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October 17th, 2017
Beaches Living Guide Fall/Winter 2016

Royal York Hotel

Official Name: Fairmont-Royal York Hotel
100 Front Street West – Opened 1928
Architect: Ross and Macdonald
Builder: Canadian Pacific
Our “Grand Dame” of Hotels




Fun Fact:
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 modern hotel.

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.”

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