Bloorline Lofts – 284 St. Helens Avenue

The Bloorline Lofts are housed in an old crenelated foundry that became a mattress factory before conversion

History of the Bloorline Lofts

The Bloorline Lofts, as with many other old buildings, have a lot of myth in their history. While yes, at some point mattress springs were made there, a lot more went on before that. Plazacorp converted it in 2003-2004 into 64 hard lofts with cool industrial finishes. Located at 284 St. Helens (just north of the Enigma Lofts), this boutique loft has units that range in size from 367 to 1,100 square feet on one to three levels.

Bloorline Lofts – 284 St. Helens Avenue

Known mainly for the mattress springs that were manufactured here, the Bloorline Lofts were originally a foundry, built in 1911

As I said, it was not always involved in bedding… Checking old Goad’s maps and City Directories, I found that it was an empty lot in 1910, but that United Brass & Lead Ltd. had a factory there by 1912. Thus it is safe to assume that United Brass & Lead built the small crenelated factory probably around 1911. An ad for United Brass & Lead Ltd appears in Canadian Foundryman Magazine in 1918, and put out an ad in 1919 in The Globe, offering some automatic screw machines for sale. They would have been there until somtime in the early 1920s.

Bloorline Lofts – 284 St. Helens Avenue

This ad in the 1918 edition of Foundryman Magazine was placed by the original occupant of 284 St. Helens Avenue – United Brass & Lead Ltd.

The 1924 City Directory has McKellar & Blackhaus, a maker or seller of heating apparatus listed as being as in the basement of 284 St. Helens Avenue. United Brass & Lead probably leased space to McKellar & Blackhaus, as they do appear to have been in the building until sometime prior to 1924, when we start seeing ads for the Fenny Candy company.

Bloorline Lofts – 284 St. Helens Avenue

I am quite drawn to the strong vertical lines of the old factory, with its roofline that invokes battlements of yore

1924 Globe ad has Fenny looking for an experienced candy maker to work on cream, marshmallow and gum products. I wish some of my older relatives were still alive, as my great-grandfather came from Edinburgh around WWI and was a candy maker. They lived not too far north of St. Helens, near to the Earlscourt “shacktown” and not too far from the stockyards north of The Junction. I would assume that many of the local candymakers would have known each other. Unfortunately, my great-grandfather killed himself just before the Great Depression, though my grandfather tried to keep it going for a while longer. But with 11 younger siblings (good Scottish Anglicans), the youngest still in diapers, it was too much. He married my grandmother young and got what work he could in and around the meat industry. Rumour is that he sold the business to Neilson’s and they continued to make some of his father’s chocolates for a while yet. They had the big plant near Dundas & Lansdowne, which they sold to Nestle sometime in the past decade or so. Which is just down the street from 284 St. Helens… Never mind the fact that Neilson bought Cadbury in 1987 and their old factory on Gladstone just south of College. Add in [https://jeffreyteam.com/info/robert-watson-lofts/] Robert Watson’s huge old confectionary factory on Sorauren and you can deduce that the west end was a hot bed of candy making in the early 20th century.

Bloorline Lofts – 284 St. Helens Avenue

Many of the south-facing lofts have a raised bungalow style, where you walk in between two levels

An ad from August 1925 for the Canadian National Exhibtion has the Sani Products Co. at 284 St. Helens. They had a booth at the Ex and asked people to come and see their line of sanitary equipment. And you would find it familiar, as these products are still used today. Lots of other ads in 1925 promote their line of Sanitary Onyx table tops.

Bloorline Lofts – 284 St. Helens Avenue

An ad from 1925 inviting people to visit the Sani Products booth at The Canadian National Exhibition. You will still see many Sani products in use today!

A train fan site mentions there was a CN Rail siding in 1926 that went to Sani Products Co. Ltd. and the Fenny Candy Co. Ltd. at 284 St. Helens Avenue. Fenny was listed in 1925 and 1926 City Directory. Unfortunately, things did not go well for the Fenny Candy Co. as they went bankrupt in 1926 or 1927. The contents of their factory were sold off to pay their creditors in March of 1927.

Bloorline Lofts – 284 St. Helens Avenue

The Fenny Candy Company had a rough go of it

What is really neat is that there is an ad in the Toronto Daily Star from November, 1928 that has 284 St. Helens up for lease. And it mentions the private railway siding! And it mentions a foundry room, which totally jibes with the origin of the building being through United Brass & Lead.

Bloorline Lofts – 284 St. Helens Avenue

Many of the Bloorline Lofts have a European design, with the bedrooms on the bottom level

Then there is the Globe and Mail from February, 1932. A small article mentions that the Swift Canadian Company has agreed to lease a building at 284 St. Helens Avenue (no word on how many buildings were on the property at that time) and will start to manufacture the plant food known as Vigoro. Heck, I have some of that in my garage right now! I hope it did not take 4 years to lease the place out!

Bloorline Lofts – 284 St. Helens Avenue

1932 Globe and Mail article about Vigoro plant food being manufactured at 284 St. Helens Avenue – I use that on my plants today!

1933 directory seems to say that Cooperage Co. of Canada Ltd. was in the rear of the building. As with so many of these old buildings, more than company occupied them at any one time. No record of the address at all in 1931 or 1934, not sure what that means.

Bloorline Lofts – 284 St. Helens Avenue

I love the big old warehouse-style windows in the Bloorline Lofts

Things get interesting in 1940, when Kraft-Phenix Cheese Ltd. shows up in the City Directory (as does R. W. Horsey Ltd. who were agents for the D. A. Stuart Co.) with more about them to follow… R. W. Horsey made or sold industrial oil and lubricants.

Bloorline Lofts – 284 St. Helens Avenue

A can of motor oil made by the R. W. Horsey company. Might have even been made at 284 St. Helens!

The building was certainly split up, as more names appear. But it isn’t clear who owned it and who rented. I also found old classfied ads in the Toronto Star from January and February of 1947. They were placed by Corbett-Cowley Ltd. and they needed sewing machine operators for making hospital supplies. No other mention of this company anywhere else that I found. Also an ad in the Globe and Mail from December of 1949 looking for a delivery driver. Unfortunately, no company name is given and there is nothing said about just what was to be delivered.

Bloorline Lofts – 284 St. Helens Avenue

Classified ad from the Toronto Star in 1947, in which Corbett-Cowley was looking for sewing machine operators to help make hospital staff clothing

Kraft Foods Ltd. shows up in 1950, a rather wll-known brand. I assume they grew out of Kraft-Phenix Cheese Ltd. from 1940. And that seems to be the case! Born in Stevensville, Ontario, Canada in 1874, James L. Kraft immigrated to the United States in 1903 and started a wholesale door-to-door cheese business in Chicago. While the company’s first year of operations was “dismal”, the business took hold and Kraft was joined by his four brothers to form J.L. Kraft and Bros. Company in 1909.

Bloorline Lofts – 284 St. Helens Avenue

A classified ad from the Globe and Mail in 1949, someone was looking for a delivery driver. No idea what company it was though…

In 1928, it acquired the Phenix Cheese Company, the maker of a cream cheese branded as Philadelphia cream cheese (I love all these familiar names connected to an obscure little building in west Toronto!), founded by Jason F. Whitney, Sr. and the company changed its name to Kraft-Phenix Cheese Company. Sometime in the 1940s they dropped the Phenix name. Who knew that the now-massive Kraft Heinz Company had some origins on little old St. Helens Avenue in Toronto? Pretty cool…

Bloorline Lofts – 284 St. Helens Avenue

With 3 distinct parts of the building (the coach house in the rear, south side walk-ups and the north side and upper levels) there are a variety of different layouts in the Bloorline Lofts

R. W. Horsey was still sharing the building in 1950. And then the 1955 Directory shows the Star Bedding Co. at 284 St. Helens and the era of beds begins! Strangely, they are listed at #284 AND at #282-284 St. Helens. Not sure why the address change, but there you go. Maybe that was the official demarcation of the “rear” portion of the building.

Bloorline Lofts – 284 St. Helens Avenue

A mezzanine bedroom in one of the upper level lofts at Bloorline

Then, in 1960, the Regal Springs Co. Ltd. appears at 282-284 St. Helens. And the mattress factory story takes further form. The year 1965 sees the arrival of the Modern Shoe Co. Ltd. – but they are sharing the building with the Franken Springs Ltd. company. I assume they have some connection to the bedding industry. Regal Springs is also still noted to be at the address, as well as the Powers Fastener Co. Ltd. and Regal Arc Ltd. Maybe the building was being divided into smaller and smaller spaces.

Bloorline Lofts – 284 St. Helens Avenue

A few lucky units along the north side of the building have their own private patios

Oddly enough, Franken Springs still exists today, connected with the name “Regal Springs” as well. They are in Mississauga, near Pearson Airport.

Bloorline Lofts – 284 St. Helens Avenue

Upper level units have a totally different multi-storey setup than the south side lofts

I found the building listed for sale on MLS in May of 1990. It was relisted twice in 1992, once in 1993 and then sold in 1994 after the 5th listing. The listng promoted it as 42 “Luxury New York Loft Suites” that averaged 1500sf each at the time (I am curious how we got to 64 smaller units today). Seems to have been a rental, though hard to tell for sure. Originally listed for $4,500,000 the price gradually came down until it sold for only $880,000. They claim to have spent $1.7m on renovations, but then went into Power of Sale in 1992. After buying it for such a low price in 1994, the owner tried to resell it the next year for $2.46m with no luck. No one was surprised.

Bloorline Lofts – 284 St. Helens Avenue

This animation shows aerial photos from a few different years. It is actually quite amazing just how little the area changes in a generation.

There is a record of Abel Used Corrugated Cartons Ltd. offering what appears to be unit 3 for sale in 1987, with mention of 48,000 square feet for lease. Might be an MLS artifact and there may not have been a unit 3, they may have been offering the entire building. Prior to that, the same company was offering it for sale in 1986 and the listing mentions that it would be an “Easy Studio Conversion” and that the site had “Great Redevelopment Potential”. Can’t find any old MLS lease listings.

Bloorline Lofts – 284 St. Helens Avenue

Inside a Bloorline Loft, showing the lovely exposed wood ceiling

What is REALLY interesting is that Abel Used Corrugated Cartons Ltd. appears on a 1998 Draft Zoning By-law and Official Plan Amendment for 1101 Dupont Street, to provide the necessary draft by-law amendments to permit the conversion of a three storey industrial building to 37 units and the construction of 4 townhouses. The site currently has only townhouses on it, so I am not sure whatever happened to the old industrial building. The amendment went through, they DID get the permission, but they never converted the building, unfortunately. Whatever had been there was described as “…an attractive 3-storey brick building that houses several small woodworking companies, with a one-storey annex building adjacent to Bartlett Street.” Abel Used Corrugated Cartons Ltd. was listed as being at 48 Abell (don’t get me started on tearing that old gem down!) at the time.

Bloorline Lofts – 284 St. Helens Avenue

Nice example of a Bloorline Loft bedroom with lots of wood and character

Obviously they did manage to sell the old building at 284 St. Helens sometime prior to that. The 1990 listing has St.Helens Avenue Investment Inc. as the seller. Then in 1992 it went power of sale. I guess St.Helens Avenue Investment Inc. bought it and sunk $1.7m into it to turn it into luxury loft rentals, but something went sideways. And then there are a few years with no information…

Bloorline Lofts – 284 St. Helens Avenue

Photo from the 1995 MLS listing, back when it may or may not have been “Luxury New York Lofts”

And there is nothing, no record of Plazacorp buying it in the early 2000s, seems it was a private sale and not on MLS. But the loft sales all closed in 2004, which is where that date comes from. Wow, I actually remember going to the sales office and checking out some of the units with my wife way back. Probably late 2003 or early 2004. All I remember is the ones in the back were very small and there was snow on the ground.

Bloorline Lofts – 284 St. Helens Avenue

One of Plazacorp’s newspaper ads from 2004, when they only had 3 units left to sell

Unfortunately, most of the units today are smaller in size (what happened to those 42 1,500-square-foot lofts?), but each loft has its own fusion of original details with modern finishes, including ample windows, exposed factory architecture, and soaring wooden ceilings. If you take a walk through the building and through the lofts at Bloorline, you’ll never guess that it was once a mattress factory. But when construction started, crews unearthed metal springs buried all around the building.

Bloorline Lofts – 284 St. Helens Avenue

One of the second floor lofts, only one level and no skylights or direct entry

While Plazacorp has gone to great lengths to keep the original structure of the building, the new roof, windows, plumbing and wiring make the Bloorline Lofts a wonderful, yet historic, place to call home. The lofts have features such as gigantic warehouse windows, brick walls, exposed ducts and beams, and wooden ceilings. It’s easy to get creative when decorating and turning the open loft spaces into something uniquely yours.

Bloorline Lofts – 284 St. Helens Avenue

The Bloorline Lofts, just south of Bloor & Lansdowne, still offering pretty good value for a Toronto loft conversion

The lofts at the rear of the Bloorline building are “mews lofts”. An old laneway from the original building, which was probably used for carriages, was converted and landscaped. And it is through this courtyard, the “mews” lofts can be found, offering their own private entrances. As with many loft conversions, many of the suites are different. All of the windows have been replaced, but maintain their original shape and design. There are skylights in some of the upper suites.

Bloorline Lofts – 284 St. Helens Avenue

The rear lane with the old coach house, now the “mews” style lofts

The city is at your fingertips with the Lansdowne subway station only a short walk away. Bloordale Village is close by and easily accessible Roncesvalles offer an array of delights for the senses. Savor a delicious cup of coffee and freshly baked pastry from one of Roncesvalles’ trendy cafes, bite into fresh fruit from the Sorauren Farmers’ Market or Dufferin Grove Organic Farmers’ Market. Wander down to the natural beauty of nearby High Park, or feast your eyes on the screen as you enjoy a classic or second-run film at historic Revue Cinema.

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