Seaway Hotel on the Lakeshore

Completed in 1954, the former Seaway Hotel at 2000 Lake Shore Boulevard West was one of the first truly Modernist motor hotels in Canada. Its crisp, clean lines eschewed the kitschy themes of the time and earned architects Ants Elken and R.W. Becksted a 1955 Massey Silver Medal.

Elken and Becksted capitalized upon the southerly sunshine and views over Lake Ontario by stretching the building horizontally across the wide but shallow site. At the western end they placed a long and low guest wing with 111 rooms, all facing the lake and outfitted with snazzy blonde wood furniture by Toronto designer Russell Spanner. The exposed concrete structure was painted white with end walls of dark red Roman brick; recessed balconies created a cubic effect and an ever-changing interplay of sun and shadow. A flamboyant T-shaped canopy of reinforced concrete defined the hotel entrance and enticed passing motorists on Lake Shore Boulevard. At the other end of the complex, a two-storey block of contrasting green brick and glass enclosed a restaurant, lounge and banquet room. Connecting these two elements was the restaurant lobby, lined in green marble and leading to a discreet bar upstairs.

Seaway Hotel postcard 1

Well-positioned at the western gateway to Toronto and riding the enormous postwar growth of motel-style accommodation, the Seaway Hotel proved to be extremely popular. In 1963 the Seaway Towers Motor Hotel, also by Elken and Becksted, was added on a neighbouring site. The wedge-shaped white tower added a vertical counterpoint, while the wraparound balconies, rooftop patio and swimming pool enhanced the resort atmosphere.

Now operating as a Four Points by Sheraton, the Seaway Hotel no longer exists in its original state. The dining block has vanished, replaced by a new condominium tower, and the guest wing has been reclad in beige stucco and encrusted with tacked-on classical pediments and mouldings. A clumsy, boxlike Post-Modern portico has replaced the boomerang entrance canopy. Seaway Towers was demolished in 1993 for a new ramp onto the Gardiner Expressway.

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