Fairmont Royal York

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Discover the Fairmont Royal York, which has been among Toronto’s most prestigious holiday destinations since the 1920s.

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Fairmont Royal York, a member of Historic Hotels Worldwide since 2017, dates back to 1929.

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A member of Historic Hotels Worldwide, the Fairmont Royal York has a long and venerable history. Construction on this magnificent historic building began in 1927, when Canadian Pacific Hotels—a subsidiary of Canadian Pacific Railway—began erecting it upon the site of an earlier business known as the “Queen’s Hotel.” The company had bought the location some two years prior, which had been in continuous operation since the 1840s. Yet, by the time Canadian Pacific Hotels had acquired the Queen’s Hotel, it had fallen on hard times. In its stead, Canadian Pacific Hotels hoped to build a massive, luxurious structure that would serve as Toronto’s primary Grand Dame. Renowned architectural firm Ross and Macdonald worked in concert with Sproatt and Rolph to develop the building on behalf of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Their plans ultimately called for the creation of a 28-story skyscraper designed with a beautiful combination of Châteauesque and Art Deco-style architecture. Many interior spaces featured Edwardian design principles, as well as ornate Romanesque-themed décor, too. The building contained over 1,000 spectacular guestrooms, which had access to such cutting-edge technological innovations like radios, telephones, and private baths. It also had a 12,000-book library, ten elevators and a 12-bed hospital wing. It took nearly two years and C$16 million for Canadian Pacific Hotels to finally complete the entire structure.

When the building finally debuted as the “Royal York Hotel” in 1929, it stood as the tallest structure in the entire British Empire. Canadian Pacific Hotels quickly organized an extravaganza to commemorate its opening, which was attended by over 2,300 guests. Lord Willingdon, the Governor-General of Canada presided over the ceremonies and even registered himself as the hotel’s first official guest. The Toronto Board of Trade started the celebration by holding a luncheon in the hotel’s banquet hall in honor of E.W. Beatty—President of the Canadian Pacific Railway—and his fellow board of directors. A spectacular gala was then held later that evening, in which hundreds of guests received tours of the hotel. Shortly thereafter, the Royal York Hotel rapidly became one of popular destinations in North America. Illustrious celebrities from around the world sojourned to the hotel over the next several decades, including Gene Kelly, Bob Hope, and Cary Grant. Some of the greatest entertainers also made appearances at the hotel’s Imperial Room, including Marlene Dietrich, Ray Charles, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, Peggy Lee, and Ella Fitzgerald. Members of the British Royal Family even frequented the Royal York on occasion, starting with the arrival of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother during their Royal Tour of Canada in 1939. Queen Elizabeth II would often use the hotel for her own trips to Toronto, booking the Royal Suite some 20 different times between 1951 and 2000.

Despite its massive size, work to expand the building commenced some three decades later in 1957. Architectural firm Ross, Patterson, Townsend & Fish led the design team, which developed a new marvelous wing of accommodations on the eastern side of the hotel. Another extensive round of renovations began at the Royal York Hotel. Referred to as the “Royal York Renovation,” the construction work added a wealth of new architectural features throughout the building. Perhaps its most enduring legacy was the installation of a winding staircase in the hotel’s lobby. Canadian Pacific Hotels ended its relationship with the Royal York Hotel when it was reorganized it as Fairmont Hotels and Resorts in 2001. The Royal York Hotel was thus subsequently renamed as the “Fairmont Royal York.” Even though the hotel is now jointly owned by a series of business-- KingSett Capital, InnVest Real Estate, and Ivanhoé Cambridge—it remains part of the Fairmont brand. This wonderful historic hotel continues to be among the most exclusive destinations in North America, offering unrivaled access to luxury and comfort. Many of the world’s leading luminaries still visit the hotel regularly, as evidenced by the dozen dignitaries who reserved rooms while attending the 2010 Toronto G20 Summit. Arguably few places are better in Toronto to experience a memorable historic vacation than the Fairmont Royal York.

  • About the Location +

    The Royal York Hotel sits at 100 Front Street West at the southern end of the Financial District, a business district in Downtown Toronto. The financial heart of the city—and Canada as a whole—it is home to countless banking companies, corporate headquarters, and leading international legal firms. Many of these entities were responsible for developing the towering skyscrapers that dominate Toronto’s skyline today, giving the city its iconic appearance. The buildings are typically interconnected with an underground series of walkways known locally as “PATH,” which feature a wealth of boutique storefronts and fascinating restaurants. The Financial District is also Toronto’s most densely developed region, with some 100,000 commuters traveling to the area every single day. Union Station regulates much of this traffic, serving as the center for the GO Transit—the commuter rail and bus organization that serves as the primary mode of public transportation for Toronto. The Financial District itself is near a wealth of cultural attractions that many in the city consider to be iconic, such as CN Tower, the Hockey Hall of Fame, and Nathan Phillips Square. It is also just a short walk from Toronto’s famed waterfront and its celebrated Harbour Square Park. The Scotiabank Arena is located along the way, which is home to the historic Toronto Maple Leafs—one of the six original teams to constitute the National Hockey League.

    The Financial District is also a part of what Torontonians today call “Old Toronto.” As its name implies, Old Toronto is the most historic part of the city. The core of the neighborhood dates all the way back to 1793, when Colonel John Graves Simcoe, Lieutenant Governor for the Colony of Upper Canada, first began developing the site. Naming it the “Town of York,” Graves intended for his nascent community to serve as the capital for the entire colony. Over time, Old Toronto evolved from a frontier outpost to a bustling commercial community, as the Erie Canal and several important railroads linked the settlement with other important economic hubs in Québec and the northeastern United States. A boom in population ensued, leading to York’s formal incorporation as a city in 1834. As such, the settlements’ name changed from “York” to “Toronto.” Toronto’s growth continued unabated for some time. By the time of Canada’s federation in 1867, Old Toronto was the largest metropolitan center throughout the entire country. Today, this region of Toronto is protected, in part, by the Union Station Heritage Conservation District. Created by the Ontario Heritage Act in 2006, the district will protect many of the surviving historic buildings for future generations to appreciate.


  • About the Architecture +

    Upon acquiring the Queen’s Hotel in 1925, the Canadian Pacific Hotels—a division of the Canadian Pacific Railway— announced its intention to demolish it in favor of a newer, more grandiose structure. Renowned architectural firm Ross and Macdonald worked in concert with Sproatt and Rolph to develop the building on behalf of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Both firms had a history of working with the corporation, having created the designs for many other railroad hotels in the decades prior. Their plan originally called for the building’s entire layout to feature a variety of Edwardian-themed design principles, before undergoing several revisions to institute a more simplified structure for the exterior. This final draft led to the creation of a towering central element constructed with a reinforced steel frame and Indiana limestone. Designed with Châteauesque-style architecture, the building featured a beautiful pitched roof that displayed a variety of tiny dormers and grotesques carved to resemble griffins. Yet, the architects managed to distinguish the hotel from its contemporaries by instituting an Art Deco-like setback throughout its façade. Its distinctive exterior appearance was further bolstered by the application of several Neoclassical motifs, as well as a cascade of arcaded windows.

    The architects continued to differentiate the hotel throughout many of its interior spaces, too, sticking with their original strategy to use Edwardian architectural forms. Several gorgeous crystal chandeliers hung from the lobby’s hand-carved wooden ceiling, illuminating the brilliant Romanesque-inspired décor that inhabited the space. The building’s interior also contained over 1,000 guestrooms that had the latest technological innovations, including access to a 60-foot long telephone switchboard. Dozens of spectacular meeting spaces resided within the hotel, as well, such as the golden-hued Concert Hall and the frescoed Ballroom. Perhaps the greatest venue inside the structure was the Imperial Room—a nightclub in operation at the hotel from the 1940s to the 1990s. Known for hosting such celebrated acts as Marlene Dietrich, Duke Ellington, and Ella Fitzgerald, the Imperial Room was defined by the magnificent stage located at its northern end. An amazing sunken dance floor sat in the middle, surrounded by plush booths and ornate decorations. The architects even constructed an exclusive tunnel that connected the hotel’s patrons to the emerging underground network of stores and restaurants known as the PATH!

    When the building debuted as the “Royal York Hotel” in 1929, it measured as the tallest structure in the British Empire with a height of 407 feet. But the building would soon lose that record the following year when the Canadian Bank of Commerce Tower opened along neighboring King Street. Despite its massive size, work to expand the building commenced some three decades later in 1957. Architectural firm Ross, Patterson, Townsend & Fish led the design team, which developed a new marvelous wing of accommodations on the eastern side of the hotel. Subsequent renovations occurred later during the 1970s, which saw the addition of many novel architectural features like the spiral staircase in the hotel’s lobby. This period of construction was known throughout Toronto as the “Royal York Renovation” and was directed by the architectural firm Webb, Zerafa, Menkes and Housden. The most recent renovations transpired in 2014, following KingSett Capital and InnVest Real Estate’s acquisition of the destination. The two corporate entities invested some C$50-million into full refurbishing the hotel so that the splendid character of its historical architecture remained intact for future generations to appreciate.


  • Famous Historic Events +

    Royal Tour of Canada (1939): King George VI of the United Kingdom and his wife, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, went on a grand journey of Canada prior to World War II. Their trip was part of a great strategy to reinforce the cultural ties that bound Canada and the United Kingdom together, as well as to emphasize the former’s increasing independence from the latter. While many other royal tours had occurred in Canada previously, this one was unprecedented in its size and scale. Thousands lined the streets of every major city that the royal entourage visited, with entire roads shutdown just to manage the crowds. King George IV and Queen Elizabeth arrived in Québec City on May 17 and started traveling west along the Canadian Pacific Railway. Among the first places that the two monarchs reached was the City of Toronto. Staying at the Royal York Hotel, King George IV and Queen Elizabeth toured the city and dedicated many public attractions. The two even attended a horse race at King’s Plate. The Royal Family then traversed Canadian Rockies, stopping in Victoria at the edge of British Columbia by the end of the month. Afterward, the King and Queen headed east to visit additional cities and towns in Atlantic Canada, as well as Newfoundland. The two also briefly traveled through the United States en route to the maritime provinces, which marked the first time a British monarch had ever stepped foot inside the country. Their journey ended on June 15, when King George VI and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother boarded a ship back to the United Kingdom at the port of Halifax.

    Royal Tour of Canada (1951): On behalf of her ailing father, King George VI, the future Queen Elizabeth II—then Duchess of Edinburgh—arrived in Canada for the first time with her husband, Prince Phillip. Their arrival marked the beginning of another Royal Tour of Canada, which had happened frequently over the course of the 20th century. This tour proved to be one of the most historic, as it marked Elizabeth’s first trip to Canada as the head of a royal delegation. The future queen and her husband arrived in the Province of New Brunswick first, touring such sites like the University of New Brunswick, Christ Church Cathedral, and the Legislative Assembly Building. Thousands of well-wishers lined the streets of every major city they toured, with the largest gathering numbering as high as 60,000 in Saint John. Elizabeth, Phillip and their retinue then traveled by train overnight to Toronto, where they booked an exclusive suite at the Royal York Hotel. Princess Elizabeth then attended numerous events held in her honor, including a dinner ceremony inside the hotel itself. She even watched a Toronto Maple Leafs game in person! Her official trip to Canada would be the first of 20 that would transpire between the 1950s to the 2000s. The Royal York Hotel—later the Fairmont Royal York—became her preferred holiday destination whenever she returned to Toronto, occupying a special guestroom known as the “Royal Suite.” Her entire entourage also obtains an entire floor to themselves, which is typically vacated some two weeks before their arrival.

    2010 G20 Toronto Summit: The 2010 G20 Toronto Summit occurred amid an international economic calamity known today as the Great Recession. The largest and most expensive security operation in Canadian history, the event was held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre from June 26 to 27, 2010. It was the fourth such meeting held among the various G20 members to discuss the mitigation of the unfolding crisis. Twenty-one different countries sent diplomats to the event, including six heads of state. The most prestigious politician sent north to the conference by the United States was U.S. President Barack Obama. All present represented the most developed economies in the world. The attendees addressed a myriad of topics related to the health of the global financial system, including worldwide banking taxes, coordinated stimulus measures, and significant monetary reforms. But while the summit was hosted inside the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, many of the attendees booked rooms inside the Fairmont Royal York. The hotel also had the prestigious honor of hosting the welcome reception, which saw the participating from nearly all of the conference goers.


  • Famous Historic Guests +

    Marlene Dietrich, actress known for her roles in Morocco, Shanghai Express, and The Blue Angel.

    Cary Grant, actor known for such roles in To Catch a Thief, Charade, and North by Northwest.

    Gene Kelly, actor known for his roles in An American in Paris and Singin’ in the Rain.

    Ray Charles, musician who pioneered American soul music and created countless chart-topping singles.

    Louis Armstrong, Jazz musician regarded as one of the most influential figures in the genre.

    Duke Ellington, Jazz musician whose orchestra famously played at the Cotton Club.

    Eartha Kitt, singer, and actress known for such songs as “C’est si bon” and “Santa Baby.”

    Ella Fitzgerald, singer known for her songs “Dream a Little Dream,” “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)

    Pearl Bailey, singer and actress known for her role in the 1968 all-black rendition of Hello, Dolly!

    Frank Sinatra, singer, and actor part of the famous Rat Pat known for selling 150 million records worldwide.

    Count Basie, big band leader known for leading the Count Basie Orchestra to national prominence from Chicago.

    Peggy Lee, singer known for her work singing in Benny Goodman’s big jazz band.

    Liberace, musician known for his extravagant performance in Las Vegas.

    Bob Hope, comedian, and patron of the United Service Organization (USO).

    14th Dalai Lama

    Robert F. Kennedy, 64th U.S. Attorney General (1961 – 1964) and Senator from New York (1965 – 1968)

    Nicholas Sarkozy, President of France (2007 – 2012)

    Charles, Prince of Wales

    Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall

    Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh

    Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom (1952 – present)

    Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States (1981 – 1989)


  • Film, TV and Media Connections +

    The Killing Fields (1984)

    That Old Feeling (1997)

    Bait (1999)

    Laughter on the 23rd Floor (2000)

    Driven (2000)

    Serendipity (2000)

    Daydream Believers: The Monkees Story (2000)

    Picture Claire (2001)

    Brian's Song (2001)

    The Tuxedo (2002)

    A Nero Wolfe Mystery (2001)

    Our America (2001)

    Between Strangers (2001)

    Get a Clue (2001)

    Jackie, Ethel, Joan: Women of Camelot (2001)

    Hemmingway vs Callaghan (2003)

    Eloise (2002)

    Street Time (2002)

    Martin and Lewis (2002)

    Chasing Cane (2002)

    The Man Who Saved Christmas (2002)

    Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye: Simon Says (2002)

    New York Minute (2004)

    Cinderella Man (2005)

    The Pacifier (2005)

    Where Truth Lies (2005)

    Hollywoodland (2006)

    Take the Lead (2006)

    Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium (2007)

    Max Payne (2008)

    Amelia (2009)

    Chloe (2009)

    Grey Gardens (2009)

    Flashpoint: Eagle Two (2009)

    RED (2010)

    The Kennedys (2011)

    Dream House (2011)

    Red Lights (2012)

    Suits: Inside Track (2011)

    The Samaritan (2012)

    RoboCop (2012)

    Hannibal: Wrath of the Lamb (2015)

    Spotlight (2015)

    Houdini & Doyle: The Pall of LaPier (2016)


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