Remembering the King Edward Hotel: May 11: Snapshots in History

May 13, 2017 | John P.

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On May 11 and beyond, take a moment to celebrate the beginning of one of Toronto’s early twentieth century landmarks, the King Edward Hotel. The hotel was designed by Toronto architect Edward James Lennox (1855-1933) and Chicago architect Henry Ives Cobb (1859-1931) for the Toronto Hotel Company owned by Toronto developer George Gooderham (1830-1905) (of Gooderham and Worts distillery fame) at a cost of $6 million.

The May 12, 1903 issue (Page 12) of The Globe newspaper carried an article with the following title:

“THE KING EDWARD HOTEL: THROWN OPEN INFORMALLY FOR RECEPTION OF GUESTS: Thronged All Day by Admiring Thousands – The Directors Head the List of Names on the Register”. The article began as follows:

“The doors of the King Edward Hotel swung open yesterday morning, and the magnificent hostelry started on its career. There was no ceremony of any kind, that being reserved for the formal opening by the Royal Canadian Yacht Club ball on May 22, but in a few hours the fact became noised about, and from the early forenoon until nearly midnight the corridors and rotunda were thronged with the curious and the admiring…” (To view the article, please access the Globe and Mail Historical Newspaper Archive database with a valid Toronto Public Library card.)

The May 11, 1903 issue (Page 7) of the Toronto Daily Star newspaper carried an article entitled as follows:

“EARLY ARRIVALS AT THE KING EDWARD HOTEL: Mr. George Gooderham Heads the List on the Register – Chicago Man the First Guest”. The article started off in this way:

“The King Edward Hotel opened at 6 o’clock this morning. The first name on the register was that of Mr. George Gooderham, 131 St. George street, followed by that of Mr. Thomas Gibbs Blackstock, 79 Prince Arthur street. They were of the directorate and their names had been entered before the book was opened to the public. Following also were the names of George H. Gooderham, 504 Jarvis street, and W.S. Gooderham, 69 Trinity street…The first arrival was John A. Davidson, of Chicago, who was shown to room 459. Following his name on the register and in the same party were George H. Ross, Chicago, and Mabel Jones, Guelph…” (To view the article, please access the Toronto Star Historical Newspaper Archive database with a valid Toronto Public Library card.)

Heritage Consultant Sally Gibson, writing in An Illustrated History of the King Edward Hotel, set the stage and context of the original 1903 opening:

“…It was “absolutely fire-proof,” with concrete beneath those mosaic-tile floors and terra cotta behind that decorative plastering. It was centrally located, convenient to theatres, shops and transportation. Its public rooms were grand and its guest rooms offered every modern convenience. All rooms had telephones. Three of four hundred had private baths. And the top-two-floors had splendid views of the nearby great lake…”

In 1921, an expansion to the hotel resulted in an 18-story addition, thereby making the hotel one of the tallest buildings in Toronto at that time. Opening in 1922, the Crystal Ballroom on the 17th and 18th floors with its extraordinary crystal chandeliers became an important backdrop of high Toronto society.

The King Edward Hotel changed ownership over the years, including as part of the Sheraton Hotel chain from 1950 to 1978 and becoming part of Omni Hotels in 2015 after having managed the property since 2013.

In September 2015, under the ownership of Skyline International Development and Omni Hotels, the King Edward Hotel re-opened after a two-year renovation costing some $40 million, including a $7 million restoration of the 17th floor Crystal Ballroom which had been closed for the most part since the 1950s. The Crystal Ballroom re-opened in April 2017 after being empty for 38 years. The Crystal Ballroom had been boarded up in 1978 when changes to fire code regulations proved too expensive to keep up. The 1979-1981 renovation of the King Edward Hotel excluded the Crystal Ballroom.

Please enjoy the showcased resources displayed here whose originals are housed at the Toronto Reference Library.


King Edward Hotel  King St. E.  s. side  between Victoria St. and Leader Lane  c. 1920 pictures-r-4623

King Edward Hotel, King St. E., s. side, between Victoria St. & Leader Lane, c. 1920? - Valentine and Sons United Publishing Company - Picture, 1925, English - (Credit: Toronto Reference Library – Baldwin Collection - Call Number / Accession Number 986-2-2 Cab ) (Rights and Licenses – Public Domain)


King Edward Hotel Envelope ca-1900-king-edward-vs

King Edward Hotel Envelope. Ephemera, 1900, English. - (Credit: Toronto Reference Library – Baldwin Collection – Call Number / Accession Number ca.1900.KingEdward.vs ) (Rights and Licenses – Public Domain)


King Edward Hotel Toronto Canada Absolutely Fire Proof

The King Edward Hotel: Toronto, Canada [1903] - (Credit: Toronto Reference Library – Baldwin Collection – Call Number / Accession Number 728.50971 K39 K39 ) (Rights and Licenses – Public Domain)


King Edward Hotel Guests Book 1906

King Edward Hotel Guests’ Book [1906] - (Credit: Toronto Reference Library – Call Number /Accession Number 747.88509 KIN KIN ) (Rights and Licenses – Public Domain) - Digitized by the University of Toronto for the Internet Archive: