The Stonecutters Lofts were converted from an early 20th-century brick building located on a quiet side street just up from Richmond East & Sherbourne. These big and rare lofts on Britain Street have the usual exposed brick, wood posts and beams and real hardwood floors. The finishes are all above grade, very high-end features.
Converted since the turn of the most recent century, these lofts feature high ceilings, post & beam construction and large open areas. The Stonecutters Lofts offer commercial, live/work, and residential units. They are expensive and not available often. Part of the building is still leased office space, the front parts at 282 and 284 Richmond Street East.
You will find the epitome of privacy in this luxurious hard loft conversion. The Stonecutters Lofts were cut from a warehouse dating to around the time of WWI. WIth only five units in the whole building (including a top level, two storey penthouse, that takes up the entire second floor) each loft is made with luxurious amounts of space, allowing for your home to be styled any way you like. Centered in the heart of Toronto, this is a unique building for its location and one-of-a-kind units.
Converted back in 2005 by Stonecutter Homes Inc., the loft won an Ontario Association of Architects design award in 2011. It is a smaller building, with only 5 units: 2 at grade or slightly below, two in the middle and then the massive top floor unit. The ‘A’ units are the lowest, ‘1’ units on the first floor and the famous unit 200 on the top floor. I have personally been in unit A02, and seen all the photos of unit 200. I’ve seen old listings for A01 and 101, but never even seen a single photo of unit 102.
The A-level units were selling for $400-500k around 10 years ago, and second floor units were close to $1-million around that same time. The big top floor unit sold for close to $3m in 2012. Expect those prices to have doubled, at a minimum. You gotta have big money like Batman if you want to live here… these are what lofty dreams are made of.
The Door Store was located there in the early 2000s as a 2003 MLS listing photo shows a sign for the company on the side of the building. Found an architect’s list of showrooms from way back, which also has The Door Store listed at 43 Britain Street. Seller in 2003 was listed as Dundas Junction Corp. Talking to someone at The Door Store, they told me they were a tenant there from 1987 to 2003.
Before The Door Store, PS Production Services occupied the building. They rented film equipment to the movie industry. The lower level was rented to the American Strongbox Corp., who made high-end stainless steel cases for cameras and other equipment. The owner of the building at the time was Morton Wolfson – he sold it to John Hyman who quickly flipped it. Land registry shows Dundas Junction Corp. buying it in 2002 for $825,000 and then selling it to Stonecutter Homes Inc. in 2003 for $1,070,000. This jibes with the owner of the Door Store’s recollections. And it shows that flipping properties isn’t new to Toronto real estate, it has been going on for decades.
The building shows up on the 1924 and 1913 Goads fire insurance maps. Interestingly, the building is shown quartered, like it is 4 abutting buildings or one building divided in half both ways. Currently the south end is 282 and 284 Richmond East, guessing the north may have had 2 addresses at some point.
The building does not show on the 1910 Goads map, but there are some smaller buildings at the north edge of the lot, plus a larger one at the south end. The 1903 map shows the larger building to be the Knox Mission Church, fronting onto Duchess Street, as Richmond was then called.
The property lay directly south of William Allan’s 100-acre Park Lot 5. This Park Lot started at Queen Street and ran north all the way to Bloor Street. Allan also owned an extension of his Park Lot south of Queen Street known as the “meadow”, which included the lot on Sherbourne east of Stonecutters Lane. The meadow had a stream running through it and the angled path of today’s Britain Street echoes the path of that stream.
People might not like this, but the land under the lofts was a cemetery at one point (big shout out to the Ontario Genealogical Society for much of the information). The small cemetery was located on the north side of Duchess Street, roughly bounded on the east by Stonecutters Lane, and on the north by Britain Street. The west boundary was a third of the way to George Street, about where 260 Richmond Street East is today. It was about a half acre in size. The boundaries of the graveyard were reportedly somewhat undefined as bodies were unearthed when both Caroline (now Sherbourne) and Britain streets were built.
The 1834 directory of the Town of York tells us that the cemetery belonged to “the Presbyterian Church in Hospital-street, Rev. Mr. Harris, Minister” (Hospital Street is now part of Richmond Street). Rev. James Harris was the son-in-law of prominent Torontonian Jesse Ketchum, who donated land at Yonge and Richmond streets in 1821 to build a church for the Presbyterian congregation of York. Harris was the first minister, staying until about 1844. The church was named Knox in July 1844 after the Disruption within the Church of Scotland.
But the burial ground goes back even farther, though, into the 1700s. A report from the Surveyor General’s Office summarizes correspondence from February and March 1797, which orders that four acres be set aside for burials “including the present burial ground“. It is not clear whether “the present burial ground” was on Duchess Street or on the land set aside for the Anglican congregation at King and Church streets (where the Cathedral Church of St. James is today).
Not to worry, though, everyone was moved to the Necropolis in the early 1900s. There is a plaque on Plot L 106 that reads as follows:
The resting place of early Presbyterian settlers
They were originally buried in the Presbyterian Burying Ground at Duchess (Richmond) and Caroline (Sherbourne) Streets, between 1818 and 1841. Due to steady expansion of the city, the cemetery was closed, and the remains of 263 persons were removed to this location in 1911 and 1912. Although few of those buried here are identified, family records indicate that several members of William Lyon Mackenzie’s family, including three of his children, are interred in this lot. Requiescat in pace.
A 1904 article in Landmarks of Toronto, mentions that part of the land was used for a carpenter’s shop and cottages starting in the 1830s. I wonder if these are the same little buildings seen at the north end of the property in the earlier Goad’s maps.
The property was sold by the church in 1911, which is why the bodies were moved. Helped with the land value and all… So, it is safe to assume that the current building was built soon after that 1911 sale, as it shows on the 1913 Goad’s map. The question is who built the building and used it over the next century or so.
Seems to me that a company called A. D. Fisher may have been the original inhabitant. The A. D. Fisher Co. made bicycles in Toronto and I found a 1916 mention of them with a 43 Britain Street address. Though I also saw mention of the company name in a 1895 hardware trade publication. Obviously not on Britain Street at that time, mind you.
Found another mention of the A.D. Fisher Manufacturing Co. Ltd. in Toronto, regarding them building marine engines, specifically the Model A.1 Dis-Pro engine. Another site mentions the Kingfisher A-1 engine made by A. D. Fisher Co. in 1918 and 1919. Seems they made more than just bikes! The 1906 Ontario Commercial Year Book and Gazetteer has them making skates, electric tools and various machinery at a Richmond Street East address – which still could be part of the same building.
Then I started finding Permite Products of Canada, Ltd. mentioned at that address. First in 1932 Federal Ministry of Trade document. Then, really interesting, is a listing I found in a 1936 Annual Digest of Aircraft & Engine Materials. There is a listing for the Fisher Building in Detroit, with service branches beneath. One of those is Permite Products of Canada, Ltd. listed at 43 Britain St., Toronto. Seems they made aircraft parts, specifically:
Pistons (Permite aluminum alloy).
Valves (Permite diachrome and steel).
Permite piston pins.
Permite torque pins.
Permite aluminum hinge bearings.
Fisher is best known as the company that made bodies for GM cars for many many decades. Seems they also made a airplanes. During WWII they developed the P-75 Eagle with GM. Seems 6 years late for them to be mentioned in a 1936 aeronautics publication, but they 2 must be connected somehow. Obviously Fisher was working on something before the P-75 Eagle. Digging deeper into the history of Fisher Body, their own site (http://www.fisherco.com/heritage/) states they were involved in aircraft manufacturing as far back as WWI. So it would seem that 43 Britain has a tie to Detroit and GM via Fisher and with WWII planes via the airplane engine parts made by Permite Products of Canada in the 1930s. Neat!
Back to current times… people wonder where the name Stonecutters Lofts came from, as do I. Seems that the lofts were named after the old Stonecutters Lane, which abuts the loft building along its east side. The lane got its name from the old Stonecutter’s Arms pub that used to occupy the main floor of 284 Richmond, directly south of the loft. That pub was probably named as a nod to the Stonemasons Arms Pub in London. Or maybe the owners just liked the Tom Cochrane song.
So there is no fascinating story concerning the name of the lofts. But – the pub used to be a bar named Errols. Apparently, the owner was a famous guy (not sure who he was, or how “famous” he was) who spent some time in jail, according to local scuttlebutt. John Candy used to hang out there back then. Then it turned into a restaurant, later becoming The Stonecutter’s Arms, then The Richmond Rogue. Which is right across the street from the Richmond Mews Lofts.