Just off Queen West in a Parkdale neighbourhood that walks the line between gritty-dirty and gritty-sexy, you’ll find a loft conversion that does the same. This 2-storey factory conversion, with exposed brick, hardwood floors, high ceilings, wood columns and beams has all the trappings of a sleek reno while maintaining that rough unfinished feel. Walk down the alley beside the lofts and you can see the different phases of construction (there appears to be at least 4 buildings and additions), and the entrances to the artistic businesses in the live-work units on the first floor.
The Brock Lofts is a converted factory that was originally home to the Eureka Refrigeration Company. Though it seems to have had 4 distinct occupancy periods, it was a young man from Scugog who started it all.
Wilbert Hooey, son of Irish immigrant William Hooey (who is said to have work for Colonel Sam Mclaughlin of GM fame) was born on the family farm near what is now Blackstock, Ontario in 1858. As with many young rural lads, he outgrew the farm and dreamed of grander things. Looking for a place to settle, Wilbert Hooey found himself in Parkdale, a still independent Village not yet annexed into Toronto.
It is said that Hooey arrived with some $300 in his pocket, the money he used to start the Eureka company. One legend has it that he “found” a bag of money, though no one has ever said where this magical find took place. Others say that he went to the Yukon and found gold.
Around the same time, in 1886, Hooey patented his invention of a refrigerator that was insulated using air, so that the ice that kept the refrigerator cool (this was before electricity) would remain dry and prevent food from spoiling for a longer time. He found a small building on Noble Street, a touch east of Brock Avenue, to house his new Eureka Refrigerator Company. From the looks of various maps from 1883 to 1903, the small building appears to be in the backyard of 15 Brock Avenue.
As the business grew, so did the fortunes of Wilbert Hooey and the name of Eureka Refrigerator. Mr. Hooey lived at 21 Marion Street at that time, later moving to 174 Dowling Avenue in 1912 as his finances improved.
By the late 1890s business was booming and Eureka Refrigerator Company was the second largest in all of Canada, and possibly, the British Empire. Eureka shipped refrigerators as far away as England and Australia and provided them for many local butchers, grocers and hotels – including the Gladstone hotel – as well as many wealthy Toronto families.
By 1905, Wilbert needed a bigger factory to produce his famous refrigerators. Having already expanded into the entire small building on Noble Street, Wilbert needed more space. He purchased the lot adjacent to his current location, and built a 2-storey brick addition with factory at an estimated building cost of $1,200 (according to the building permit). Looking at the 1910 Goads map, you can see that this was actually a very substantial construction! This is currently the rear portion of The Brock Lofts.
By 1913, even more space was needed due to the continued success of the business and again Wilbert Hooey built an addition to his factory. This is the front area of The Brock Lofts. But a few years later, Hooey sold the Eureka Refrigerator Company to the Keenan Company, who moved out of The Brock Lofts building and relocated to Owen Sound in 1917. That is when the Canadian Symphonola Co. Ltd. moved in.
The Canadian Symphonola Co. Ltd. Canada’s “premier phonograph” for a while, or so they claimed. I love the connection to the Industrial Revolution II Lofts on Richmond Street, which housed a Decca distributor – Decca being once known for their own line of portable gramophones. Not sure how long they were in the building, ads seem to be from the 19-teens and the 1924 map has the building unlabeled.
It would seem that they were not there very long, as the The National Fruit and Wine Company is said to have moved in sometime in the 1920s. There is pretty much nothing out there about this company, I simply cannot find anything. Could be that a trip to the archives is warranted.
Then, in the 1940s, the S. Gumpert Co. arrived. I cannot confirm that date but I have found entries in the 1950s and up until 1967 in various Toronto City Directories for the company, with an address on Brock Avenue, so they do have provenance. Gumpert’s is a baking supply company, and it would seem they were in the building for quite some time. They still exist today and their website says they began in 1892. Word is they were there until around 1980, when they moved to larger facilities in Mississauga.
There was a short period in the 1980s when the building was rented out to a variety of other businesses. Some of the units were converted to rental lofts, studios if you will, in the 1980s. The Brock Lofts building was rental lofts for a couple of decades, like much of the post-industrial buildings in Parkdale.
Converted in 2003 by M&M Developments and Core Architects, the building is now home to 24 authentic hard lofts ranging in size from 360 to 1,400 square feet. Lofts in the building come in all sorts of different layouts, some with multiple levels. These are character-rich spaces by any standard – the lofts boast 12 to 18 foot ceilings, massive wood beams, exposed duct work, exposed brick walls. The open concept lofts benefit from natural light provided by large windows plus skylights in the second floor units. A common rooftop deck offers sun and BBQ in the warmer months.
The sensation inside the units is that of an artist’s studio or art gallery. Skylights bring light into the second floor units especially brightly, providing ample illumination. A few ground floor units have direct access to the street, making them particularly suitable for a live/work environment. Located just around the corner from the Noble Court Lofts, this is a hotbed of creativity and loft conversions.
These lofts don’t come up for sale all that often, but the popularity of the neighbourhood has caught up, translating into healthy price tags. The Brock Lofts is on the border between the residential neighbourhood of Brockton Village and Parkdale’s fun and funky West Queen West. The strip of Queen Street West only a block away has transformed in recent years, and today international cuisine, boutiques, cafes and nightlife all contribute to lifestyle in these beautiful, authentic lofts.
The area showcases a wide array of restaurants, bars and galleries including the Gladstone Hotel and the Drake Hotel. Beware Electric Mud and their addicting BBQ, as they are not even a block away. Wrongbar will satisfy your wildest weekend nights.
The epitome of recent gentrification, Parkdale has gone from a less-desired neighbourhood to a residential hot spot in the last few years. Businesses have popped up all over, and families and young professionals have scooped up age old homes in the neighbourhood and transformed them into beautiful residences. The Drake and Gladstone had gone through their own metamorphosis and the transformation continued to creep west past Dufferin, under the CN bridge and right smack dab into Parkdale.