The Century Lofts have not been around for 100 years, more 75 or so. But since the Imperial Lofts already existed, they needed another name. Where “Century” came from, no one seems to know. The developer was apparently a local slumlord who wanted to turn the building into a 200-unit rooming house. When the city stopped him, he tried his hand a loft conversion.
This is a weird one for me, as I spent a few years a child living on Ontario Street, just south of Dundas. I would have gone past the old optical factory every day, but I don’t remember it in the least. Mind you… this was back around 1977-1979 or so. The lofts tend to sell for less than comparable units elsewhere. Mainly because the area is still pretty rough around the edges. I know there was a lot of local “character” when I lived there, but very little has changed in 35+ years.
The Century Lofts originally started life in 1939 as a lens factory for the Imperial Optical Company. Built of yellow brick and poured concrete this building is an excellent example of the Art Deco style. The building was converted to lofts in 2000 and today is home to 41 residential and live/work lofts spanning the two original stories. The owners successfully obtained a Beautiful City grant in 2009 to improve the streetscape of their building. The planters and plantings went in during the summer and are a great addition to the community.
The Imperial Optical Company originally built its factory fronting onto Ontario Street. Imperial Optical was founded in 1900 by Mr. Percy Hermant and was the first prescription lens business in the Maritimes. Percy headed the company until his death in 1959, and under his leadership the company eventually grew to be the largest company of its kind in the British Commonwealth. The head office was located in the Hermant Building (named for Percy) at 21 Dundas Square (which is still there, designated heritage by the City). After Percy’s death, the company passed into the hands of his son Sydney, who sold majority control to the Caribbean based Harcourt Carter Optical in 1965. By 1991, Harcourt Carter Optical had assumed total control of Imperial Optical.
The original two storey building for Imperial Optical at 270 Ontario Street was built in 1939 (designed by famed Toronto architect Benjamin Brown) and contained a storage facility, a garage, janitor’s quarters and an employees’ restaurant. This is also an old Imperial Optical facility, as are the Imperial Lofts on Sherbourne Street. Seeing as how large the company was at one point, I do not find it odd that more than one of their buildings would have survived. That would make 3, including the old office at Yonge & Dundas. I also find it extra interesting that both 365 Dundas and 80 Sherbourne are both Art Deco, built of yellow brick with concrete details.
The Century Lofts is one of the only Art Deco lofts available in Toronto. The Tip Top Lofts being the most famous, Forest Hill Lofts is another fine example, as well as the above mentioned Imperial Lofts (south building). They don’t make ’em like this any more! The Century Lofts is an intimate, welcoming, and successful conversion. It is home to many artists, musicians, and health, business and legal professionals.
Much younger than many of its neighbours, the Century Lofts building is an impressive south Cabbagetown brick and concrete structure just bursting with character. Converted to residential living in 2000, Century Lofts retains the original art deco motif with streamlined shapes and elegant simplicity that exude the building’s strength and authentic character.
Art Deco captured the spirit of the 1920s and 1930s, and continues today at Century Lofts. The building’s clean horizontal lines, sculpted vertical pillars, terrazzo and concrete flooring, and huge industrial windows, brilliantly embody all the elements and aura of this style.
Composed of 41 units ranging from 470-square-foot studios to 1,150-square-foot two bedroom lofts, the fully original brick, concrete, wood and steel beam structure is praised for its ‘New York-style’ loft identity. All of the lofts feature soaring 11-1/2-foot ceilings, some with wood and steel I-beams and others with concrete and mushroom cap columns. The Terrazzo floors are sure to remind you of your school days!
Century Lofts feels very much at home on Dundas Street East and within the area’s old Victorian houses. Its height, material and detail are all in harmony and at ease. The unassuming simplicity is supported by its strong Art Deco character, blending gracefully into the tree-lined streets of Seaton and Ontario. is only a few blocks away, and the Bloor ramp to the DVP is just to the northeast.
Century Lofts is located at 365 Dundas Street East, on the south side of Dundas between Seaton and Ontario Streets. As far as downtown living and commuting goes, the building’s location is incredibly convenient. The Dundas streetcar stop is located directly in front of the building. As well, Yonge Street, Bloor Street, The Gardiner Expressway, and The Don Valley Parkway are all about a kilometer (two minute drive) away.