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