Windsor Lofts – 412 Jarvis Street
The Windsor Lofts are reminiscent of classic New York brownstones. A classic Edwardian design from the early 1900s, 412 Jarvis was part of a movement to creating apartment buildings in a city that had not had that type of living before. Now converted to condo, you can buy a piece of history and live on one of Toronto’s grandest avenues.
Converted from a century-old apartment building, these lofts have a degree of character that is hard to find in a city full of new condos. A few of the big old mansions that once lined the street are still standing and there are major revitalization plans at work in the area. Most of the lofts have balconies, decorative fireplaces and 9-foot ceilings. Bay windows and large bathrooms add to the feel of old world luxury. Prices are low for the size, as are the condo fees. Unfortunately, most of the character is on the outside of the building.
It was a rather strange and winding path that led the southern half of the paired buildings to its current situation. 412 Jarvis Street was originally a 30-unit rental building constructed in 1908. It and the neighbouring building, 414 Jarvis Street, were formerly owned by the City of Toronto, which purchased the properties in 1990 in order to make the two buildings available for renovation by the Wellsboro Mansions Housing Co-operative. After the City purchased the two buildings, the units were vacated as the renovation approval process proceeded. However, renovation of the properties for the housing co-operative did not begin immediately and the project was no longer possible when the Province cancelled funding for social housing in 1995.
In 1997, Council approved the sale of the vacant buildings to Kwang Chull Development Corporation, on condition that it agreed to a business plan that would make a portion of the renovated residential units available at below market rates to the Rainbow Housing Group Inc., which would in turn provide affordable housing for seniors. Not long after, the Rainbow Housing Group became defunct.
Then, 414 Jarvis was severed from 412 Jarvis in 1999. In 2000, after the building had been vacant for nearly a decade, the new owner of 414 Jarvis Street obtained building permits to renovate the existing apartment units in the building. The owner began to rent the renovated units in April 2002.
414 Jarvis Street became a co-ownership in February 2001. (A co-ownership is comprised of co-owners who each own one or more shares in the property. While each co-owner has exclusive rights to one of the units, they do not own the unit itself.) In this case, 414 Jarvis Residences Corporation owns all of the shares in the building and has exclusive rights to all of the units, although shares could be sold to individual owners. Therefore, despite the building’s legal status as a co-ownership, it continues to operate as a rental apartment building.
1448346 Ontario Limited then proposed to convert 412 Jarvis to a residential condominium with 30 dwelling units and 6 parking stalls. Thus, individual apartment units could be sold to the current tenants or to other purchasers, and the building would cease to operate as a rental apartment building. Beginning in 1999, the owner obtained building permits to renovate the units. While the building had been vacant nearly a decade by the time the current application for condominium conversion was submitted, the owner has since rented the newly renovated units. The new tenants were informed about the condominium application prior to leasing the units. The units were mostly vacant by the time the owner started selling them on MLS in 2002.
Going back in time, Jarvis Street – because of its location just east of Toronto’s central business district – was the city’s premier residential district. In 1880, it was home to notable Torontonians such as the Masseys and the Gooderhams. Following the turn of the century, the street began to host a new group of young, unattached, white-collar workers. Changes to the social, demographic, and occupational character of Jarvis Street were accompanied by physical changes to its built form. The family estates of the nineteenth-century elite were converted into boarding and rooming houses, or torn down and replaced by some of the city’s first apartment buildings.
Originally known as the Wellsboro, 412 and 414 Jarvis were twinned 5-storey apartment buildings constructed in sometime around 1908-1912. Number 412 had 30 units and 414 had 29. A mutual driveway between the two buildings leads to a detached garage with 6 parking stalls at the rear of 412 Jarvis Street. There is/was a caretaker’s apartment on the 2nd floor of the garage, I do not know what became of that.
Going back over old maps is rather odd in this case. The two buildings are not really clear on any Goad’s map but for 1924. I figured they would be there on the 1910 and 1913 editions, but it looks like 414 Jarvis is on the 1910 map and 412 is on the 1913 map, but they only both appear on the 1924 map. Weird.
What’s really neat is that if they were built in 1908, they would have been one of only 14 apartment buildings in the entire city. It is actually quite surprising that they are not designated heritage, as they are some of the very first apartment buildings in Toronto.
Of course, being on Jarvis Street and in the heart of Toronto’s old “Millionaire’s Row”, old tax assessment rolls show that the Wellsboro was the 2nd most valuable apartment in Toronto in 1914. It had 59 units and was owned by Deeth & Sons. Unfortunately there is no further information about Mr. Deeth or his sons. Or the architect who designed them. I will put it on my list for further in-person investigation at the archives.
To the east of the city centre, Wellsboro was part of the beginning of a chain of apartment houses along Jarvis Street, but as yet these included more upstart boarding houses and converted hotels than newly built blocks. Walnut Hall (shame!), for example, was really three mid-nineteenth-century town houses knocked together under common ownership; but the assessors regularly returned it as a “rooming house,” accommodating in different years between 65 and 104 inmates. The Bristol Apartments, on the corner of Jarvis and King Streets, had been built in the early 1890s as a hotel, which was the main non-owned means of housing before apartments.
By 1912 several concentrations of development were evident. One was along Jarvis Street, east of the city centre. As the rich abandoned the area for Rosedale, the Annex or more distant upper-middle-class suburbs, so a new servantless professional and business bachelor class moved in, especially to luxury apartments, such as Queen’s Court, King Edward and Wellsboro, all on Jarvis Street; and the Maitland, Royal George, La Plaza and Manhattan, all on cross streets between Yonge and Jarvis Streets.
Much of this middle-class movement was a way to escape the immigrants crowding the downtown core and The Ward. And many apartment dwellers in the early 1900s were upper class, doctors and lawyers and the like. They were empowering, in a way, as many single women or widows inhabited the new buildings.
What’s cool is that there are a few people in Toronto’s Society Blue Book, the “who’s who” of the city’s upper crust. And, their addresses were simply given as Wellsboro Apartments. No street or number is given, the name Wellsboro was enough for people to know where they lived.
Obviously, the past 100 years have been much less kind to Jarvis Street and all the gorgeous architecture that once lined the street. While so much has been destroyed – in the name of progress or through simple neglect – thankfully, some vestiges remain. Such as the Windsor Lofts. Buy yourself a piece of Toronto history!
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.