Story and Photos by Julia Pelish
Vacay.ca Visuals Editor
TORONTO, ONTARIO — If one of the joys of travelling is discovering a sense of place, then a visit to the classy King Edward Hotel will delight you. Illustrious guests have left their imprint upon this historical property since it opened in May 1903. Their stories continue to fascinate us and lend a patina to events celebrated today at the hotel, the first luxury accommodation in Toronto. This month the King Eddy, as it is affectionately called, is saluting its past with special 110th anniversary events.
The hotel’s opening acknowledged a certain “coming of age” society status that Toronto wished to cultivate. It was built by businessman George Gooderham’s Toronto Hotel Company, whose headquarters were in the Flatiron building that is south of the property. The city was rapidly growing, so the need for its own palace hotel became realized with the King Edward. It was the first fire-proof hotel ever built and that fact was advertised proudly. The original building stood eight storeys. Later, in 1921, an 18-storey tower was added and it included the crowning jewel of the hotel, the Crystal Ballroom.
Last Friday, the 110th anniversary celebrations formally kicked off as the doorman decked out in period clothing greeted guests ushering them inside to experience the graciousness of a bygone era. Among the highlights of the event was the unveiling of the history wall, a permanent addition to the lobby of gorgeous reprinted photos depicting the high glamour of the hotel’s opulent heyday. Make sure to pop in and take a peek at this long-gone slice of Toronto’s storied past.
From its inception, the hotel’s tradition of afternoon tea has been hosted in the Sovereign Ballroom. Today, it can be enjoyed every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 2:30-5 pm. Better arrive hungry too, the sandwiches are light and tasty and it is easy to pop down one after another in a very efficient yet ladylike fashion. Loose leaf tea is served along with the dainty buttery pastries and scones that look almost too perfect to eat when placed on the Wedgewood china settings. Plan to skip dinner that night, because the lovely platters are piled so high and taste so good you won’t want to leave a crumb behind.
Crystal Ballroom Shines at King Edward
During my visit, I toured the Crystal Ballroom, which has been closed since the 1950s. Part of the $35-million King Eddy renovations planned for the next four years includes restoring this regal hall with stunning wall-to-ceiling views of Old Toronto to its former elegance. On May 25, the annual Doors Open Toronto event will allow visitors to the hotel the rare opportunity to walk inside the luxurious Crystal Ballroom.
Besides being opulent, the ballroom has also hosted significant events through the years. “It was the site of many high-society weddings, galas and announcements. It was the site of a civic reception for Jean Harlow in 1932, Toronto’s 100th birthday in 1934 and the hotel’s own 50th anniversary celebrations in 1953,” said Kate Hillyar, director of communications and media relations at Skyline Hotels & Resorts, the King Edward’s new owner. “It was also where 700 medical practitioners gathered to hear the results of the polio vaccine trials in 1955.”
Mother’s Day at the King Edward
Every Sunday brunch is served from 11 am-2 pm and this weekend you can treat your mom to a special Mother’s Day Brunch. Let her know she is dining in good company too. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton lived together at the hotel in a suite of rooms while Burton was performing in Toronto. This scandalous relationship caused quite the uproar before they were officially engaged over lunch at the hotel in 1964. Richard Burton reserved the Sovereign Ballroom all to himself and proposed to Elizabeth at the southwest corner table by the window. Many famous people have stayed and dined at the King Edward including Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
More About the King Edward Hotel
Location: 37 King St E, Toronto, Ontario
Reservations: 416-863-9700 or toll-free at 855-871-3412
Nightly Room Rates: A one-night stay will cost roughly $189 in May or June. Rates vary depending on day of the week and season.
110th Anniversary: The hotel’s centennial celebrations were curtailed by the SARS epidemic that kept many visitors away from Toronto. The 110th anniversary events include many of the plans originally prepared for the 100th birthday of the hotel. Click here for info on the 110th events
Mother’s Day Afternoon Tea on May 11: The cost is $45 per person and the menu is here.
Mother’s Day Sunday Brunch on May 12: The cost is $75 per person and the menu is here.
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