Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Tuesday Treasures

Travel Tuesday
Tom the backroads traveller hosts this weekly meme.

The Gladstone Hotel is the oldest continuously operating hotel in Toronto. Architect G.M. Miller designed the building in the Richardsonian Romanesque style. It features arches over the windows and porch entrances, in addition to curvilinear and animal ornamentation in stone and terracotta. The hotel was a highly visible Parkdale landmark, with its three-storey tower and a cupola (removed in the 1940s). Across the street from two railway stations (since demolished) the Gladstone Hotel frequently hosted commercial travellers, as well as exhibitors from the nearby Canadian National Exhibition. It also once accommodated long-term guests, particularly railway employees and workers in nearby factories. The hotel has been given new life by its owners over the years.

The plaque reads:
Named after British Prime Minister Wm. E. Gladstone, this 60 room hotel was built in 1889 adjacent to the Parkdale train stations. The original owner, Mrs. Susanna Robinson, had been left a widow with 13 children. It was designed in a decorative Romanesque style by G.M. Miller, a distinguished Toronto architect. Its three-storey steeple dominated the skyline until the 1940's. Accredited by the Royal Winter Fair, it was considered "the only safe place for one's Great Aunt to stay alone." It was originally used mostly by commercial travellers based in the heavy industry in the area. The building was restored by the Appelby family in 1989 in memory of their late father.

During the renovation, a worker inadvertently knocked a hole in a wall, revealing the stunning Otis elevator, installed when electricity reached Toronto in 1904.
It took nine months for experts to refurbish its ornate fittings and mechanical system.

In a nod to its barely bygone seediness, the Gladstone lured Hank Young from his attendant's job in the parking lot across the street, and made him the elevator operator.


Hank was no stranger to the Gladstone.
In 1961, a young country singer by the name of Hank Young played his first gig at the Gladstone Hotel. Known as the Gladstone Cowboy, Hank, adorned in his signature cowboy getup, thrilled guests at the Gladstone, performing Hank Williams' Hey Good Lookin, a song staple for karaoke night at the hotel's Melody Bar. He passed away in 2009.


With just four floors to serve, Hank had to keep his stories brief. Still, in just a couple of years, he had managed to make himself as much a fixture as the old lift itself.

They called him the Gladstone Cowboy, for the western hats (he has 20), bolo ties (45) and boots (30 pairs) he wore as a condition of his contract.


  1. ...such a neat building with a great history. The Richardsonian Romanesque style is rare here, I only know of one church locally. Thanks Jackie for sharing this treasure, enjoy!

  2. Such a beautiful building. I've heard of it many times, but I've not seen it with my own eyes.