Previously known as the Studio One Lofts and the Prescott Studio Lofts, the loft conversion now known as the Stockyard Lofts can be found just west of Corso Italia. Just north of St. Clair West is one of Toronto’s best hard loft deals – and large spaces for not too much money is always a good thing! The Stockyard Lofts have exposed brick and some amazing distressed wood pillars and beams. Ductwork is exposed and you will find original hardwood factory floors throughout.
A few lucky lofts have fantastic spiral staircases up through the 11-foot ceilings to private rooftop decks. Another select few have small balconies. There are only 27 units in this 100+ year old red brick factory, ranging in size from around 500 square feet up to 1,100 or so. The lofts are bright and airy, all have numerous windows all along the walls. Parking is in the surface lot that surrounds the building on 3 sides, with a few spots for visitors.
The Stockyard Lofts used to be one of those secrets gems, hidden and unknown. But people found them, drawn by the classic Douglas Fir post and beam construction with lots of exposed brick and restored original pine flooring. It was not that long ago that the prices are crazy low, but over the past 5 years or so bidding wars have pushed prices to double what they used to be.
Loft buyers realized that they could find this authentic hard loft conversion of a former leather factory nestled in a mature, treed residential neighbourhood. It’s conveniently located between Corso Italia (the real Little Italy) and the trendy Junction area, just around the corner from the fabulous new Stockyards mall.
Everyone has always said that it was a tannery, built in 1910. And that seems to be where it ended. That story made a lot of sense, as 121 Prescott was close to the abattoirs and stockyards that used to be clustered around Keele & St. Clair. But it seems it goes back a little further, to a company originally producing laces and braids, probably made of leather, in 1890. Then another name or company, again a laces and braids company into at least the 1940s. The name people know – Prescott Hide – shows up as a trademark in 1952, then Universal Fur at same address. Lastly, there was a Mosbor Chemical Laboratory trademark in 1966. Then converted to lofts in the 1990s. Details follow…
The Auston Manufacturing Company Limited of Toronto erected a three-storey brick factory on the east side of Campbell (now Prescott) Avenue just north of St. Clair, and west of the GTR tracks in 1890. The 1891 Toronto directory listed Lucien E. Auston as manager, Jacob H. Hoover as president, and James T. Jackson as secretary. (The latter two men were Junction real estate dealers.) In 1891, the company employed 50 workers and produced braids, cords, laces for boots, shoes and corsets, as well as carpet warps, twines, and ropes for a Canada-wide market. By 1894-5, it was called the Worsted and Braid Company of Toronto, and James P. Murray was president. In 1897, it became the Laces and Braid Manufacturing Company.
The Laces and Braid Manufacturing Company was rescued from bankruptcy by the wealthy Gillies family. Alfred J. Gillies managed the factory and Miss Ida Gillies was its bookkeeper. Eventually, it was called the A. J. Gillies Manufacturing Company and by the 1940s, it was the sole survivor of the companies established in the area in the 1890s. It is mentioned by that name in the 1913 issue of Style, noting that it used to be called the Laces and Braid Manufacturing Company. The address for A. J. Gillies Manufacturing Company was given as 121 Prescott Avenue.
Nancy Byers and Barbara Myrvold, in their “St. Clair West in Pictures: A history of the communities of Carlton, Davenport, Earlscourt and Oakwood” say that Auston was first on site, then Laces & Braid. We only see the name Prescott Hide & Skin Company Limited (who specialized in sheepskins, processing the pelts of sheep or lambs for use as material) showing up as a registered trademark in 1952, then lapsed in 1997.
The name Universal Fur Dressers and Dyers Limited shows up in court records from 1954, when they sued the Feds to recover taxes paid on sheepskins wrongly taxed as furs. So it would seem that Prescott Hide & Skin changed their name at some point to Universal Fur Dressers.
This is further supported in a 2015 book by Ryan O’Connor, “The First Green Wave: Pollution Probe and the Origins of Environmental Activism in Ontario” which mentions the factory and area specifically: “By 1973 most of the Urban Team’s time and energy was focused on the Dufferin-Davenport neighbourhood. A predominantly working-class community, it featured a number of factories, including Prestolite, which manufactured batteries; Universal Fur Dressers and Dyers, a tannery; Union Felt; Toronto Foundry; and Kelson Springs, which produced mattress springs. These factories were classified as “heavy industry” by the city but because they predated the 1952 zoning regulations, they were allowed…”
Interestingly, the name Mosbor Chemical Laboratories Limited was registered as a trademark in 1996, with the address 121 Prescott. Could be it was related to the tanning or dying methods used at the factory?
After its industrial uses, the legend was that the building was developed by PlazaCorp, who was said to have gotten the property for free after paying 15 years of back taxes. I cannot find anything to support this.
MLS has a listing from 1989 where it sold for $1,501,000 and the seller is listed as Universal Realty Ltd. Oddly enough, the sale included the house next door at 2 Rockwell Ave. It was then listed 5 months after it sold, for $1,550,000, by 788428 Ontario Ltd. Relisted 4 months later for $1.3m then again in 1991 for $1.199m. Could be that people were trying to take advantage of the real estate bubble in Toronto in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but it looks like their timing was terrible… We next see it for sale in 1994 for only $495,000 – almost what you would pay for one unit today! Then in 1996 we start seeing lofts themselves being sold, by Prescott Studios Inc.
No record of Plazacorp having bought it. No record of it selling other than that failed speculation in 1989. But also no info from 1973 – when the building was mentioned in the book – through to the 1989 MLS listing. But long time residents say Plazacorp, so I defer to them.
Prescott Avenue was originally known as Campbell Ave in the late 1800s. The old brickyard properties north of St. Clair and east of (Old) Weston Road were subdivided in 1911 and 1912 creating Rockwell, Blackthorn, Silverthorn, Rountree (now Rowntree), Prescott, Howick, Rosethorn, Pryor, Cloverdale, Turnberry, and Chambers avenues.
NB: Relatives of mine settled in this area as far back as the 1860s. Prospect Cemetery is full of my ancestors. My great-grandfather (sole male survivor in his family due to The Great Southport Lifeboat Disaster of 1886) built houses in the area in the early 1900s.
The neighbourhood is called Earlscourt and is centred on St. Clair Avenue West, with Dufferin Street, Davenport Road, and Old Weston Road forming its boundaries. Earlscourt was settled in the late 1800s and early 1900s by labourers from the British Isles. In addition to their work at the local factories, Earlscourt families would toil day and night building meagre tar and paper shacks (and was known as “Shacktown” for many years as a result) as temporary homes until enough money was saved to build a proper brick house. Several of the original settler shacks are still visible in the area. It was annexed by the old City of Toronto in 1910. During World War I, the area had some of the highest enlistment rates in the British Empire.
After the war the area became the centre of Toronto’s Italian community, and it has remained a centre for Italian culture in Toronto. The stretch of St. Clair West that runs through the neighbourhood is known as Corso Italia. Earlscourt Park is located on the south side of St. Clair between Caledonia Park Road and Lansdowne Avenue.