West 833 Lofts – 833 King Street West
West 833 Lofts is one of King West’s most distinctive lofts, the Art Deco former perfume factory certainly stands out in an area of red-brick factories and glass-glad new condos. This is one of King Street’s most unique buildings, comprised of two interconnected buildings – one a distinctive 1934 perfume factory recognized by the Toronto Historical Board, the other a modern complement.
Converted around 1997-1998 by Triloft Developments (West 833) Ltd., each of the lofts boast an open concept design with high ceilings along and expansive windows, making each unit feel bright and spacious. Unfortunately, most of the units are in the new building, which dwarfs the old Art Deco factory.
With a history dating back into the 1930s, the buff yellow brick of the perfume factory has provided an exquisite building that has been re-designed and re-designated as warm, character-driven living spaces. The highly modern aesthetics feature ceilings up to eighteen feet high with exposed concrete, and the minimalism and space are highly attractive to many buyers. Unfortunately, most of the units are in the new building, which dwarfs the old Art Deco factory.
West 833 Lofts range in size from 645 to 1,614 square feet, including one bedroom, one plus den and two bedroom layouts. Common features in the West 833 Lofts include exposed concrete ceilings, bright floor-to-ceiling windows, hardwood floors, open concept kitchens – and some with spacious balconies.
The West 833 Lofts are located right across the street from Stanley Park, a great urban green space with a dedicated off-leash area, a large sports field on the south end of the park and a children’s playground on the north end of the park. Plus an outdoor pool for those hot summer days.
Known as the Charles Henson Laboratory Building, the original building was constructed in 1934 by the architect Earle Leonard Sheppard. Unfortunately, we don’t know who he built it for… Charles Henson is a complete historical mystery. Added to the City of Toronto’s list of heritage structures in June of 1973, it was officially designated in July, 2007.
There is simply no information about the building or the company that used it. We have the name Charles Henson, who exists on no other record than those associated with this building. A company named Norda has evidence of being there from the 1960s until at least the 1980s.
Earle Sheppard was born in Montreal in 1894. He served an apprenticeship with the prominent Montreal firm of Ross & Macdonald just before WWI, then moved to Philadelphia to study architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. After graduating in 1917 he returned to Montreal to rejoin Ross & Macdonald, then moved to Detroit where he worked briefly with Albert Kahn, a leading architect of industrial buildings in the United States and Canada.
In 1920 he settled in Toronto, serving as assistant to Thomas Lamb and supervising the construction of the Pantages Theatre and the Lowe’s Uptown Theatre. He then joined the Toronto Board of Education as a staff architect, and worked as assistant in the office of Chapman & Oxley before opening his own office in 1925.
Much of his work was for residential and industrial clients, and he was among the first to introduce a streamlined, modernist style to commercial architecture in Toronto, best seen in his progressive design for the Charles Hanson Laboratory Building (1934). He was the author of a truly visionary urban planning proposal for Vimy Circle and Cambrai Avenue, a sweeping Beaux-Arts plan to reconfigure the downtown core of Toronto, centred on University Avenue south of Queen Street that sadly never happened.
In 1950 Sheppard received a Design Award from the Society of Plastics Industry for his invention of a new building material called ‘Bloxolite’, a light-weight plastic transparent block with a molded ribbed face that resembled conventional glass block used in modern architecture from the 1930’s onward.
His last work was a striking modernist design for the Knight Building, Adelaide Street West near Yonge Street, a 13-storey contemporary office block completed in 1954. He passed away in 1957.
Everyone always says that 833 King Street West was a perfume factory. There were a bunch of perfume makers in Toronto in the early 1900s: Ideal Sovereign Perfume Ltd., Taylor John & Co. Ltd. and the Jeromee Thayer Parfum Antique Ltd. seem to have been the bigger ones. They were all active in the 1920s and 1930s. But it does not seem that any of them were connected to the building, nor are any associated with a guy named Charles Henson.
According to Perfume Intelligence – The Encyclopaedia of Perfume, Norda Essential Oil & Chemical Co. of New York launched a fragrance called Senang in 1937. If so, that would be the earliest mention of a name we can positively connect to the building.
In the 1922 City Directory, Alfred B. Gaul is listed as living at 833 King Street West. Looking at the 1924 Goad’s map, the stretch of King Street West between Walnut and Niagara is houses. Probably much like the small extant example at the corner of Stafford Street. Doesn’t help much, but it is interesting.
I found a chemical directory published by the Federal Government in December 1960 mentioning that Norda has factories at 833 King West and at 36 St. Paul Street East in Montreal. There is also a Norda Limited listed under food colouring, with an address of Main Street in Vankleek Hill, Ontario.
There is also a 1979 Macleans article that quotes Madeline Morris, supervisor of marketing development for Norda International Ltd. in Toronto, a large wholesale producer of perfume.
The sign on the building visible in the 1980s photos says Norda. I can find records of the name being trademarked in the 1960s. They made cosmetics, hair products and perfumes. Plus, oddly enough, food flavouring products. Or, since I am basing it off the trademark date of the name Norda, maybe they were always there.
Bizarrely, there is a 1980 report to the UN by the Tropical Products Institute regarding prospects for pepper processing (I could not make that up) that mentions visiting Norda International Ltd. at 833 King Street West sometime between April and June of 1980. The report calls them a “flavour house”. Which jibes with another reference to them making food flavouring products in the 1960s.
And that is about the time when the trail goes cold. After the 1984 photo showing a Norda sign, there is no further mention of them or what became of them. Norda does not seem to exist today, though the name appears in various other unconnected industries such as steel and Italian bottle water.
The building was put up for sale in the 1990s. It was listed on MLS twice in 1995 by Dollarton Investment Holdings Ltd., then again in 1996. Units started showing up for sale in 1997, condo registered in 1998. But there is no further information about Dollarton, though there might be an investment company in Vancouver operating under that name.
I promise I will put this one on my list to investigate in person at the archives. Amenities at West 833 Lofts include a lovely little common rooftop deck and garden, fitness room and party room, visitor parking, and meeting room. The maintenance fees cover hydro, heat, water, and common element maintenance, which is pretty sweet.
Deep in west side of downtown Toronto, the lofts at 833 King Street benefit from having the hustle and bustle of King West outside their door. Shops, restaurants, bars and clubs are all close by. Just a few minutes further west, Liberty Village is right there with all of its amenities. Rogers Centre and the CN Tower are not far away, plus the Toronto Convention Centre and other key city attractions are near.
TTC is right outside, in the King streetcar. The Gardiner is just to the south, if you need to drive somewhere.
Contact Laurin Jeffrey for more information – 416-388-1960
Laurin Jeffrey is a Toronto real estate agent with Century 21 Regal Realty.
He did not write every article, some are reproduced here for people who
are interested in Toronto real estate. He does not work for any builders.