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Tag Archives: Danube

Upper Beaches Lofts – 214 Main Street

The Upper Beaches Lofts has a rather strange history. Built at an unknown time, the building could be 90 years old. Or not. It was always said to be a fish market, but there is no proof of that. The lofts spent most of their life as home to a German farmers’ association, which is probably where the market myth arose. There was then a period of attempted partying, fire and rebirth.

Upper Beaches Lofts - 214 Main Street

The Upper Beaches Lofts at 214 Main Street

From 1954 to 1994, it was the home of The Association Of Danube Swabians. While that sounds like a weird fraternal order, they are actually farmers. Danube Swabians are among the vegetable producers in the Holland Marsh and Leamington farm areas. In addition, many of Ontario’s small industrial plants that make everything from plastics to custom parts for the space industry were founded or are headed by Danube Swabians. Tradesmen and supervisors have been involved in major construction projects, including the Rogers Centre.

Upper Beaches Lofts - 214 Main Street

Leamington, where ketchup starts as tomatoes… farmed by Danube Swabians

Danube Swabians are ethnic Germans from the Danubian Lowlands (now part of Hungary, Romania, and Yugoslavia). In the late 17th-century the Habsburg rulers in Vienna decided to colonize these lowlands and embarked on an energetic “impopulation” program. German colonists were considered to be very desirable by the authorities in Vienna because they possessed special skills to build the towns and cities, and they would introduce superior, Western methods of agriculture. Also, they were known to be steady, industrious, and above all politically neutral.

Upper Beaches Lofts - 214 Main Street

Traditional homeland of the Danube Swabians

The first Danube Swabian to immigrate to Upper Canada was a Lutheran minister who settled in Markham Township. In the 1890s, some Danube Swabian farmers became homesteaders in the prairie Provinces as well as Ontario. Other Danube Swabians arrived in Canada in two waves, one in the 1920s and the other beginning in 1948 and lasting for approximately 10 years. Beginning in 1944, Danube Swabians were expelled from their homes and their lands were collectivized by the Communists, who assumed power at that time. Presently, there are approximately 32,000 Danube Swabians living in Toronto.

Upper Beaches Lofts - 214 Main Street

The East Toronto police station in 1911, on Main Street

That second wave of 1948 is certainly interesting, especially if we are assuming that the Toronto Association of Danube Swabians moved into 214 Main Street a few years later. After 40 years at 214 Main Street, the Association moved to a new location on Ellesmere Avenue in Scarborough.

Upper Beaches Lofts - 214 Main Street

Aerial photo from 1947 showing the building already built by that time. The ruins and remains of the CN rail yard is readily apparent, especially the old roundhouse.

They would have set up in a rather different part of town back then. The remains of the town of East Toronto are all over this area. Starting with Main Street – isn’t Toronto’s main street Yonge Street? Well… yes… but East Toronto was based around Main and Gerrard. The town grew up around the CN (nee Grand Trunk) railyards that were southeast of Main & Danforth. Now the housing development with streets such as Whistle Post Street and Crossovers Street. The Ted Reeve Community Centre sits almost exactly where the old roundhouse was. A huge Ford plant also dominated the area, where the Shopper’s Drug Mart plaza is now. Unfortunately, by the 1940s, most of the train yards had shut down and the area went into decline.

Upper Beaches Lofts - 214 Main Street

Main Street north of Gerrard in 1984 – you can see the old Swabian HQ extending a fair ways back from the white-sided street frontage

The Swabians sold the building in 1993, moving out the following year. A banquet hall then opens, Embargo, offering 3 different halls for rental. But the hall owner puts it back up for sale only 164 days after buying it, 112 days after closing. Then in 1995 it is being sold power of sale by the lender. Finally, in 1996, after being listed power of sale again, it sells for about half what it was bought for in 1993. Then it is up for sale again in 1997 after being gutted by a fire. And none of that is suspicious in any way…

Upper Beaches Lofts - 214 Main Street

The Upper Beaches Lofts building in 1996

Then a few years later, in 2001, it is back on MLS. But this time it is the Upper Beaches Lofts project that is for sale – the whole package, building and plans and all. But it does not sell via MLS, no record of it. But there are also lofts being offered on MLS by “Old Fish Market Development Ltd.” in 2000. Seems they were trying to sell the project at the same time as the actual lofts! Building and project both listed by OFMD Ltd. I think I see a connection! This is probably where the fish market story began, though I still cannot figure out the roots of it.

Upper Beaches Lofts - 214 Main Street

The fire-damaged Upper Beaches Lofts building in 1997

In 2003, the lofts were back on MLS, being offered by Upper Beaches Lofts Inc. I have a feeling that ownership of the project changed hands between 2001 and 2003. Originally planned for 2004 completion, it was not until mid-2006 that the condo corp was registered and the lofts were finished. But the plans started at least as far back as 2000, possibly before that.

Upper Beaches Lofts - 214 Main Street

The Upper Beaches Lofts being offered for sale in 2001

The current building does retain the general shape of the original, but I am not sure if they kept anything. It is a conversion, but barely. There is certainly no hint inside that the building had been anything else before. The units are pretty much dry-walled 2-storey modern-looking lofts that would be quite at home on King Street West.

Upper Beaches Lofts - 214 Main Street

With Upper Beaches Lofts being pretty rare on MLS, there are not a lot of interior photos

We know it was occupied by the Germans starting around 1954, but we don’t know what it was before that. You can see the building in the earliest aerial photograph of the area from 1947. But it isn’t there on the 1924 Goad’s map. Could be that the back half of the building existed then, but hard to tell from what is on the map. So the construction of the building is lost to history. Possibly it was truly a fish market during this time…

Upper Beaches Lofts - 214 Main Street

The Upper Beaches Lofts at 214 Main Street

Regardless, the lofts on Main Street at Gerrard, range in size from 795 to 1,268 square feet and offer one or two bedroom designs. There are only two floors and each loft has two levels, with ten different layouts in all. The Upper Beaches Lofts offer some underground and some surface parking and each has hardwood floors and a gas fireplace. Located in the Upper Beaches area near Danforth Village, you will find restaurants, grocery stores and box stores are close at hand on the east end of the Danforth. You would also be located practically right on top of East Toronto Athletic Field, complete with the Ted Reeve Community Arena.

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Contact Laurin Jeffrey for more information – 416-388-1960

Laurin Jeffrey is a Toronto real estate agent with Century 21 Regal Realty.
He did not write every article, some are reproduced here for people who
are interested in Toronto real estate. He does not work for any builders.

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