Official Name: Fairmont-Royal York Hotel
100 Front Street West – Opened 1928
Architect: Ross and Macdonald
Builder: Canadian Pacific
Our “Grand Dame” of Hotels
Some guests at the Royal York actually stayed so long that they lived there! Christopher Heard, checked into the hotel in 2009 and remained two years, writing a book. There also are various stories of hotel ghosts: a grey-haired m an walking the halls at night and that of a former employee who hanged himself on a staircase.
Today, when looking at the Toronto skyline from the waterfront you
still can get a glimpse of what used to be the tallest building in the
city – the tallest building, in fact, in the British Commonwealth.
When builders topped off the 134-metre, 28-storey Royal York
Hotel in 1928, the top floor provided uninterrupted, panoramic
views of downtown Toronto and Lake Ontario. In the 1950s, a
neon red sign was added that said “Royal York”, a familiar detail
in many paintings and photographs of the city through the years.
Although it only remained the tallest for two years, for several
decades, Toronto’s “grande dame” of hotels defined the look of our
city until well into the 1960s when overtaken by skyscrapers. It was
the preferred place to stay for visiting kings and queens, including
Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the royal family.
Building a “New” Hotel
When plans for the new Toronto Union Station were underway,
the Canadian Pacific Railway decided to build a spectacularly
The châteaux style hotel, with copies of attributes of French
châteaux the Loire Valley, with its steep pitched roofs and
decorative stone ornamentation. The other predominant style
throughout the hotel is art décor (check out the elevators!)
City Within a City
The hotel was referred to as a city within a city, which for its
day was unique, given that this was long before indoor malls.
Included in the building were a 12-bed hospital, its own bank,
a 12,000-book library and ten ornate passenger elevators. There
were over 1,000 rooms, each with radios (similar to having
Wi-Fi today), private showers and baths. A glass-enclosed
garden stood atop the roof, and the kitchen had a bakery that
could produce over 15,000 French rolls a day.
The Imperial Room and Other Stories
For decades, the famous nightclub at the Royal York, The
Imperial Room, as know across North America for it’s A-list
entertainers, such as: Ella Fitzgerald, Bob Hope, Barbara
Streisand and the famous bandleader, Moxie Whitney who
played there with his band for a quarter of a century.
Changes, Renovations, New Times
Fortunately, through various changes over the years, most of the
lovely features of the hotel are still intact. In 1993, renovations
of $100 million refurbished guestrooms, public spaces and
added a health club and sky-lit lap pool to the hotel.
In 2008, beehives were placed on the rooftop gardens as part of
an onsite honeybee program. Today 50,000 honeybees reside
on the roof of Royal York Hotel, producing honey used in
everything from specialty beers to dinners and desserts served
in its restaurants.
When purchased by Canadian Pacific Hotels in 2003 the words
“Royal York” were supposed to be replaced by a sign that read
just “Fairmont.” In the end, a compromise was reached, and
today the sign reads “Fairmont Royal York.”