The long-lost Lord Simcoe Hotel

Opened on May 15, 1957 at 150 King Street West and University Avenue, the Lord Simcoe Hotel was one of Toronto’s first postwar downtown hotels and certainly the shortest-lived. In October 1979, after only 22 years of operation, the hotel closed its doors and was subsequently demolished to make way for the east tower of the Sun Life Centre.

The Lord Simcoe was designed by Montreal architect Henry T. Langston. Langston enclosed the hotel’s 900 rooms within a wide and shallow building envelope, bookending the long north and south façades with projecting wings faced in limestone. Curtainwalls were a subdued blue-grey glass overlaid with narrow bands of green porcelain enamel. A deep canopy sheltered the main entrance on King Street, flanked by bookmatched marble panels deftly angled to draw in passersby. Gold-toned anodized aluminum rather garishly framed the lower-level windows and wall panels.

Restaurants and guest rooms were designed and furnished by the T. Eaton Company. The three restaurants—The Pump Room, The Captain’s Table and The Country Fare—were decorated in historical styles. The luxurious Pump Room was reportedly inspired by its 1795 neoclassical namesake in Bath, England; accordingly, waiters wore long red tailcoats and served prime rib skewered on swords. The entrance lobby and public areas were considerably more modern, with lots of sleek walnut paneling, brass trim and floor tiles in a checkerboard pattern. “Rest-Assured” guest rooms were similarly outfitted in walnut and brass, and boasted television sets to receive Toronto’s sole TV station.

The Lord Simcoe proved to be only sporadically profitable, although its cocktail lounge was a favourite Bay Street watering hole for many years. By the mid-1970s the hotel seemed painfully dated, and its lack of central air conditioning and large conference spaces left it uncompetitive with newer downtown hotels. Rising land values and increasing demand for office space in the financial district finally sealed its fate.

As a side note, Lord Simcoe was actually a misnomer: Governor John Graves Simcoe was never elevated to the peerage, despite serving as the first lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada and founding what is now Toronto. Lord Simcoe Hotel was presumably chosen by the hotel’s management company to match their existing Lord Elgin Hotel in Ottawa and Lord Beaverbrook Hotel in Fredericton, New Brunswick.

8 Responses to “The long-lost Lord Simcoe Hotel”

  1. 1 Marion Colbourne September 9, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    I have many fond memories of dining in the Pump Room of The Lord Simcoe Hotel. I also have the front page of the Globe and Mail showing a photograph of our family and friends celebrating News Years Eve there on January 1, 1960 as well as individual photos taken by The Telegram of the same occasion.

  2. 2 Sean Hickey October 27, 2012 at 12:42 am

    I am just completing my autobiography and have seen searching for a photograph of the Lord Simcoe Hotel, where I stayed on arrival in Toronto in 1964.
    The first one above would be great to use. Would you be prepared to grant permission, and what fee would you charge?

  3. 4 William Clarke November 2, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    Hi Sean, When I emigrated to Canada in 1972 my first job was at the Lord Simcoe. It was an entry job. I found myself cleaning air ducts on the roof, helping to lay carpets, and cleaning toilets – anything. It was memorable and I looking back fondly.

  4. 5 Gord Purdy June 17, 2013 at 10:08 pm

    Hello, worked on the front desk back in the 60,s with Wally Peters, Les Bull , Ron Massey, and others can t remember names, any more, like to hear from any one on the front desk at that time Gord Purdy

  5. 6 Carolyn Hall July 29, 2016 at 9:31 pm

    Nice memories. I put my myself through university by working in three different departments at the Lord Simcoe Hotel in the 1970s.

  6. 7 Marg Thornington July 31, 2017 at 11:30 am

    Just found obit for my dad uncle and he was involved with building the Lord Simcoe. Thanks for the info.

  7. 8 Jean Belzile April 8, 2020 at 3:34 am

    Just found a tea pot stamped: LORD SIMCOE HOTEL. BY MORTON PARKER. E.P.S.N. 142. Why did my mother ended up with it. Uncertain.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Recent Posts

%d bloggers like this: