The Fairmont Royal York hotel was one of the many stops on our walking history tour of Toronto. I wasn’t staying at the hotel and if I had been, I’m sure I would have overlooked the layers of history located throughout the hotel as I walked to/from the conference.
The hotel has hosted many famous dignitaries and celebrities over the years as evidenced by the photos and articles on the second floor mezzanine overlooking the lobby. Our guide, Bruce Bell, is a certified historian of the hotel and worked there many years ago when they still had a supper club of musicians and singers in what is now the a ballroom space. We started in this room as he told us stories of famous singers to have performed on the stage. Looking at the grandness of the room, the chandeliers and the stage, you can envision the music playing, the long gowns and the performers – close your eyes long enough (and try to forget the tables/chairs now set up) and feel transported to that magical era, one you only see in movies now.
Leaving the ballroom, we walked behind the stage to the kitchen that serves the hotel. The kitchen is the largest in Canada with its own bakery. While most may not find this interesting, having worked at restaurants and in hospitality, i know that the magic that takes place in the kitchen each night is a carefully orchestrated performance not unlike the one that used to play the ballroom stage. The chef chatted with us about running the kitchen for the famous hotel.
Moving through the hotel, we would find our way to the meeting rooms on the second floor. As someone who tours hotels for our work events and client meetings, this was almost feeling like work except I wasn’t asking if the room can be set up theater style or boardroom, or about banquet menus. For the most part, guests and visitors would not have the access we had on this tour. So don’t think you can troll the second floor and sneak in and out of the rooms to see the art. I’d ask the concierge if they offer tours of the rooms when not in use.
Bruce mentioned the art in the rooms and not knowing what to expect, I was fascinated and surprised by the beautiful images and workmanship. The art was to represent each of the Canadian provinces. The meeting rooms were their own little art museums invaded by meeting tables and chairs. Sadly, most of this is probably overlooked by the daily meeting attendee.
With the old section and the new sections of the hotel melded together, we rode the escalator down past the small hotel bar to the mezzanine level overlooking the lobby. Here we would see photos and newspaper clippings of the dignitaries, royalty and celebrities who have stayed or played at the hotel. I was wandering around to admire the design above and below – it really is a snapshot of history of architecture, design, adaptation and hotel glamour.