100 Front Street W, Toronto, Ontario
We really like hotels with character. Give us a colorful history, tasteful period furnishings and maybe even a benign ghost or two and my family and I are charmed. That is, as long as the property has modern amenities and good services. Such is the case with the AAA/ CAA Four Diamond rated Fairmont Royal York.
Far from being another big box on the block, the 1,365-room Fairmont comes with 80 years of history plus a prime location. Often referred to as Toronto’s “grande dame” or the city’s “mother ship,” the Royal York, built by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, opened in 1929. Naturally, the hotel sits across from the train station.
The well-located Royal York is also within walking distance of Toronto’s Harbourfront, the St. Lawrence Market and the Air Canada Centre, the city’s sports and entertainment complex, plus several other attractions.
In constructing the Royal York, Canadian Pacific accomplished its goal of building the tallest hotel in the British Commonwealth. Upon debuting, the hotel featured 28 floors and 1,048 rooms, all with radios and private baths, as well as pressured steam to provide heat and electricity. The hotel also contained a Concert Hall, a 12-bed hospital and a 12,000 book library. What did it cost to lodge at such a modern and luxurious property? Two dollars per person, per night.
Three generations of Britain’s Royal Family have stayed in the Royal Suite since it opened. Queen Elizabeth’s and Prince Phillip’s portraits hang in the lobby, a grand, two-story space with a hand-painted ceiling, period settees, circular banquettes, potted palms, travertine pillars and crystal chandeliers. Just as you’d expect, such a striking face has starred in movies, including scenes with Julianne Moore in “Chloe” and Drew Barrymore in “Grey Gardens.”
For all its tradition, the hotel has a thoroughly modern attitude. An award-winning green property, the Royal York grows herbs and vegetables on its roof garden and makes honey from its own rooftop hives. The restaurants, whenever possible, use local, organically grown products.
And what about the ghosts? Friendly, rarely seen and no trouble at all. Legend has it that an old steward sometimes appears in the silver room in the hotel’s basement and that a past guest strolls the corridors wearing his red satin smoking jacket, undoubtedly too comfortable to leave.
Photos courtesy of Fairmont Hotels & Resorts