I grew up in downtown Toronto. The area around the Gladstone hotel, located on the corner of Gladstone and Queen St. West, was my neighbourhood. At the time of my youth, I would either walk very quickly or run past the hotel—never looking, just briskly moving past it. It was as a dive. Certainly it was nowhere any respectable young lady would want to be seen in.
The kind of people hanging around the outside were sad and in need of help, was my conclusion at the time. As I walked quickly past the hotel and its mix of shady customers outside, I wondered what the inside was like. Who could possibly live in there, I wondered? What kind of lives do they have? How did they get here? I was curious, but never would I imagine venturing inside to find out. The mere thought of it would make me run past it even faster.
So it was with great anticipation and pleasure, that I finally found my way into the Gladstone Hotel recently for an evening nightcap. It was thrilling and wonderful!It was as if I was still a teen, and I was about to break all the rules and, darn it, I was going in to see what lies behind the front door.
What I found is a wonderful oasis in an area of the city that is going through an immense revitalization and re-birth. With dark, rich wood throughout the main floor, the Gladstone is warm and inviting. I was giddy with childlike excitement as I sat enjoying a very suave, Double-O Seven beverage, a martini. What excited me the most (besides entering through the front doors of what was once forbidden), is the fantastic history that lies within the walls of this historic property.
The Gladstone hotel is, after all, the oldest continuously operating hotel in the city of Toronto. Built in 1889 as a stylish hostelry, it once accommodated guests from the Parkdale train station, which was located across the street. It also welcomed visitors and exhibitors at the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE).
The Gladstone was one of the first 10 hotels in Ontario to receive permission to allow customers to drink and play shuffleboard in a licensed alcoholic area (shocking I know!).
Up until 1964 all ‘beverage’ rooms in the city of Toronto had to close between 6:30 and 8:00 p.m. The Gladstone had a lounge license which allowed it to serve liquor and beer during those hours. The city's thirst was so great, doormen had to be hired for crowd control during this timeframe.
As early as 1898 the hotel was accepting reservations by telephone and an early telephone switchboard can still be found in the hotel today.
Under the current owners, the Zeidler family, the hotel began extensive renovations in 2003. The development idea was to bring back the 'bones' of the architecture, then allow art and elements to shine through the space. It is then no surprise that, with this philosophy in mind, combined with the hotel's long history of providing accommodations to artists, each of the hotel’s 37 rooms are artist-designed. Each room is designed by a different local artist, representing local Toronto talent to the rest of the world.
With historical and important chapters behind it, the Gladstone hotel is today a chic, eclectic, boutique hotel serving up food and cocktails to the hipster crowd along this revised corridor of the city. No need to run beyond it. Stop, enter, sit, enjoy. Ahhh, deliciousness.
Photos via Gladstone Hotel