Sword Street Lofts – 10 Sword Street

The Sword Street Lofts are housed in a small 1940s factory, tucked away on a leafy Cabbagetown street

History of the Sword Street Lofts

The Sword Street Lofts are located at 10 Sword Street (of course) and is nestled snugly amongst single family homes in Cabbagetown, an area well-known for its beautifully restored Victorian houses and friendly neighbourhood atmosphere. With only 11 units in this converted factory, not only are these Toronto lofts sought after because of their prime location and their rarity, they are highly desirable because of their classic loft features.

Sword Street Lofts – 10 Sword Street

The lovely mid-century (almost Art Deco) entrance to the Sword Street Lofts

While most are dry-walled and lacking in the character you would hope to find. But you can find concrete columns and ceilings are complimented by hardwood floors, and fireplaces warm every nook and cranny of these units, ranging in size from 725 square feet to a generous 1800 square feet. Upper level units have rooftop patios.

Sword Street Lofts – 10 Sword Street

10 Sword Street is a rather unassuming little red brick building on a quiet little street. I certainly wonder what used to be written/carved on that block above the front door…

The building was noted for its all-concrete construction and the developer took care to “acoustically engineer” the units. It has always been popular with artists, with noted sculptors, photographers and printers having resided there.

Sword Street Lofts – 10 Sword Street

I have only ever seen 2 units in Sword Street – one very lofty, the other less so

The boutique Sword Street Lofts houses eleven converted lofts with covered parking – not underground, but there is a garage in the back of the building with room for 8 cars. Ceilings range up to 12 feet in these lofts which vary from a smallish 725 square feet to a spacious unit that is almost 1,900 square feet. One of the only lofts in the Cabbagetown South Heritage Conservation District, 10 Sword Street was completed by Peach Pit Projects Ltd. in 1995-1996.

Sword Street Lofts – 10 Sword Street

One of the largest lofts in the building has lots of open concept living space on multiple levels – even if it is covered in drywall

Traditional loft styling abounds with concrete columns and concrete ceilings. Enjoy additional loft style features with hardwood floors and fireplaces for a true warehouse feel. Patios and decks are available for some suites, other suites may share outdoor space. There is a real art theme in the building that is reflected in the lobby and hallways, which resemble a gallery featuring an archival art collection.

Sword Street Lofts – 10 Sword Street

Every loft in the building is unique

The building, originally constructed in the 1940s, has seen many usages. It was believed to be a manufacturing facility for military purposes and later, in the 1970s it was home to one of Canada’s major print makers, the Sword Street Press. Looks like there’s half a semi on the 1884 Goad’s map, and the one from 1924 shows houses. Must have been torn down in the 1940s to build the factory.

Sword Street Lofts – 10 Sword Street

Aerial photo from 1947, showing the factory on Sword Street, just north of Gerrard (note Riverdale Zoo to the northeast, you can actually see the animal pens)

Records show that from 1943 to 1960 the building housed the International Aeronautical Corp. All I can find out about them is that they corresponded with the Ford Foundation in 1958. Useful, I know. That’s the problem with companies that disappeared almost 60 years ago, they don’t leave much of a digital trail.

Sword Street Lofts – 10 Sword Street

From what I have seen, some of the lofts are original and others have been updated

Oddly enough, the building is said to have been vacant for almost all of the 1960s, from 1960 through to 1968. Perhaps the occupant vanished in the mists of time, maybe it really was empty for all that time.

Sword Street Lofts – 10 Sword Street

A couple of units are lucky enough to have expansive rooftop patios

Then, in 1968, the Reddy Elevator company moved in. In 1970 the company changed its name to Dover Corporation Canada Ltd., but it was an elevator building until 1978. The company was a manufacturer of elevators, having done many buildings in Toronto. Dover Corporation was incorporated in 1947 by George Ohrstrom Sr., and went public on the New York Stock Exchange 1955, marking the company’s official founding. Between 1955 and 1979, Dover acquired fourteen companies, with a great deal of this acquisition activity serving to build the Dover Elevator business. In 1964, they bought Reddy Elevator Company, who had a presence on Sword Street. Dover soon became the third largest elevator company in the U.S. and remained so for many years, continuing to expand its elevator division throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Dover sold its elevator business in 1998 to Thyssen AG for $1.1 billion.

Sword Street Lofts – 10 Sword Street

Not every loft has parking, but there is room for 8 cars in the garage at the rear of the converted factory – VERY rare for a loft conversion

Not sure why, but Dover left in the late 1970s. And so the last and best-known chapter in the building’s history began. Sword Street Press was established by Geraldine Davis and Don Phillips in 1978. Phillips was the printer and they were known for their stone and plate lithography. Sword Street Press had two presses and they did custom lithography for artists, as well as publishing.

Sword Street Lofts – 10 Sword Street

Veronica Tennant looks on as prints of her dancing Giselle come off master printer Don Phillips’ lithography stone in 1983

The 1970s was characterized by experimental collaborative activities in printmaking, including the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA) and Open Studio in Toronto, both committed to producing and disseminating prints but distinct in their approaches and methods. As an alternative centre and exhibition space run by artists, the CCA’s contribution stands out in the area of its community-based educational commitment and publishing and disseminating of lithography prints. It entered the scene in parallel with activities at other artist-run or publicly funded organizations in Toronto which involved art education, publishing, exhibiting, distributing or producing print media in Toronto like A Space Gallery, Gallery Scollard and Factory 77. Open Studio on the other hand contributed in the area of establishing and successfully expanding the first publicly accessible print shop with printmaking collaboration expertise in Toronto. It led the way in the context of other print centres like the Coach House Press and the Sword Street Press Ltd.

NB: This is really cool. Way back when, as a kid, I went to an alternative school – Hawthorne. And we went to Sword Street Press for a class on silk screening. Would have been probably around 1980-1981 or so.

Sword Street Lofts – 10 Sword Street

While the Sword Street Lofts have too much drywall for my liking, you can find exposed brick here and there

In 1985 it was occupied by the National Crest Company Limited, who owned the building. They even put it up for sale in 1989 for $1.5m with no takers. Other records show them sharing the building with Dorset Conservation Inc., Lorrie Parrith Designs and Easy Street Productions in the early 1990s. Then sharing it with Go Sign Cotton Clothing and Marche Noir in the later 1990s. In 1991 it was listed again in MLS, though through a numbered company, this time for only $700,000 – nicely illustrating the real estate bubble that occurred in Toronto in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Sword Street Lofts – 10 Sword Street

Cabbagetown is filled with amazing Victorian homes such as these

In the heart of Cabbagetown, restaurants, cafés and the TTC are steps away. The building is walking distance to Toronto’s well-known Riverdale Farm and Park, which hosts a seasonal organic farmers’ market. Thankfully, it was designated heritage in 2005. Unfortunately, it is uncommon to see units for sale. Only 2 have been on the market this decade…

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