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Postcards From The King Edward Hotel

October 30, 2012

Long before today’s ability to take digital photos and send them instantaneously to friends and family by electronic devices, sending postcards from various travel destinations was one of the best ways to capture memorable events and spectacular places – including The King Edward Hotel in Toronto since it’s opening in 1903.

Many a postcard has been sent from The King Edward Hotel from the many visitors from around the world who have visited and stayed in this luxury hotel.

Sending postcards became popular during Queen Victoria’s reign. The earliest known picture postcard was a hand-painted design on card, posted in London to the writer Theodore Hook in 1840 bearing a penny black stamp of Queen Victoria.

The popularity of sending postcards continued into King Edward’s reign when he came to the throne in 1901.

One of the earliest King Edward hotel postcards shows the hotel and the coat of arms of King Edward VII.

(Coat of arms of King Edward VII)

Postcards from The King Edward Hotel have also showcased what guests could expect upon their arrival to this elegant and regal hotel. The following postcard shows the magnificent grandeur of the main lobby – known as the Rotunda; the horse-drawn Omnibus carriages that met steamships and railway trains to bring guests to the hotel; and the grand American Dining Room.

There was even a postcard showing The King Edward Hotel – in all its electrical majesty – at night…a modern comfort and wonder for a hotel at the turn of the twentieth-century.

Many guests staying at The King Edward Hotel have also sent postcards to loved ones describing their memorable stays and news of the day – like this postcard sent on August 11, 1904.

11/08/04

Dear Coz,

Yours to have this

morning.  Glad to hear

from you.  Mother has been quite ill since

Sunday last, but improving.  All the rest in fine spirit.

What is Louie’s address?  Love to all.  “Lewis”

Or simply a postcard with nothing to say but a picture worth a thousand words – like this one also sent in August 1904…

…or this one sent in November 1907 to “Miss Bessie” in Boston Massachusetts…

…or this postcard from October 1908 sent back home to England telling about “a dandy time” in Canada.

Dear Cecil,

I am having a dandy time. It’s just

swell in Canada.

Tell aunty that I am writing to

her shortly a

long letter.  Hope

to hear from you

now and again.

Love to you all.

Mum & I are fine.

Other postcards showed some of the other features of the hotel – like the exclusive Ladies Department.  

The King Edward Hotel sought to make unaccompanied female guests comfortable and anxiety-free.  Given strict Victorian and Edwardian social expectations, the hotel’s  special features for ladies travelling without male companions were well appreciated in their day. 

Special to the Ladies
The Hotel maintains on the main office floor a Ladies’
Department, where ladies travelling alone may register and have
their rooms allotted, receive mail, telegrams, telephone calls and
cards, and where they may receive callers. In connection with
this department there is also an elevator connecting with all
floors, parlors and dining rooms.
This department does away with the necessity of ladies having to
cross the rotunda to the main office.

The female traveler could check-in, book theatre tickets, write letters, take tea with friends, move between hotel room and dining room – all without fear of being bothered or even observed by male guests.

Female guests could also send postcards from The King Edward Hotel to reassure loved ones that they were quite safe and sound – like this one from March 1910.

Dear Ol –

Just a line

to let you know

am still in

existence

Some postcards – like the following from 1914 – captured the emotions of perhaps leaving home from a small town to embark on a new life in the big, bustling city of Toronto.

Dear Girlie,

Still rushing

but having

a very nice time

considering they all felt so.

It was certainly hard

leaving home

for good.

Well I must go. Goodbye.

Love from Helen

Back then (and still today) many guests of The King Edward Hotel would combine a trip to Toronto with a trip to the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) or a trip to Niagara Falls, and talking about their travels – as this guest did writing a postcard in 1916.

We are having a fine time

like Toronto very much.

Mabel’s husband took us all around

in a car on Sunday P.M.

Been to The Exhibition.

Like our State Fair only much larger.

We leave here tomorrow for The Falls.

Will be in Buffalo a couple of days I expect.

Will reach Albany the end of the week.

Joe first said he would be glad when he got back on the job.

What do you think of that.

And he is having a good time.

Mollie

By 1922, a 16-storey addition to the original King Edward Hotel was built, with shops and service space on the lower floors and a two-storey ballroom – named The Crystal Ballroom for its three spectacular crystal chandeliers.  This new hotel addition now created 1000 baths and 1000 rooms…and new postcards were printed to show this magnificent expansion.

This postcard was one of the more popular postcards of the King Edward Hotel after its new “skyscraper” addition and was promoted by Direction Hotels of America – advertising as the Famous chain of  First Class Fireproof  Modern Hotels.

The hotel chain included the following hotels on this postcard:

The Bancroft – Worcester, Mass.

The Ten Eyck – Albany, N.Y.

Hotel Utica – Utica, N.Y.

The Onondaga – Syracuse, N.Y.

The Seneca – Rochester, N.Y.

The Robert Treat – Newark, N.J.

The Stacy Trent – Trenton, N.J.

The Penn-Harris – Harrisburg, Pa.

The Lawrence – Erie, Pa.

The Portage – Akron, Ohio

The Durant – Flint, Mich.

The Mount Royal – Montreal, Can.

King Edward Hotel -Toronto, Can.

Royal Connaught – Hamilton, Can.

Prince Edward Hotel – Windsor, Can.

The Clifton – Niagara Falls, N.Y.

The Roosevelt – New York, N.Y.

The Olympic – Seattle, Wash.

The Alexander Hamilton – Paterson, N.J.

The Niagara – Niagara Falls, N.Y.

The Admiral Beatty – St. John, Can.

The Benjamin Franklin – Philadelphia, Pa.

Some guests at The King Edward hotel were even eager to “mark an X” on the spot where their towering guest rooms were located – as seen on the following postcard.

By the early 1920s, The King Edward Hotel was one of Toronto’s tallest buildings, exerting a distinct impact on King Street East and the skyline of the city of Toronto. The addition of 530 guest rooms also made the King Edward Hotel the largest hotel in Canada.  It was not until 1929 that The Royal York Hotel claimed that title.

The King Edward Hotel & The Royal York Hotel

By the 1950s, The King Edward Hotel became a Sheraton hotel and the chain was quick to showcase through more “modern looking” postcards how the hotel – with its continuing majestic elements – had kept up with the times.

With the coming of digital technology and instantaneous electronic photos sent by social media, the role of the postcard has seen a great decline – but the historical interest in these mementos remains. 

And like the lasting memories that these postcards provide us, The King Edward Hotel continues to be a place to “write home about”.

From → history, postcards

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