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CKGW Radio At The King Edward Hotel

Did you know that Toronto’s first luxury hotel – The King Edward Hotel – also housed one of the city’s first radio stations?

KE Hotel

 CKGW was a Toronto-based radio station owned and operated by Gooderham and Worts Ltd., a local distillery better known for its whisky. George Gooderham, co-owner of the distillery, was also the first financier of the grand, palatial hotel when it was built in 1903.

G and W factory

 Following the latest technology trend of the turn of the 20th century, radio stations were turning up everywhere – including at The King Edward Hotel, as part of a growing group of companies who had realized the potential for self-promotion through radio. Gooderham and Worts set up offices and studios in the King Edward Hotel, and a 5kW transmitter in Bowmanville, Ontario – and CKGW began broadcasting on March 5, 1928.

CKGW Bowmanville

(Bowmanville, Ontario transmitter)

CKGW at The King Edward Hotel was equipped for broadcast with all of the latest radio transmission equipment, and shared its wave length with at least one other station – Toronto’s CFRB – a radio station that still exists today. As a result its broadcast days were short, broadcasting on the air for only six hours every other day.

CKGW studio

By 1929, CKGW appears to have acquired the exclusive use of a new radio frequency channel, expanding its programming schedule to seven days a week, to include quality home-grown content such as Betty’s Home Chats and Cooking School.

 CKGW piano

CKGW’s 5kW transmitter – one of only two in Canada at the time – made it one of the most powerful and most modern stations in Canada, with a signal not only reaching across Canada, but also having a particularly wide range in the United States.

 Among some of it’s musical broadcasts were the Toronto Asphalt Roofing Orchestra, and Luigi Romanelli and his hotel house band, the Radio Syncopaters.

Romanelli

Romanelli and his musical ensemble were one of The King Edward Hotel’s longest-running big band orchestras that performed over the years (from 1923 to the early 1940s) in the hotel’s Oak Room and popular entertainment spot – The Crystal Ballroom.

Click the song link to listen to the style of easy-swing music Romanelli and the Radio Syncopaters would have performed –  such as I want you morning, noon and night.

Rooms Through The Years At The King Edward Hotel

King Edward Hotel outside

When The King Edward Hotel was opened in 1903 as Toronto’s first luxury hotel, it boasted having electricity, telephones and the latest luxuries for the care and comfort of all guests in every guest room.  The richness of colors and the decorative touches with soft furnishings brought elegance to each guest’s stay – making it a comfortable and memorable experience.  The King Edward Hotel was well ahead of many of the hotels of the early 1900s – and continues to be today – in providing a full-range of the comforts, room-styles and services we take for granted when staying in a hotel today.  Guest rooms had private baths and showers, wall-to-wall carpets, a variety of restful beds and types, along with plenty of light and space to relax in a palatial home away from home.

1900s Guest Room:

1900s room

(A typical luxury hotel guest room of the 1900s)

Brass beds, lace curtains and floral patterns on walls and carpets were more popular and considered more regal at the turn of the 20th-century.

1910s Guest Room:

1900s room

(A typical luxury hotel guest room of the 1910s)

Other rooms had more simple walls and floor coverings – but focused on amenities. After almost a decade since it opened, The King Edward Hotel became renowned for its lavish decor outside and inside guest rooms – along with extraordinary service and amenities provided.  The luxury hotel was designed to thoroughly pamper and impress guests during their stay.

1920s Guest Room:

1920s room

(A typical luxury hotel guest room of the 1920s)

By the 1920s, guest rooms became more “practical” and comfortable with less clutter providing more space for guests – but still a sense of luxury and comfort away from home.

1930s Guest Room:

1930s room

(A typical luxury “standard” hotel guest room of the 1930s)

By the 1930s, hotels began experimenting with new styles and room layouts to accommodate a variety of guests – mostly for an increase in more single travelers  and single beds.  Wood bed-frames and wood furnishings became more stylish.  King-size beds were still uncommon in most hotels.

1940s Guest Room:

1940s room

(A typical luxury hotel guest room of the 1940s)

In the 1940s, air-conditioned rooms were still a luxury waiting for hotel guests of the future – but the idea of an in-room honor/mini-bar became popular.  Notice the electric fan to keep guests cooler – and bottles of “booze” on the side-bar to perhaps “heat” guests up.

1950s Guest Room:

1950s room

(A typical “double” hotel guest room of the 1950s)

By the 1950s, “motor hotels” designed for the increase in business and leisure guest travelers on motor-vehicle “road-trips” sprung up across Canada and the United States.  The booming age of the automobile, television and air-conditioning had arrived – and The King Edward Hotel recognized the need to compete – soon putting television sets and air-conditioning in every room.  Also notice the ashtray on the table.  Smoking was accommodated for everyone everywhere – unlike the completely smoke-free policy of The King Edward hotel today for the health, safety and comfort of all guests.

1960s Guest Room:

1960s room

(A King Edward Hotel guest room of the 1960s)

In the 1960s, experimental trends and colors like avocado-green and biege-brown became popular and were reflected in the guest room decorations.  Guest rooms may have become more “color-full” but TV was still in black & white.

1970s Guest Room:

1970s room

(A typical king-size luxury hotel guest room of the 1970s)

Lines & luxury became a decorating style in the 1970s for hotel guest rooms – with many of the dark-browns and olive-greens continuing from the previous decade now displayed in new patterned ways.  Unfortunately, by the 1970s, The King Edward Hotel was beginning to fall into disrepair after going into receivership several times while competing against the changing world of big corporate hotel chains.  During that dark-decade the hotel even faced demolition, but was saved after being declared a heritage-building.  And – just like the dark styles of the 70s that faded away – so too did dark & drab hotel guest room designs.

1980s Guest Room:

1980s room

(A King Edward Hotel guest room of the 1980s)

By the 1980s, The King Edward Hotel was temporarily closed down and completely renovated with guest rooms newly reflecting a return to the combination of classic comfort and style that set the hotel ahead of other hotels. The rooms were again filled with colorful overstuffed furniture, a relaxing sofa seating area, and luxuriously comfortable king-size beds – while also providing the latest up-to-date technology for an increase in international business travelers.  Notice the in-room fax-machine on the desk.

1990s Guest Room:

1990s room A

(A King Edward Hotel guest room 1990s)

Returning to the classic and eloquent old-world charm that set The King Edward Hotel apart from other luxury hotels when it first opened, the 1990s guest room provided a space of color and floral patterns – with continued comfort and convenience.

2000s Guest Room:

1980s room

(A King Edward Hotel guest room 2000s)

As the new millennium arrived, The King Edward Hotel addressed the needs of a variety of travelers from around the world who wanted royal quality and comfort with simpler sleek designs and value.  A variety of different-styled rooms and sizes accommodated a variety of different-styled tastes and expectations, creating a feeling of tasteful home-away-from-home rooms – but with continued exceptional regal guest services.

Guest Room Today & Tomorrow:

The King Edward Hotel is once again undergoing exciting and extensive renovations – including the conversion of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th floors into private residences.

condo entrance

condo 1

condo bathroom

condo living room

(Artist designs of new King Edward Hotel private residences)

Along with this highly-anticipated development, guest rooms at The King Edward Hotel are now beginning to model these renovations with eloquent and tasteful styles that reflect the dawn of a new and modern type of luxury fit for all modern guests with richness of colors, space and decorative touches – just as the hotel did when it first opened in 1903.  

future room 1

(Newly renovated guest room at The King Edward Hotel)

future bathroom

(Newly renovated guest bathroom at The King Edward Hotel)

Once all guest rooms are completely renovated at The King Edward Hotel, guests will continue to pamper themselves in royal luxury – that includes all of the latest amenities and comforts of quality & service.  

Hotel guest rooms may have changed over the years – even at The King Edward Hotel – but all the modern conveniences of light, space, decor and design, along with up-to-date technology continue to make The King Edward Hotel a place of eloquence, comfort and exceptional service fit for a king, queen or those who just want to feel like a king or queen.  Even the opulent King Eddy himself would approve! 

Beyond The Gender Divide At The King Edward Hotel

1900 woman & man

At the turn of the 20th-century, the gender divide between women & men was still very much a part of the transition from Victorian to Edwardian times – and The King Edward Hotel, opened in 1903 as Toronto’s first luxury hotel, was no exception.  Until the second world war in the mid-1900s, women’s and men’s roles had been basically the same for thousands of years, and social roles were even more strictly outlined during the Victorian era and into the Edwardian period.

1900 women's fashion

The social roles that 1900s men and women were expected to live up to may be offensive and objectionable by today’s standards, but it was a very different world than the one we have become accustomed to in our time.  It was a world dominated by men.  Women were expected to be “ladylike” and charming at all times, they were to be seen always properly dressed, and never alone in the company of another man – except their husband or family member. They could not drink alcohol – it wasn’t considered “ladylike”; they could not just casually go into a bar like many women take for granted today – they would have been ridiculed by the male patrons and thrown out.  So, the long-standing tradition of afternoon tea was established.

afternoon tea

Female guests staying at The King Edward Hotel in the early 1900s would find the hotel very accommodating when it came to dealing with such social sensitivities. Unlike the lobby guest check-in process at the Front Desk today for both men and women, The King Edward Hotel had a separate entrance (on Victoria Street) and check-in area on the main floor for ladies traveling alone – known as The Ladies’ Booking Room.

Ladies Booking Room

(The Ladies’ Booking Room)

Ladies Booking Office

Here, women could check-in and have their rooms assigned, book theatre tickets, receive mail, telegrams, telephone calls, calling or visiting cards – and generally a place where these ladies could receive any other guests or callers (male or female) in the clear presence and eyesight of other ladies and staff. This department also had lavatories and an elevator to all floors, parlors and dining rooms – which did away with having unescorted female guests having to cross the lobby to the Front Desk and Main Office. This was clearly understood to be the gentleman’s part of the hotel. 

If a husband and wife were staying together in the hotel, a woman would not be seen standing at the main office lobby check-in counter to check in with her husband (as she does today) – that was a man’s job!

main office

(The Lobby Front Desk & Main Office)

All ladies would be shown to the Ladies’ Parlor on the second floor of the hotel where they could discretely look down upon the gentlemen in the lobby until summoned by their husbands. The King Edward Hotel was staffed with well-trained younger maids attending to the female guests. In the Ladies’ Parlor, women could read books, write letters, and take tea and light meals – all without fear of being bothered or even observed by gentlemen guests.

Ladies' Parlor

(The Ladies’ Parlor overlooking the Main Lobby)

The ladies could even enjoy more “feminine” overstuffed furniture and admire some of the artworks of the hotel – like the ivory jewel box (seen under glass on the table on left-side of the photo above) that belonged to Diane de Poitiers, a French noblewoman, during the renaissance in the 16th-century, and prominent courtier at the courts of kings Francis I and his son, Henry II of France.

Edwardian gentlemen

For gentlemen guests, The King Edward Hotel served all of their many “manly” needs. The hotel was equipped with a magnificent glass and mahogany newsstand and cigar-store that filled one side of the main lobby, where men-of-the-day could purchase news-of-the-day and smoke their cigars freely. 

newstand

(The Lobby News & Cigar Stand)

Today, The King Edward Hotel is completely smoke-free for the convenience, safety and health of all guests. Another sign of the change in times and sensibilities.

While the ladies had the Ladies’ Parlor, the gentlemen had the oak-paneled Bar & Gentleman’s Café on the main floor, which later became known as the Oak Room – and is now Victoria’s Restaurant. This was the strict realm of men as they drank their scotches, whiskeys, gins and beers – and where women were forbidden to step foot into!

Gent's Cafe

(Bar & Gentleman’s Café)

Gent's bar

There was also The Grill Room, located in the basement of the hotel, for men to have a feast of the finest grilled meats and delicious “manly-meals” fit for a King like Edward.  After a delicious meal, men could then play a game of billiards in the Billiard Room also located in the basement.

Grill room

(The Grill Room)

billiards

The King Edward Hotel also provided male guests with a well-equipped and modern barbershop to keep the mostly upper-class gentlemen well-groomed and well-admired by the ladies (and possibly by other gents).

barber shop

(The Barbershop)

Although times have changed and the gender divide is no longer so strict – the same luxuries for both women and men continue to exist at The King Edward Hotel. There’s no separate check-in for guests based on gender – but guests are still given exceptional welcomes and old-world charm service that all guests have been given since the hotel opened in 1903.

King Edward Hotel

May 13th, 2013 marks the 110th anniversary of The King Edward Hotel, and both women and men can still dine like royalty on the delicious, mouth-watering and supremely-satisfying variety of dishes prepared by creative culinary chefs and served by attentive wait staff in Victoria’s Restaurant or by In-Room Dining

gourmet

room service

Today, both men and women can enjoy a drink together in The Consort Bar.

consort bar

Today, both men and women can  sit comfortably relaxing together in the majestic and regal hotel lobby.

lobby 2

lobby 3

And both men and women can enjoy Toronto’s longest-running Afternoon High Tea Service that still provides a variety of the finest tea-blends, delectable sandwiches, and scrumptiously-delicious desserts – that’s not just for the ladies!

tea sandwhiches

desserts

The King Edward Hotel continues to update with the times – but has never lost touch with how to treat every guest like a lady or gentlemen.  We may have gone beyond the gender divide of the early 20th-century, but you’ll still feel the same royal treatment of a first-class, luxury hotel today – whether you’re a man, woman, or somewhere in between.

Early Artworks & Style At The King Edward Hotel

When The King Edward Hotel in Toronto opened its doors to the public in 1903, it was clear that the many artworks on public display added to the elegance and great taste of the hotel.  Many of the artifacts were not chosen as part of the grand opulence that was the Edwardian-style of the time, but rather as a sincere and important contribution to the existing art life and education of the growing city and guests.  With the opening of Toronto’s first luxury hotel, The King Edward became a world-class showcase of fineness and reputation – as it still is today.

The art installments in the hotel included colorful paintings, magnificent carvings, metal work and pottery from many nations and historical significance.  Some of the unique and precious curios were purchased from the famous Clemenceau collection of Paris.  

Other treasures included two elaborate torso wood columns that had been purchased from a church in Bruges, Belgium – standing tall at the inside entrance of the hotel.

torso column 1                                                                           torso column 2

One of the more important pieces was a carved ivory jewel box of Diane de Poitiers – a French noblewoman, during the renaissance in the 16th-century, and prominent courtier at the courts of kings Francis I and his son, Henry II of France.

Diane de Poitiers

jewel box

Also among the early treasures of The King Edward Hotel was an eight-inch ancient terra cotta statue of Venus – dating back to 300 B.C. – on display in the Palm Room (today known as the Pall Mall).

Venus

Included in the eclectic mix of art items was a life-sized wood-carved statue, heavily lacquered with gold, from the 15th-century of Prince Sakyamuni  (who later became Buddha) – prominently displayed atop a stand adorned with palms in the hotel’s lounge floor – overlooking the lobby.

buddha

Adding to the majesty of this life-sized figurine stood a large and rare Japanese bronze temple lantern in the hotel’s main lobby.  The brilliant lantern – also dates to the 15th-century – was from a Shintu Temple at Nara.

Other precious works included among the hotel art pieces were a 17th-century tapestry representing a large hunting scene, and another smaller tapestry of Mars and Minerva.

Mars and Minerva

Also scattered throughout the corridors of the hotel were beautiful handicraft objects: such as Italian Fayence wares from Urbino and Castelli similar to the piece shown below…

Castelli Urbino

… as well as ancient chests and cabinets decorated by Flemish and Belgian wood carvers, and exquisite metal work and pottery by artisans of Venice, Florence, and China.

Guests were also impressed by the inlaid clock case – carved out of solid mahogany logs – made in Paris in 1902, framing the fireplace in the hotel lobby.

Adorning the hotel walls were precious paintings.  Among them was a river scene by the famous English romantic landscape artist, John Constable (1766-1834)…

Constable

… a painting by French artist, Theodore Rousseau titled, The Old Mill 

… a piece by French artist Jean-Baptiste Regnault

oriental

… another by Charles-Francois DaubignyBords of the Oisie…

bords

… and a piece by Adolphe-Joseph-Thomas Monticelli.

There was also a work by Caspar Netscher of the Duchess D’Angouleme – also known as Diane de Poitiers – portrayed as the Huntress Diana (similar to the painting below) whose jewelry box, you may recall (see above), the hotel had on display.

diana

The King Edward Hotel showcased several pieces by artist Maxime Dastugue – a little-known, “modern” artist at the time when the hotel opened at the turn of the 20th-century.

Best friends - Maxime Dastugue

Among other more obscure painters presented by the hotel were C.V. de Windt, Harry Vander Weyden, A. Brion, Anthony Ludovici, Szementowsky, Charles Pepper, A. Boucher, and Canadian artist William Brymner.

Brymner

In 1906, The King Edward Hotel issued a guests’ book to visitors. The booklet – part information/part company advertising for merchants – provided an overview of the hotel facilities for the use of guests, including a description of the art collections mentioned above, and other objects of historic value.

Guest book 1906 cover

guest book 1906

Eaton

The booklet goes on to describe various other artwork reproductions that can be found in the guest rooms. In the top centre of the page below is a photo of The Lamp that lights the traveller in.  This is a stylish example of not only elegant and functional art design, but also the fact that The King Edward hotel was ahead of its time and other hotels in Toronto in 1907 by providing full lighting electricity for guests throughout the entire hotel.

other art

(Click on the image above to enlarge)

Among the artists listed are: Sir Joshua Reyonds (1723-1792); Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788); George Romney (1734-1802); George Morland (1764-1804); John Hoppner (1759-1810); and J.R. Smith.

Although tastes in works of art may have changed over the past 100 years since The King Edward first opened its doors, today the hotel still presents some spectacular works of artistic talent and beauty.  Current artwork at the hotel will be presented in another upcoming blog – so more to come!

In the meantime, as the 1907 guests’ book concluded in it’s chapter on Art in The King Edward, “Altogether The King Edward Hotel is in a real sense a museum of the choicest in painting and of the fine arts”. 

KE outside

 KE inside

The King Edward Hotel has become “a museum” in its own right as Toronto’s first luxury hotel – but a museum with absolute grandeur along with regal comfort and excellent service – a place still fit for a king , queen or everyday guest to come and experience as a work of art!

The Lost Murals Of The King Edward Hotel

mural

 

Before The King Edward Hotel in downtown Toronto was renovated in 1981, thousands of visitors were greeted by magnificent displays of colorful and dramatic art-murals in the lobby. 

When the hotel opened in 1903 as Toronto’s first luxury hotel, the Edwardian-style of opulence and grandeur was adopted by the hotel with four, life-sized paintings of early Canadian history scenes adorning the lobby walls – painted by renowned American artist William de Leftwich Dodge.

A panorama of French fur traders, First Nations Peoples, the early exploration of North America for England by John Cabot, and General Wolfe’s victory on the Plains of Abraham were all part of the original four early-twentieth century romantic-realism style murals.

Interestingly, this last mural mentioned was the cause of much disagreement between the American mural artist Dodge and the Toronto-based hotel architect E.J. Lennox

The dispute was not because of the subject matter, but because of its design. Lennox argued that this particular mural was too dark, gloomy and big for the space over the hotel’s original elevators (now the entrance way to the hotel’s Consort Bar) beside the Grand Staircase. Dodge would not be persuaded to alter his “artistic-license” – even taking the matter to an American court and winning his case. However, the artist’s Canadian employer disregarded the ruling – and ultimately replaced Dodge’s mural of General Wolfe with another painting by well-known Canadian muralist Frederick Challener.

This new mural was titled Trading at Fort Rouillé and depicted part of Toronto’s own early history with the French Fort Rouillé being established for trade with the First Nations before the British established the town of York – that later became Toronto.

mural trading

(Challener’s mural Trading at Fort Rouillé above previous elevators)

(The entrance to the Consort Bar and Grand Staircase today)

Dodge’s other three remaining murals depicted young French women sent to Quebec by Louis XIV as wives for soldiers, traders, and other settlers (over the main desk); the 1497 landing of John Cabot in Canada’s Newfoundland; and First Nations Peoples protesting the invasion of both French and English settlers.

Unfortunately, all of these treasured works of art have been lost – either taken down or covered over by the current wood-panels that are now on the lobby walls as part of the renovation in the early 1980s.  No one is quite sure what happened to them or the condition they may be in if uncovered today.

(The King Edward Hotel Front Desk and current wood panels today)

Despite the loss, the King Edward Hotel lobby still remains a regal work of color and artistry for guests, and the hotel remains a place of regal luxury and grandeur.  Sadly – the lost murals of the hotel are royal treasures that may never be fully recovered.

The “Gay” King Edward Hotel

Over 50 Shades of Gay World Pride – as colorful as a rainbow flag – will be celebrated at The King Edward Hotel in 2014 as Toronto hosts World Pride – and my same-sex husband and I are excited! 

Whether you’re a tired old queen

or bi in-between…

a beautiful butch or daddy bear

leather lad or lipstick lesbian…

trendy tranny or tantalizing twink…

muscle mary or big and hairy…

gay and grey or gay for pay…

or just born this way…

or just simply want to party like a pink princess or prince…

  

The King Edward hotel is the place to stay for World Pride. Why? Because  The King Edward hotel has been host to gay “royalty” throughout its history – including myself and my husband as the first same-sex couple to have an official commitment ceremony at The King Edward Hotel.

             

When my husband David and I were calling around to various hotels and venues to find a place to host our commitment ceremony in 1998 (before same-sex marriage actually became legal in Ontario 2003 and in all of Canada in 2005), there were still many places that were hesitant and even confused about what we were intending to do.  However, when we contacted The King Edward Hotel, they were not just welcoming – saying right away that they would be very happy to host our memorable event – but the hotel staff went above and beyond in service and style to ensure everyone was comfortable and every part was a regal celebration – and this was way back in the 90s! This type of excellent guest service continues today.

We did legally become married in 2004, but our commitment ceremony in 1998 was more of a celebration as over 100 of our family & friends joined us in The Windsor Ballroom at The King Edward Hotel.  The photo above shows us cutting our wedding cake after an amazingly delicious eight-course dinner in which we interspersed the exchange of our vows, rings, and various toasts, speeches and stories from loved ones.

Although we may have been the first openly gay couple to celebrate in that particular open-style at the hotel, we certainly weren’t the first gay people to feel such acceptance and ease in being ourselves at the hotel – or meeting others of similar mind.

As I mentioned, The King Edward Hotel actually has a long history as being a place for gay people to meet and enjoy each others’ company.  It’s known that gay men as far back as the early 20th century – shortly after the King Edward Hotel was built in 1903 – would discreetly meet in the hotel lobby, making careful contact – since being gay was still quite illegal.  

 

The Toronto historian Rick Bébout has written extensively on the history of gay Toronto.  He states in one of his many books that the King Edward Hotel was well-known for gays and lesbians to meet through the years – well into and after the year 1969 when being gay was no longer considered a crime in Canada

Over on King East was The King Edward Hotel, very grand, with its Pickwick Room and Times Square Lounge serving a discreet gay clientele
Promiscuous Affections: 1971 – Rick Bébout

The following is a more in-depth video on same-sex marriage in Canada.

Gay World Pride 2014 may be two years away, but it’s never too early to start planning for a world-class and gay-friendly place to celebrate.  My same-sex husband and I definitely recommend staying at this majestic and regal hotel that has been welcoming people from the LGBT community of all stripes and colors throughout its history.  Hope to see you there!

The “Secret Tunnel” Of The King Edward Hotel

Underneath the majestic and luxurious King Edward Hotel in downtown Toronto is the little-known beginnings of an underground tunnel that heads south along Victoria Street into Scott Street towards Wellington Street. The tunnel was supposedly started to allow underground transport carriage service for hotel guests arriving from trains and ships at Union station – long before the current Union and TTC subway stations were opened in 1954.  

The first serious proposal for a subway system in Toronto was made in the early part of the 20th century, with a series of proposals to bury the streetcar line on Yonge Street. A number of proposals emerged between 1909 and 1912 – just shortly after The King Edward Hotel was built in 1903 – and the development of this underground guest passage began, but was never finished.

(Excavation of Union Subway around 1949)

Just down the street to the east of the tunnel connected to the King Edward Hotel is the Gooderham Building – now commonly referred to as the “Flatiron Building“.  The Flatiron building was previously the downtown head office of hotel founder George Gooderham – of Gooderham & Worts Distillery fame. George Gooderham and his company made their money selling some of the finest and most popular distilled alcohol, and selling it worldwide at a great profit.

(Gooderham Flatiron building in 1895)

(Gooderham Flatiron building today)

Tunnel construction was eventually abandoned but access to the tunnel still exists in the basement of the hotel.  Some hotel staff call it “the Twilight Zone” for its current damp, eerie and other-worldly existence.  The entrance to the tunnel is from an unsuspecting door leading from the hotel’s audio-visual department in the basement.

tunnel 1

On the other side of this door one finds a floor covered with puddles of water with a Danger Construction Zone sign as a safety precaution, along with damp and rusting pipes.

tunnel 2

I felt very privileged to be able to have been given access to the tunnel to see it for myself.  Although it was very damp and dark, one can see the supporting steel beams that actually help support Victoria Street above from caving in below.

tunnel 3

tunnel 4

More importantly to our story is the speculation that this tunnel may have been used secretly to smuggle alcohol during the years of prohibition between 1916 and 1927.  Of course, there’s no evidence to support such a claim but it does make for a fascinating story!

Supposedly, the plan was to easily connect Gooderham & Worts Distillery staff from the Flatiron building to the basement of The King Edward Hotel by using this “secret tunnel”.

Further rumors are known to question how the hotel, during the years of prohibition, could have built the towering and costly 16-storey addition by 1922, when Gooderham’s wealth and company – a major financier of the hotel – were at great risk due to financial losses during prohibition (it needs to be pointed out that George Gooderham died in 1905 – two years after the hotel was completed and a decade before the start of prohibition).

Gooderham & Worts Distillery came under siege by the prohibitionists around 1915 who sought to legislate the company and the rest of the “liquor traffic” out of business.

Prohibitionists claimed that “booze” was the root of all evil and actively campaigned across Canada – particularly in Toronto – where the very lucrative Gooderham & Worts distillery was located.

As the Legion Magazine points out,  “As a result of this propaganda campaign, the prohibitionists managed to pressure provincial legislatures to pass “dry” legislation. Saskatchewan was first in 1915. Then, in 1916, came Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, followed in 1917 by New Brunswick and British Columbia. The Yukon Territory and Quebec climbed aboard the wagon in 1918. The temperance acts in each of these provinces closed drinking establishments and forbade the sale of booze.”

Further speculation is that this tunnel was secretly being used to smuggle, hide or make boot-legged alcohol for the hotel for those “privileged guests” who were secretly willing to pay for it.

Of course, it’s all still great speculation…but it does make a fascinating story adding to the colorful and important history of The King Edward Hotel – where you can still enjoy a wide-range of timeless classic alcohol drinks in the elegant and comfortable atmosphere of their Consort Bar…of course – legally!

The “Fireproof” King Edward Hotel

fire·proof/ˈfī(ə)rˌpro͞of/: Able to withstand fire or great heat.

Did you know that shortly after The King Edward Hotel opened in 1903, it began to advertise that the hotel was “absolutely fireproof”?
A 1908 guest booklet, created by then Directing Hotel Manager William C. Bailey, stated that The King Edward hotel was not only a luxurious and regal place to stay in downtown Toronto (as it still is today), but also indestructible by fire (fingers crossed!).  Interestingly and fortunately over the years, this rather confident claim has withstood the test of time – but perhaps might still be considered a bit self-serving, self-satisfying and far-reaching…knock on wood (or at least concrete and steel)!
Nevertheless, the fireproof claim – no doubt – comes from the extensive amount of prime concrete and quality building materials that went into constructing this grand hotel.  
(Construction begins on The King Edward Hotel in September 1901)
(Condition of construction by December 1901)
Little did the early founders and builders know about the future of computer technology – fast forward a century to the then unknown age of WiFi and Internet when attempts were made to set up WiFi throughout the hotel.  Unfortunately, it was one of the more difficult challenges the hotel had to overcome within the past few years – but like all modern hotels today – WiFi is now available to all guests in the lobby and in the comfort of every guest room.
But back to being a “fireproof” hotel…
(Inner cover of guest booklet)
The guest booklet claims that The King Edward Hotel is “an absolutely fireproof hotel with 400 rooms, 300 with baths.” Thank goodness today all guest rooms now have baths, showers and toilets!
To see this booklet in full, please click on this link to the Toronto Public Library Special Collections page.

The Crystal Ballroom

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In 1921, a tower was added to The King Edward Hotel – the original section of the hotel was  built in 1903.  Atop Toronto’s first skyscraper luxury hotel was the magnificent and spacious Crystal Ballroom – named for its glorious crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. The addition of 530 guest rooms made the King Edward Hotel the largest hotel in Canada until the Royal York hotel was built in 1929. 

The Ballroom was the most majestic “it” place to be in the city of Toronto for elaborate dinners, galas, luncheons, business conventions and wedding receptions – as The King Edward hotel continues to be today.

Back in the day, keeping in custom with the times,  the Crystal Ballroom was “the” place for debutante introductions to high-society, with many a young lady robed in their finest flowing gowns being “shown off” to admiring eyes.

It was even the place for major social announcements – like when Jonas Salk developed a cure for polio.

The Crystal Ballroom has also played host as “the happening place” to be during the big-band era, with live big-band and  jazzy music filling the sights and sounds of the expansive space for weekend dancing or ringing in the New Year – until it was closed down in the late 1950s.

(The type of music that would have played in The Crystal Ballroom)

The Crystal Ballroom also had one of the best top panoramic views of Toronto – with floor to ceiling windows facing north, east and south to Lake Ontario (which was even closer to the hotel before landfill and buildings extended out on top of where the lake used to be).

KE Lake

The Crystal Ballroom has spectacularly detailed and intricate crown moldings around the walls and ceiling.

Unfortunately, with the change in times, and a change of more strict fire-code regulations in the 1950s (the Ballroom has limited stairway and elevator access), the Crystal Ballroom was closed.

And so the Crystal Ballroom has sat empty – only echoing the great and lively sounds of its past.

Although the Crystal Ballroom has not been used as it was in the past for large and fabulous functions, there have been several movie and television scenes and music videos filmed in the space with a limited number of people.

The Ballroom (due to its enormous space) was rented out to a Persian carpet seller to roll-out a fine display of rich carpets befitting the royal hotel, and it was even used for fly-fishing reel lessons and archery lessons – with ceilings so high and mighty, they would be fit for a king like Edward. And of course, anyone fortunate enough to take part in Doors Open Toronto in recent years will know how incredible a space the Crystal Ballroom is – even just to have a limiting peak for one day in the year.

 Throughout the years there has been talk of restoring this regal space to its former glory, but further extensive renovations were required.  

Fortunately, plans are now in place to do so – making it a fully-functioning and lively regal space once again.

( Michael Cooper, CEO of Dundee Realty, and Gil Blutrich Founder & President of Skyline Hotels and Resorts)

Recently, several social media sites have shown interest in showcasing this dormant but still stately and grand space. The following links are some of them:

http://www.invisiblethreads.com/gallery/crystal-ballroom

http://www.uerev.com/index.php?pid=kingedward

http://www.infiltration.org/journal-kinged.html

http://www.blogto.com/photo_of_the_day/2012/11/the_crystal_ballroom/

http://urbantoronto.ca/news/2010/06/photo-day-king-edward-hotels-crystal-ballroom

http://whyilovetoronto.tumblr.com/post/9998417971/why-i-love-toronto-reason-9-the-king-edward

http://www.photo-serendipity.com/index.php?showimage=234

Owners, General Managers & Historic Events Through The Years

1902   

The King Edward Hotel Owner: The Toronto Hotel Company

The King Edward Hotel General Manager: Robert G. Clarke    

       

George Gooderham was hotel Chairman and

T.G. (Thomas Gibbs) Blackstock was hotel President (Gooderham’s son-in-law)

HISTORIC EVENT: King Edward VII develops appendicitis, delaying his coronation.

                                              

1903  

The King Edward Hotel Owner: William C. Bailey (a seasoned hotelier, brought in from Chicago)

       Hotel opened 11 May 1903 at a cost of $6,000,000.00   

HISTORIC EVENT: Due to drought the US side of Niagara Falls runs short of water

1922  

The King Edward Hotel Owner: United Hotels Company of America

Tower added at a cost of $200,000

HISTORIC EVENT: First microfilm device introduced

1926  

The King Edward Hotel General Manager: P. Kirby Hunt

HISTORIC EVENT: Henry Ford announces 8 hour, 5-day work week

1933  

Metropolitan Life foreclosed on mortgage of The King Edward Hotel of $2,150.00

HISTORIC EVENT: Albert Einstein arrives in US, a refugee from Nazi Germany

1938  

The King Edward Hotel General Manager: H. “Doc” McCarthy

HISTORIC EVENT: Toronto Maple Leafs score 8 goals in 5 minutes

1941

The King Edward Hotel Owner: C.A. Ripley

The King Edward Hotel is sold by Metropolitan Life for $2,500,000

HISTORIC EVENT: Duke Ellington first records “Take the A Train”

(Big Band era music like this was being performed during this time in The Crystal Ballroom – at the top of The King Edward Hotel – a very popular Toronto location)

 

1943

The King Edward Hotel Owner: Cardy Hotels

The King Edward Hotel General Manager: H. Alexander MacLennan

Vernon G. Cardy was hotel President

1947

The King Edward Hotel General Manager: Harry A. Peters Jr.

HISTORIC EVENT: Pan Am Airways chartered as 1st worldwide passenger airline

1949  

The King Edward Hotel Owner: C.A. Ripley (again)

The King Edward Hotel General Manager: Richard H. Nash

HISTORIC EVENT: United Nations’ permanent NYC headquarters is dedicated

1950  

The King Edward Hotel Owner: Sheraton Corporation

HISTORIC EVENT: 1st kidney transplant

1953

The King Edward Hotel General Manager: Fred Lightfoot

HISTORIC EVENT: Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in Westminster Abbey

1955

The King Edward Hotel General Manager: Gars Havers

HISTORIC EVENT: Civil Rights Activist Rosa Parks arrested for refusing to move to the back of the bus

1958

The King Edward Hotel General Manager: A. Gordon Cardy

HISTORIC EVENT: The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation links television broadcasting across Canada via microwave

1967

The King Edward Hotel General Manager: Glenn Brewer

HISTORIC EVENT: Canada celebrates the 100th anniversary of the British North America Act of 1867 making it an independent country

(Logo of Canada’s centennial celebrations in 1967)

1969

The King Edward Hotel General Manager: Joseph Downey

HISTORIC EVENT: Apollo 10 transmit 1st color pictures of Earth from space

1972

The King Edward Hotel Owner: Corporate Properties

The King Edward Hotel General Manager: Bill Herchmer

HISTORIC EVENT: Canada defeats the USSR in the eigth and final game of the ice hockey Summit Series

1976

The King Edward Hotel Owner: Kincardine Investments Ltd

The King Edward Hotel General Manager: William C. Bailey

Jack Fisher was hotel President

HISTORIC EVENT: CN Tower in Toronto, tallest free-standing structure at the time (555 m) opens

1977

The King Edward Hotel General Manager: Shalom Evan

HISTORIC EVENT: Apple II, the 1st personal computer, goes on sale

1978

The Sheraton Corporation took back the first mortgage of The King Edward Hotel

HISTORIC EVENTBee Gees’ “Saturday Night Fever” album goes #1 

1979

The King Edward Hotel Owner: Trans Nation Inc.

The King Edward Hotel General Manager: Gordon Josie

Emilio Valenti is hotel President

The hotel is closed on Sept 2, 1979 for renovations

HISTORIC EVENT:  Margaret Thatcher becomes the first woman prime minister of Great Britain

(Margaret Thatcher also visited The King Edward Hotel)

1980

Even though the hotel is closed for renovations, The King Edward Hotel gets a new General Manager: Kermin Berliker

HISTORIC EVENT: In a referendum, 59.5% of Quebec voters reject separatism from Canada

1981

The King Edward Hotel General Manager: J. Peter Rickard

The King Edward Hotel reopened on May 7, 1981 under the management of Trusthouse Forte

HISTORIC EVENT: Britain’s Prince Charles announces engagement to Lady Diana Spencer

1982

The King Edward Hotel General Manager: Ibrahim Fahmy

HISTORIC EVENT: Queen Elizabeth proclaims Canada’s new constitution

1983

The King Edward Hotel Owner: King Edward Associates

HISTORIC EVENT: 1st time a satellite is retrieved from orbit, by Space Shuttle

1987

The King Edward Hotel General Manager: James R. Batt

HISTORIC EVENT: Two men become the first to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a hot air balloon –

The Double Eagle II 

1991

The King Edward Hotel General Manager: Bill Croke

Forte Hotels become General Partners

HISTORIC EVENT: Queen Elizabeth becomes 1st British monarch to address US congress

1994

The King Edward Hotel General Manager:  John De Canha

Forte Group acquires Le Meridien Hotels

Prestigious and historic hotels – like The King Edward Hotel – are branded as Le Royal Meridien

1995

The King Edward Hotel Regional Director:  Derek Picot

Derek Picot

HISTORIC EVENT: Most distant galaxy yet discovered found by scientists using Keck telescope in Hawaii (est 15 billion light years away)

1997

The King Edward Hotel General Manager:  Jacque Lingé

HISTORIC EVENT: Scientists in Scotland announced they succeeded in cloning an adult mammal, producing a lamb named “Dolly”

First Cloned Sheep Dolly

1998

Google is launched

1999

The King Edward Hotel General Manager:  Simon Cook

HISTORIC EVENTThe Day of Six Billion: The proclaimed 6 billionth living human in the world is born

 

2001

The King Edward Hotel General Manager:  Tony Cousens

Tony Cousens

HISTORIC EVENT: Terrorists hijack two passenger planes crashing them into New York’s World Trade Towers causing the collapse of both & death of 2,752 people

2003

The King Edward Hotel was previously owned by Lehman Brothers Bank, through their real estate investment arm when Lehman Brothers Holdings acquired the senior debt of Le Méridien Hotels

2004

The King Edward Hotel’s Only Female General Manager (so far):  Lisa Impagliazzo

HISTORIC EVENT: The super liner Queen Mary 2 embarks on her first Trans-Atlantic crossing, linking the golden age of ocean travel to the modern age of ocean travel

 2005

The King Edward Hotel General Manager: John Guillaumot

The Le Meridien brand was acquired by Starwood Hotels & Resorts – Le Royal Meridien King Edward renamed Le Meridien King Edward

The King Edward Hotel Owner: Starwood Hotels & Resorts

HISTORIC EVENT: YouTube, the popular Internet site on which videos may be shared and viewed by others, is launched in the United States

(The 20 oldest videos on YouTube)

2008

The King Edward Hotel General Manager: Tim Reardon

HISTORIC EVENT: Following the bankruptcies of Lehman Brothers and Washington Mutual, The Dow Jones Industrial Average falls 777.68 points, the largest single-day point loss in its history

2009

Mishorim Development Ltd. purchases the Le Meridien King Edward Hotel in downtown Toronto for C$52 million. The purchase was made through Skyline Executive Acquisitions Inc. – a unit of Skyline International Development Inc. – a subsidiary of Mishorim Development

Gil Blutrich is the Founder and Chairman of Mishorim Group

Starwood is kept as management company of the hotel

2012

The King Edward Hotel Owners: King Edward Realty Inc.

The King Edward Hotel General Manager: Jeff Waters

Skyline Hotels & Resorts has an existing role as asset manager of the hotel