti-Catholic rhetoric – as well as some nefarious uses of public funds – pushed voters towards Nathan Phillips. Of Jewish descent, Phillips became the first non-Protestant, non-Orangeman Toronto mayor of the twentieth century.
The Movie House Lofts’ name, of course, comes from the MUCH shorter period that the grand old building was a movie theatre. And I must note how odd it is that there are NO photos of the building prior to its conversion to lofts. Nothing from 1912 to at least the 2000s. If anyone has any, I would dearly love to see them and add them to this page.
It was the Euclid Theatre from 1989 to 1993. It was a part of history when 4,000 people crammed into it for 10 days, for the second annual Lesbian and Gay Film and Video Festival of Toronto. A collective of filmmakers, arts administrators and activists united around disparate political and cultural agendas to produce the festival’s first edition and showcase experimental and DIY work. The Euclid Theatre also screened further entries in what became known as Inside Out in 1992 and 1993.
Alternative screenings and performances were plentiful at the Euclid Theatre for Independent Film and Video from 1989 to 1993, which Martin Heath had helped to build. Heath’s main claim to fame is the back-alley Cinecycle at 129 Spadina, a hidden treasure of the Toronto film scene. Hussain Amarshi also helped run the Euclid Theatre around that time.
The old Euclid Theatre had indie film cred right from the start. Right after the conversion from Orange Hall to movie theatre, the Northern Visions Independent Video and Film Association held its second annual Independent Film and Video Festival in May of 1989.
In late 1993 the Euclid was purchased by a private film company that used it to screen commercial films, it was called the Metropolitan Theatre. In 1996, it was sold under power of sale by the Royal Bank… for only $830,000! That buys a single unit in the building today. After this purchase and the conversion to lofts 2 years later, the address was changed to 394 Euclid Avenue, though the retail outlets on the main floor still use the original 542 College Street address.
Little Italy is popular with young professionals, the location offers ideal access to downtown & entertainment including vibrant night life and urban cafes and restaurants along College, Bloor, Ossington and Queen West Streets.
Little Italy is a safe, family friendly and beautiful established old neighbourhood with a canopy of trees to walk your dog. Enjoy Healey Willan Park up the street, or nearby Bickford Park. The location is a walkers paradise. The 24 hour College streetcars are at the door or simply walk 5 minutes to nearby Bathurst subway station. Bike downtown, along the bike lanes on Harbord or around the neighbourhood.