- The Gladstone Hotel is the oldest continuously operating hotel in Toronto.
- The Gladstone was originally built in 1889 as a stylish hostelry across from the then existing Parkdale railroad station which serviced the Grand Trunk, the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), and the Canadian National Railway (CNR) companies.
- The location of the Gladstone Hotel, just east of Dufferin on Queen Street West, was once considered the western edge of Toronto and it provided accommodations to travellers from the Parkdale train station as well as visitors and exhibitors at the Canadian National Exhibition.
- The building permit was issued in September 1889 for a value of $30,000.00
- The original owner, Susanna Robinson, was a widow who operated and lived at the hotel with her 13 children. Susanna and her husband Nixon, a Toronto brewer, had previously operated the Red Lion Hotel in Kleinberg. Mr. Robinson died prior to completed construction of the Gladstone Hotel. In fact, the hotel has always been operated as a family enterprise and continues to do so today under current ownership of the Zeidler family.
- Gladstone Hotel has a long history of providing respite for artists and performers. In its early days, it was the “last stop” on the edge of Toronto’s city limits before heading west (usually by train). Many artists stayed here after performances at Massey Hall before heading out of town. It was also a favorite spot for vaudeville performers during the CNE.
- The hotel was famous for its cuisine and service. Visitors typically booked accommodations for a week’s time.
- The Gladstone was named for the street that was named after English politician William Gladstone 1809-1898. Gladstone held several important government positions including Prime Minister. He was elected Prime Minister four times. (The first in 1868).
- The hotel's monthly electronic newsletter, the Gladstone Bag, is named for the popular suitcase style - also named for William Gladstone - which was developed during this period and utilized no doubt by many of the Gladstone Hotel guests.
- As of 1890, the streetcar connected guests to downtown and the shopping emporia of the Arcade, Eatons and the Robert Simpson stores.
- The hotel accepted reservations by telephone as early as 1898. An early, but not original, telephone switchboard still exists in the hotel.
- The Gladstone underwent significant interior renovations around 1913 under the management of new owner Victor Gianelli, son of the Italian Consul General for Canada. In the 1950’s the exterior was “updated” with metal sheathing and glass block and a second exterior facelift happened in the late 1980’s under Herb and Allen Appleby who owned the hotel from 1964 on. The recent restoration brought the ground level façade back to resemble more closely the original; including reinstalling the detailed, arched wooden windows.
- The Zeidler family bought the hotel in 2000
- In 2003, Christina Zeidler began work to restore the hotel and enliven the business, maintaining the old staff and patrons while bringing in new communities.
- In 2004 it became clear that the building, so badly slum land-lorded for 40 years, needed a more through renovation. Christina enlisted the help of her father, Eb Zeidler of Zeidler Partnership, to be the architect on a deep restoration of the hotel which was completed in 2005
- Christina’s development philosophy was to bring back the “bones” of the architecture and then allow contemporary elements of arts and events to shine within the space
- This was the thinking behind the Artist Designed Room Project: each of the 37 hotel rooms are designed by a different local artist. The rooms are beautiful and represent the talent that Toronto has to offer the world.
- The hotel was designed by George Miller, the architect of the Lillian Massey building of the University of Toronto, many other public buildings in the city, as well as a large number of formerly grand residential buildings in the Parkdale neighbourhood. George Miller also designed Parkdale Collegiate in the same year as the Gladstone
- The Hotel was designed in the Richardsonian Romanesque style a popular Victorian style for public buildings such as train depots, churches, and libraries. The original proposed drawings show designs more in the Italianate style. These plans were altered in favour of the Romanesque style.
- Many trades were enlisted to help with the massive amounts of restoration that was needed to restore this building. Some of those artisans are from Toronto and actually have their studios nearby the Gladstone.
- John Wilcox heritage glazier, specializes in heritage glass and glass restoration and restored all the heritage glass, mainly on the south and west windows, including the bent glass on the second floor bay windows.
- Douglas Roberts heritage woodwork specialist, specializes in the restoration and recreation of heritage woodwork. Doug was instrumental in the restoration of many of the wood surfaces including the windows, heritage doors, the elevator and most significantly reconstructing from photographs and historic drawings, the south façade of the building.
- Ray Karu specializes in the restoration of interior woodwork as well as faux finishes, especially wood graining. Ray’s work brought a rich texture to all the wood surfaces on the interior of the hotel as well as the south façade.
- The architectural style of the Gladstone is characterized by the rough cut stone and brick and by the dramatic arches over the windows and porch entrances. The Hotel tower is also characteristic of the style. The wooden cupola was removed in 1930 due to disrepair.
- The tower originally was not part of a suite. It functioned simply as a public observation area.
- Exterior details such as the ornate carved pillar capitals and Gladstone House lettering precede art nouveau.
- At the northwest at corner street level are what remains of the carved Port Credit sandstone foundation that was largely smashed off of the building in the 1950’s to accommodate exterior “improvements and updates”
- On the west side of the building at street level you can also see evidence of numerous windows which originally provided light into the basement.
- Exterior cornice moldings are original and are made of molded sheet metal.
- South façade was originally mainly windows with ornate wooden trims and moldings. The restoration of the south street level façade was undertaken by Douglas Roberts, who also worked on much of the interior restoration.
- Original canopy hung much lower than the one recently removed and was crowned by a series of ornate arched openings.
- Original entrance was framed with stone pilasters which you can see evidence of on the brickwork. There is also evidence of a central pillar which would have separated the two front doors.
- On either side of the entrance exterior were decorative terra cotta panels detailing ornate birds and flowers and even possibly the profiles of Victoria and Albert.
- Original configuration of the lobby area is unclear.
- The meticulously restored Victorian elevator is one of the last hand-operated elevators in Toronto
- The elevator was likely installed just after the electrification of the city in 1904.
- The wrought iron cage would have floated in the stairwell with no structural enclosure.
- It is likely that the lobby flooring was originally wooden with carpets over top. No evidence exists to suggest that there were ever marble or stone floors.
BALLROOM AND MELODY BAR
- The main floor would have originally featured several “great rooms”. It is no longer clearly evident what the original configuration of rooms and their functions would have been.
- The hotel kitchen was very likely originally located where the auxiliary bar is now located in the ballroom. The building’s exterior reveals where the original windows and fireplace would have been located.
- The Gladstone’s dining room was once famous for its Sunday roast beef dinners.
- There are a few remaining original armchairs with a large “G” carved on the back. These, along with some other original antiques, are being incorporated into the refurbished guest accommodations.
- The two restored pillars in the hotel's Melody Bar are unique in the city of Toronto in that their faux marble finish was rendered in true European Fresco technique. No other architectural pillars such as these exist in the city! The current ballroom space also shows evidence of ornate capitals.
- The Gladstone was one of the first ten hotels in Ontario to receive permission to allow patrons to drink and play shuffleboard in a licensed alcoholic area.
- At one time the Gladstone Hotel was the last place to obtain hard liquor before reaching The City of Hamilton
- Until 1964 all beverage rooms had to close between the hours of 6:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. The Gladstone had a lounge license so that it could open certain rooms for liquor and beer during those hours. The Hotel hired two doormen to control the crowd during these times.
- The Gladstone is a fine example of a Victorian Hotel with intact plaster moldings in the grand hallways.
- The second floor was originally the first class floor of the hotel boasting larger rooms, 14’ ceilings, graceful arches with beautiful details and larger public space. These rooms no longer function as hotel rooms. The floor is now rented for receptions, exhibitions, conferences, meetings and artist studios.
- The second floor originally featured a luxurious lounge or drawing room, possibly the gentleman’s smoking room in the southwest corner room. This room originally had a fireplace which was removed sometime in the 1920’s.
- First class guests also had access to the ornate balcony which has been carefully restored by Douglas Roberts.
THIRD AND FOURTH FLOORS
- The third floor still boasts stunning tin ceilings as well as a small detail of some original wallpaper that was revealed during the renovation.
- Take note of the changes in ceiling height as you go up. Heights range from 14’ on the first class floor to 12’ on the third floor, to 10’ on the fourth floor.
- The wonderful wooden banisters on the north and east stairwells would have also originally been found on the main centre stairwell, but were removed at the time the elevator was enclosed with plaster.
- Whereas the original design offered the more European experience of shared bathrooms, the current guest rooms have been modernized with washrooms for each suite (thank goodness). Each room has been designed by a different local artist. The Artist Designed Room project has become a very popular reason to stay at the Hotel, again and again! All of the rooms can be seen on-line at www.gladstonehotel.com
RECENT SOCIAL HISTORY
- The Gladstone Hotel feels a strong sense of appreciation for and responsibility to the existing Parkdale neighbourhood and artistic community. The historic restoration of the property reflects the hotel's architectural and community history.
- Since taking over the hotel in 2003 there have been deep concerns about the well-being of the existing (some long-term) residents of the hotel and The Gladstone Hotel and Christina Zeidler took a personal interest in supporting them and helping them find new homes in the community prior to beginning the restoration project. The Gladstone Hotel provided financial support and the managers and employees at the hotel worked hard to find places to live for the most elderly and at risk. Some of these former residents had come to the Gladstone off the street and had no identification, health card or social insurance number.
- The Gladstone with the invaluable help of The Parkdale Community Health Centre worked hard to ensure that these people made contact with professionals who properly assessed their needs and found appropriate housing with access to medical attention. These former residents still drop by often.
- The Gladstone made sure that in the transition, none of the existing residents were abandoned. The hotel supported them as necessary and helped to find them places to live.
- The Gladstone kept its bar and event venue spaces open and operating throughout the restoration process in order to maintain vital community and neighbourhood connections.
- Last Call at the Gladstone produced by local documentary filmmakers Neil Graham and Derreck Roemer chronicles the human stories connected with the recent restoration. The documentary recently debuted at Hot Docs 2007 and has aired on TVO's multi-Gemini Award-winning Canadian series of point-of-view documentaries - The View From Here
- Staff who have worked at the Hotel for many years - one as long as 40 years - still retain their jobs and along with long time “regulars” have worked hard to help the transformation of the place they love. Karaoke with Peter Styles is still a popular attraction every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night.
GLADSTONE HOTEL GREEN POLICY
- The “green” goals at the Gladstone Hotel are to be an industry leader in sustainable hotel practices and create a "new" norm for these practices through commitment to using sustainable products, dramatically reducing consumption, recycling and composting our waste.
- Our approach to sustainability stewardship is deep: it goes beyond the four or five “signature” actions and it touches everything we do and all we service. It is evidenced through our commitment to local food, use of products developed by small micro enterprise, bio-degradable take-out containers, plastic bottles, non-toxic cleaners and also achieved through the staff training and consciousness.
- We do not work with any large sourcing conglomerates and have instead turned to creating partnerships and relationships with micro and local businesses who can guarantee the claims they make on sustainability. For example: our soaps and shampoos are all made by a local farmer in Prince Edward County. She grows most of her products and also does not use plastics in the production or production of the soaps.
- Since stopping the practice of using water bottles (2007) and plastic soap and shampoo containers (never) we estimate we have saved more than 100,000 bottles from landfill and recycling (conservative estimate).
- Our food program continues to develop and serve as a great example of some of the year over year improvements we are able to make. In 2006 when we opened the hotel we were purchasing approximately 30% local food in the summer and 20% local food in the winter. Four years later we purchase approximately 75% local/sustainable food in the summer and 50% local/sustainable in the winter.
- We use approximately 90% non-toxic cleaners in-house, the only ones that remain are the ones we are required by law to keep (e.g. dishwater chemicals). We ask and expect our out-of-house contractors to respect our policies and use non-toxic cleaners in the washing of our linens etc. We have testimonials from staff, who have chronic skin reactions to linens and cleaners used at other Hotels but they have been reaction free since working at the Gladstone.
- Our staff are trained in our sustainable practices and empowered to make improvements and suggestions. They are oriented and re-trained on a regular basis. We have been green audited by Jennifer Wright of Green Shift on an on-going basis since 2003.
NEW GREEN INITIATIVES
- Green Roof: With the help of the City of Toronto the Glastone Hotel installed two green roofs this year, one on the lower roof at the back of the building and one on the upper roof. The roofs were installed by xeroflor (www.xeroflor.ca) and have helped enormously already with storm run off and flooding.
- Green Wall: In 2010 Living Technologies from Vancouver came to have a Toronto conference on living walls and a demonstration. They installed a living wall in the main stairwell of the hotel. Not only does it bring oxygen into the building but it also has a positive emotional impact of green space indoors. The wall has been recently upgraded by a local Toronto company.