The Malthouse Lofts – 27-39 Old Brewery Lane

The Malthouse Lofts are a housed in a heritage Victorian building, the last remaining structure from the 1876 Don Brewery

History of the Malthouse Lofts

Snuggled in right behind the Queen City Vinegar Lofts, the Malthouse Lofts is a heritage-designated Italianate-inspired building designed by Victorian architects Smith & Gemmel. The building’s shell is an old malthouse, the last remaining building from the Don Brewery, built in 1876.

The Malthouse Lofts – 27-39 Old Brewery Lane

The 1876 Italianate facade of the old Don Brewery, now the Malthouse Lofts

The exterior features buff brick pilasters, decorative corner corbelling, rounded arches, and oval cast-iron tie-rod plates. It also includes elements such as exposed red and buff brick walls from the original building, and many other one-of-a-kind architectural features from the Victorian industrial era.

The Malthouse Lofts – 27-39 Old Brewery Lane

Hidden on a tiny laneway northeast of Queen & River, you have likely never noticed the gorgeous old Italianate building that houses the Malthouse Lofts

This urban infill project in Toronto’s Lower Donlands is the final phase in the transformation of a derelict rear lane industrial area into a residential precinct. It was converted by Inaugural Source Homes in 2005, turning a heritage brick brewery building into 10 townhouse-style lofts. Three levels are incorporated into the existing masonry shell while a below grade level contains parking and service areas that are accessible from the units. A stripped down and straightforward approach was taken with the project, retaining the strong industrial character of the original building.

The Malthouse Lofts – 27-39 Old Brewery Lane

Character abounds inside the Malthouse Lofts

Each loft townhome includes versatile home office/study areas, soundproofing for optimal privacy, unique trim finishes, and sliding barn doors in bedrooms (excluding master bedroom). All have rooftop decks. All have underground parking with direct access to the units. Check out this sample floorplan (https://www.sg.jeffreyteam.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Malthouse_Floorplan.pdf)

The Malthouse Lofts – 27-39 Old Brewery Lane

Not sure how long views like this will last, as this small building is increasingly surrounded by new condos

The lofts feature exposed red and buff brick walls from the Victorian industrial past – as well as decorative corner corbelling, rounded arches and oval cast-iron tie-rod plates. These details will have you truly appreciating this example of Toronto lofts at their best. These loft / townhomes showcase all the loft features one would expect of an authentic loft conversion: each level boasts ten-foot ceilings with exposed brick is gorgeously displayed throughout.

The Malthouse Lofts – 27-39 Old Brewery Lane

Multi-level living in the Malthouse Lofts on Old Brewery Lane

The heritage Malthouse Lofts in the old brewery building was converted into only 10 generously sized loft units, ranging in size from 1,515 to just under 1,700 square feet. The 19th-century details of the original building however have been maintained so as to both preserve the history of this site, and to add an edge to the otherwise contemporary design of the building. Amenities included are a fitness centre, sauna, indoor pool, party and boardroom, rooftop deck and guest suites.

The Malthouse Lofts – 27-39 Old Brewery Lane

While the main entrance is labeled #39, most units have their own private entrances with their own street numbers

The building was originally part of the parcel of land at 19 River Street that contained the Queen City Vinegar Company. Oddly, the old tannery at 21 River was a separate lot. The Bayriv Corporation bought it in 1987, and for a little more than a decade, it was rented out to various tenants. Inaugural Source bought it sometime in the late 1990s, but had it up for sale in 1998. I assume they did not know what to do with this decrepit old brewery building on the land they planned to build townhouses on. Either they just couldn’t sell it, or someone sold them on the idea of conversion, because 7 years later the Malthouse Lofts were born.

The Malthouse Lofts – 27-39 Old Brewery Lane

The old malthouse building in late 1990s or early 2000s before restoration and conversion. The townhouses at right were built around 2000-2001. It sure was in rough shape at the time!

As you may have guessed, the founding of Corktown, as well as significant growth that was made in the city’s brewing and distilling heritage, is thanks in large part to the Irish. There is, in fact, some dispute as to whether the neighbourhood’s name derives from the fact that it was largely populated by Irish immigrants from County Cork in Ireland or if the name is in reference to the early and dominant presence of distilleries, breweries, and cork-stopper manufacturers.

The Malthouse Lofts – 27-39 Old Brewery Lane

Old engraving from the late 1800s showing the malthouse and the other brewery buildings

One of these immigrants was Thomas Davies. In 1849, Davies established the Don Brewery, which was built on the Don River and drew from it for brewing and malting.

The Malthouse Lofts – 27-39 Old Brewery Lane

It is the old Don Brewery that gives Old Brewery Lane its name

J. Timberlake describes the brewery operations in 1878: “thousands of dozens of prime ales and porters are ranged on shelves in a large room, and thousands of gallons in casks on racks, ready for bottling. Here the interesting process of washing the bottles by machinery, rinsing and draining them, then bottling the ale, corking and tinfoiling, &c., is carried on with wonderful rapidity. The corking machine is of English make specially imported for the firm, and excited the admiration of all beholders by its perfect working. Their malting department is also very extensive, two large kilns being kept constantly going night and day drying the malted barley. Hops form a very heavy item of expense in such breweries as Messrs. Davies, who largely use English and Bavarian hops.”

The Malthouse Lofts – 27-39 Old Brewery Lane

Photo from 1900 showing the completed Queen Street bridge, looking west towards Rivervilla (centre left) and the Dominion Brewery buildings (at right).

Two other Davies brothers joined the firm after Thomas Sr.’s death in 1869: Robert in 1871, and Joseph in 1873. In 1877, Robert left the business to found the Dominion Brewery on Queen Street East near Sumach. Occupying an impressive Victorian building on nearby Queen Street, the Dominion brewery became known “as the most extensive exhibitor of Canadian ales and porters in foreign countries”; it operated until 1936.

The Malthouse Lofts – 27-39 Old Brewery Lane

Photo from 1900 showing the completed Queen Street bridge, looking west towards Rivervilla (centre left) and the Dominion Brewery buildings (at right).

The Don Brewery was a real family affair, staying in the family until the late 1880s. After Thomas passed, his sons took over the business and continued manufacturing their brand of Sparkling Cream XX & XXX Ale, in both pale ale and porter varieties. Their brewery was notable for a few reasons, one was the immense size of the complex, the second was that the brewery was the first brewery in Canada to be hooked up to the city waterworks. By 1892, the Don complex consisted of three main buildings, a massive ice house, a large malting floor with kilns and a bottling run in the basement and an attached three-story building that housed a lager beer tun room in the basement, a bottling plant on the main floor, fermenting tuns on the second floor and the ice house on the third floor.

The Malthouse Lofts – 27-39 Old Brewery Lane

Undated advertisement for Sparkling Cream XX and XXX Ale

Davies Brewing & Malting Co. was sold to a British syndicate in 1890; the brewery closed in 1901. Parts of the building were leased to Toronto Liquid Carbonate Company. A new company, Davies Brewing, opened briefly in 1906 before closing after a disastrous fire in April 1907. The company never succeeded in reopening the brewery, and dissolved in late 1910.

The Malthouse Lofts – 27-39 Old Brewery Lane

The old Malthouse Lofts building (at left) as it looked probably between 1973 and 1977

The Davies’ family also owned a home on the south-west corner of the property. “Rivervilla” was built for Thomas Davies in 1878 on the northeast corner of Queen and River street. The house was demolished in 1974 and is now the site of the Toronto Humane Society building.

The Malthouse Lofts – 27-39 Old Brewery Lane

Rivervilla was built for Thomas Davies in 1878 on the northeast corner of Queen and River Streets. The house was demolished in 1974 and is now the site of the Toronto Humane Society building.

Robert Davies and his Dominion brewing had such a widespread effect on Corktown that his influence can be seen even today. At the peak of his success, Davies owned over 140 separate brewing “houses” (essentially taverns). He also owned the Don Valley Brickwork. As a result, a large part of Corktown was built by Davies, whose bricks were used not only to build his many brewhouses and taverns, but also the homes of his many employees. Much of the distinctive 19th century brick architecture that remains in Corktown today is a direct result of Thomas Davies’ companies.

The Malthouse Lofts – 27-39 Old Brewery Lane

A photo from 1899 showing the west abutment of the Queen Street bridge over the Don River. Left of centre you can see Davies’ old house, Rivervilla and the malthouse is at the extreme right.

Located a short drive from the DVP and Gardiner Expressway, owners of Malthouse Lofts have quick access to anywhere these highways take them in Toronto, however, there is already so much to do just around the corner! The Distillery District has many boutiques, bistros, cafes and restaurants as well as many community events and festivals to participate in. Also nearby is St. Lawrence Market and the West Don Lands.

The Malthouse Lofts – 27-39 Old Brewery Lane

A late addition, a recently found photo that shows the signage on the old Davies Brewery, with the larger Dominion buildings behind. Taken in 1900 by the city engineering department. You can even see part of Rivervilla at the extreme left.

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