The Forest Hill Lofts is an Art Deco masterpiece. A magnificent four-storey, L-shaped edifice that was built in 1930-1931 and was the Canadian headquarters of Coats Paton, a textile firm famous for its Beehive brand knitting yarn, until 1999. In fact, a bumblebee remains carved in stone at the main entrance of the Forest Hill Lofts.
The Patons & Baldwins / Coats Patons knitting yarn factory occupied the magnificent Art Deco building at 1001 Roselawn from 1931 to 1999. As a major supplier to Eaton’s department stores, P&B employed over 800 people at this plant alone. Starting in the late 1990s, Coats Patons started winding down a lot of their far-flung operations, resulting in the Toronto knitting mill closing for good in August of 1999.
For many years Murray Goldman had admired the stately building located at 1001 Roselawn Avenue, as would anyone who had an appreciation for classic loft architecture. The graceful structure was built in 1930-1931 and was the Canadian headquarters of Coats & Paton, a textile firm famous for its Beehive brand thread – in fact, the bumble bee logo remains carved in stone at the main entrance of Forest Hill Lofts.
In 2001, Goldman’s son, Gary, launched Stafford Homes, the lowrise and medium-density affiliate of the Goldman Group. It was actually the Stafford arm of the company that converted the old yarn mill into lofts in 2002. They remain one of the most affordable loft buildings in Toronto.
Forest Hill Lofts is a magnificent four-storey, L-shaped edifice that once was surrounded by a group of smaller buildings, including a massive boiler house and towering smokestack. The disused buildings have now been removed and the grounds are beautifully landscaped. The exterior walls were refaced with stucco and exterior columns feature colourful tiles in keeping with the original art deco design.
Until the construction began, the building was a favourite with movie directors and was used as a set for several movies. The appeal is obvious – the Forest Hill Lofts boast soaring 13-1/2 foot ceilings, large columns and 24-by-10-foot window spans. All service systems – including plumbing and electrical wiring, as well as heating and ventilation – have been replaced and the building features exposed ductwork and concrete floors. In the two-level suites metal staircases are standard.
The 137 lofts at Forest Hill Lofts range in size up to 1,108 square feet and include one, two, and two-bedroom-plus-den layouts. Some lofts offer Juliette balconies, ground-floor exclusive-use patio terraces, or balconies with walkout from living room and master bedroom. As well, private rooftop terraces offer magnificent city views, unobstructed in all directions, with spectacular sight-lines of the CN Tower and the downtown skyline. The lobby is gorgeous, carrying the Art Deco theme right int the building. There is also a gym and common rooftop area.
There is parking, both underground and on the surface, south of the building. Also to the south of building is Fairbank Park, which is maintained by the City of Toronto Parks & Recreation. The 9-acre park features a water playground, baseball diamond, basketball nets, swings, and climbing apparatus for children.
Running along the north edge of the park is the Beltline Trail. Originally part of the Belt Line Railway, built in Toronto in 1892 by railway entrepreneur James David Edgar, the rail line ran through the communities that eventually became Forest Hill, Rosedale, Moore Park, and Swansea. Today it is a popular walking, cycling and biking trail. The trail was extended west of Allen Road and crossing over Dufferin Street and called the York Beltline Trail, created by the City with the assistance of Forest Hill Lofts developers, The Goldman Group.
The company that operated out of 1001 Roselawn has a VERY long and storied history. In 1755 James and Patrick Clark began a loom equipment and silk thread business in Paisley, Scotland. In 1806 Patrick Clark invented a way of twisting cotton threads together to substitute for silk threads which were unavailable due to France’s blockade of Great Britain and opened the first plant for manufacturing the cotton thread in 1812. In 1864 the Clark family began manufacturing in Newark, New Jersey, U.S. as the Clark Thread Co.
In 1802 James Coats set up a weaving business, also in Paisley. In 1826 he opened a cotton mill at Ferguslie to produce his own thread and, when he retired in 1830, his sons, James & Peter, took up the business under the name of J. & P. Coats. The firm expanded internationally, particularly to the USA. In 1890 Coats listed on the London Stock Exchange. In the 1900s, J&P Coats started manufacture in Montreal. By the 1910s, J&P Coats was the world’s third largest company by market capitalization after US Steel and Standard Oil – this was a massive company. Twenty years later, in 1932, the Toronto knitting yarn mill was built in Toronto.
In 1952 J. & P. Coats and the Clark Thread Co. merged. In 1961 a merger with Patons and Baldwins created Coats Patons. In 1986 a merger with Vantona Viyella created Coats Viyella. Ten years later, C&V was closing up shop in first world countries, moving their operations to China, the Baltics and other lower-cost locales. And you can still find their yarn in craft and fabric stores worldwide.
This hodgepodge of a neighbourhood wears its quickly accreted layers very close to the surface. Gangs of grey-haired gentlemen congregate in the area’s Italian sports bars and red, white and green–clad cafes. But there are also a few Filipino grocers, Portuguese churrasqueiras and eateries serving jerk chicken along the main commercial strip. Stretching beyond the borders of the neighbourhood, Eglinton West between Allen Road and Keele has been dubbed “Little Jamaica” for its high concentration of Caribbean take-out spots and barbershops.
Many people think that this area is one of the city’s next up-and-coming neighbourhoods. The neighbourhood known as Fairbank is found along a Eglinton Avenue between Allen Road and Dufferin Street. Part of Ward 15 Eglinton-Lawrence, the area is home to restaurants, hair salons, grocery stores, and brand new condo buildings. But what’s really attracting people is the future of transit in the area.
The new light rail transit line that will take riders from York to Scarborough is drawing developers and house hunters there. The area is under construction for now, as roads are torn up and tunnels bored underground. But when bus routes are replaced by the LRT in 2020, it will take commuters only 38 minutes to get from Scarborough to Eglinton-Keele station, compared to 73 minutes by bus. Metrolinx is working on a crosstown line that will run across Eglinton Avenue from Weston Road to Kennedy Station. The part from Keele Street to Laird Drive, including three stops in the Eglinton West neighbourhood, will be underground.
NB: Much of my family came to Toronto in the 1860s and are buried in Prospect Cemetery, just south of the Forest Hill Lofts. My great-grandfather built houses around there in the 1910s.