The Wellesley Hospital’s old 1953-era steam-fired power plant was converted by Aykler in 2008 into the Steam Plant Lofts. The existing 3-storey industrial building was converted and three additional floors were added to create this boutique 6-storey loft with only 31 units.
The Steam Plant Lofts are known for their landmark 200-foot smokestack. What was once thought to be a detriment turned into a huge selling feature when the developer found the site did not have enough room to get the necessary equipment in for the demolition of the stack. So they cleaned it out and shored it up, allowing for 3 suites to have round bedrooms or dens with exposed brick – which all sold on opening day. Sure to be conversation starters for those loft owners!
The lofts are located in the Bloor/Jarvis corridor, a rapidly changing area undergoing revitalization. The Steam Plant Lofts range from 455 square feet up to 1,092 square feet with roof top terraces, high ceilings, hardwood flooring, large sliding barn doors, industrial style shower heads and stainless steel appliances. Amenities include a roof top terrace for BBQs and a party room to entertain friends.
The old power plant that became the Steam Plant Lofts was made obsolete when the Wellesley Hospital and original Princess Margaret Hospital were demolished in the early 2000s to make way for high-rise condos (500 Sherbourne and Verve).
Now we head back in time to where it all began, to learn of the area’s history. William Allan gave the north half of Park Lot 5, then heavily wooded, to his son, George William Allan, as a wedding gift, in 1846. The latter built a red brick Gothic Revival style house there which he named Home Wood (later known as Homewood, giving the street its name).
NB: My parents lived on Homewood when I was born!
George Allan (1822-1901) was a lawyer, mayor of Toronto in 1855, and Speaker of the Senate from 1888 to 1891. In 1855, Allan began dividing his land, opening new streets. Homewood had several occupants and was vacant for stretches. The 1884 Goad Atlas shows R. Homer Dixon as the occupant. This is the same George Allan who donated the land upon which Allan Gardens resides today. He donated it in 1857 and the park was first known as the ‘Botanical Gardens’ and the ‘Horticultural Gardens’. It was officially opened by the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, on September 11, 1860. The Park was renamed “Allan Gardens” when George Allan died in 1901.
In 1909, Dr. Herbert Bruce, Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario from 1932 to 1937, bought Allan’s house and four acres of parkland, where he opened Wellesley Hospital in 1912 as a 72-bed private health care establishment. In 1964, Homewood was demolished to make way for the expansion of Wellesley Hospital into a general hospital with several wings and 600 beds.
On a side note, Dr. Bruce was the last Lieutenant-Governor to actually live at Chorley Park (another gorgeous building demolished). He was a professor of surgery at the University of Toronto and during WWI was appointed inspector-general of the Canadian Army Medical Corps but clashed with his political masters. While most lieutenant-governors are former politicians, Bruce took the unusual step of entering politics following his term as the King’s representative, by contesting and winning a seat in the House of Commons in 1940, as Conservative member for Parkdale. He was re-elected once, but retired in 1946.
Wellesley Hospital lived on after his death and in 1984, the Ross Tilley Regional Burn Centre was opened at the hospital, following extensive fund-raising by local firefighters and others. The Wellesley Hospital was also the primary care centre for HIV/AIDS patients in the Toronto area from 1988 until 2001.
Wellesley merged with the nearby Central Hospital to become the Wellesley Central Hospital. It then merged with St. Michael’s Hospital in 1998 and at one point operated the second busiest emergency room in the downtown core of Toronto! The hospital finally closed in 2000 and was subsequently demolished.
After all was said and done, the little steam plant still remained at the northwest corner of the property. What might have left other developers steaming – an older industrial building on a tight site with a big old chimney sticking up like a sore thumb – had the Ayklers beaming. The round bedroom or den located inside the old chimney has three happy residents bragging to their friends. Luckily it had not been belching toxic fumes for decades, so it was clean and mostly ready to go.
Luckily, when the grand old hospital shuttered in 1998 and Wellesley Central Health Corp. (now the Wellesley Institute) was formed to redevelop the land around Jarvis and Wellesley streets, the small and adventurous Aykler firm was already building next door (the Earl Lofts, a late 1990s loft/townhouse project).
Thankfully Aykler thought to keep the old power plant and turn it into a boutique hard loft. The conversion involved doubling the power plant’s original height of three storeys, making room for more units. It wasn’t easy, as the addition required adding new foundations and increasing the size of the original foundations, as well as adding new concrete shear walls and slab floors. Yes, they had to add floors. While there were “fragments of floors” that supported a few small offices, mostly there were none at all remaining in the structure.
From the ground floor up to the roof, there was a three-storey-high space, into which there were three large turbines on three large masonry plinths. During demolition, all those old boilers and other power-generating equipment had to be dismantled and removed, along with some of the building’s original structural system of steel beams and columns. Too bad they could not have incorporated more of those tidbits into the units.
But adding additional floors above was even harder. Since the Steam Plant Lofts are on narrow Wellesley Place and hemmed in by projects on three sides, swinging a crane around the site was impossible. Unless they wanted to entertain the ridiculous idea of building a foundry to produce the steel beams on site, the interior skeleton of the building had to be fabricated from concrete.
But without that crane to carry the forms up to each floor, they all had to be assembled and disassembled by hand. It was then an obvious decision to leave the concrete unfinished on ceilings, columns and beams, because it goes with the look of all the hard loft features, the exposed sprinklers, the exposed duct work.
Paint was removed from any brick, which was then sealed with a clear coat. The first level of the smoke stack is dedicated to bicycle storage. The second floor has the largest section (since the stack narrows as it rises) and has thus turned it into a bedroom. The units above use it for a den. The second level also has a deck off of the stack!
With a location this far downtown, almost anything is walking distance. The Steam Plant Lofts are close to the Gaybourhood, St. Lawrence Market, Eaton Centre, Financial Core and more.