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.