Empringham & Danforth Hotel – From Farmers Lodging to Adult Entertainment

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Circa 1903 - Looking southwest towards the Empringham Hotel, once at Danforth Ave and Dawes Rd in what's known today as the East Danforth neighbourhood of Toronto. When the Empringham Hotel opened in the 1870s, the area was known as Little York and, later, East Toronto. Notice the water pump on the Dawes Rd side and the posts to hitch horses under the porch
Circa 1903 – Looking southwest towards the Empringham Hotel, once at Danforth Ave and Dawes Rd in what’s known today as the East Danforth neighbourhood of Toronto (Toronto Public Library R-3802)

The Empringham Hotel, later the Danforth Hotel, was once located on Danforth Ave at Dawes Rd (on the southwest corner) in the East Danforth neighbourhood of Toronto.

Empringham Hotel

The Empringham Hotel was operated by George Empringham, and one of the earliest mentions of the hotel was in a local newspaper in 1883; however, it is thought to have dated back to the 1870s. At the time, the area was known as Little York, a village in York County, 7 km or 5 miles east of Toronto.

The 3-storey brick hotel was built in two phases. The first had a porch on the Danforth Ave and Dawes Rd sides, where travellers could hitch their horses or pull up their wagons. Visitors to the hotel could enjoy a meal in the dining room, a drink in the licensed tavern and, if need be, a night’s lodging. Its address was initially 1601-03 Danforth Ave. There was also a livery stable behind the hotel.

The Expansion

1914 - Looking southwest from Danforth Ave and Dawes Rd towards the new addition to the Empringham Hotel. The original hotel was pushed back from Danforth Ave to make way for the Danforth streetcar line and the hotel's expansion. A portion of the first hotel is visible behind the hotel on the left
1914 – Looking southwest from Danforth Ave and Dawes Rd towards the new addition to the Empringham Hotel (Toronto Public Library R-3775)

In 1913, the original hotel was moved several metres to the south to prepare for a major hotel expansion and make way for the Danforth streetcar line. A new, larger hotel was added in front of the original hotel, and like the first building, it was made of brick and trimmed with stone. Other architectural elements included a marquis over the main entrance, and to accommodate the angle of Dawes Rd, the building was slightly wedge-shaped. By this time, Mr Empringham’s son, also named George, took over the hotel business.

In 1915, George Empringham passed away after suffering a stroke while tending to his garden. He had lived in the city’s east end since arriving with his parents at the age of 15 from England in the mid-1800s. A local newspaper said, “No man was more widely known or more highly respected than the late Mr Empringham…”

In 1917, after nearly a half-century, the Empringham Hotel, considered one of the most prominent farmers’ hotels, closed its doors. In 1919, the property was sold for $30,000. Within a few years, it became the Shaw Business College and was home to other businesses and offices. The address was updated to 2763 Danforth Ave.

The Danforth Hotel

The first instance it became known as the Danforth Hotel was from about 1924 until the late 1920s. In the early 1930s, it was then a bible college and a tabernacle, and by 1934, it was once again the Danforth Hotel.

According to a 1964 report, the hotel had 20 rooms available for rent. Through the years, the hotel’s owners tried various forms of entertainment to attract customers, including a nightclub that featured live rock and country music, later transitioning to adult entertainment in the Play Pen.

In the 1980s, the hotel was renamed the New Danforth Hotel, then the Video Rock Tavern and Doyle’s Hotel before closing its doors later that decade.

The hotel was demolished and replaced by a one-storey commercial building.

Empringham Hotel Photos

1900 – A bartender (left) and George Francis Empringham (right) behind the bar inside the Empringham Hotel, once located at the southwest corner of Danforth Ave at Dawes Rd. George Francis took over operating the hotel from his father, George, upon his passing in 1915
1900 – A bartender (left) and George Francis Empringham (right) behind the bar inside the Empringham Hotel, once located at the southwest corner of Danforth Ave at Dawes Rd. George Francis took over operating the hotel from his father, George, upon his passing in 1915 (Toronto Public Library R-3773)
1900 – A group photo in front of the Empringham Hotel. George Empringham is in the centre with the white beard, and his son George Francis Empringham is in the back row on the right with the white and back hat
1900 – A group photo in front of the Empringham Hotel. George Empringham is in the centre with the white beard, and his son George Francis Empringham is in the back row on the right with the white and back hat (Toronto Public Library R-3771)
1900 – Waitresses and the cook on their way to the outdoor ice box at the Empringham Hotel
1900 – Waitresses and the cook on their way to the outdoor ice box at the Empringham Hotel (Toronto Public Library R-3781)
Circa 1903 - Looking southwest towards the Empringham Hotel, once at Danforth Ave and Dawes Rd in what's known today as the East Danforth neighbourhood of Toronto. When the Empringham Hotel opened in the 1870s, the area was known as Little York and, later, East Toronto. Notice the water pump on the Dawes Rd side and the posts to hitch horses under the porch
Circa 1903 – Looking southwest towards the Empringham Hotel, once at Danforth Ave and Dawes Rd in what’s known today as the East Danforth neighbourhood of Toronto. When the Empringham Hotel opened in the 1870s, the area was known as Little York and, later, East Toronto. Notice the water pump on the Dawes Rd side and the posts to hitch horses under the porch (Toronto Public Library R-3802)
Circa 1913 - Looking east on Danforth Rd towards the Empringham Hotel and Dawes Rd. This was the original hotel building constructed in the 1870s. It was pushed back from Danforth Ave, to make way for the hotel's expansion and for the Danforth streetcar line
Circa 1913 – Looking east on Danforth Rd towards the Empringham Hotel and Dawes Rd. This was the original hotel building constructed in the 1870s. It was pushed back from Danforth Ave, to make way for the hotel’s expansion and for the Danforth streetcar line (Toronto Public Library R-3767)
1913 - The original Empringham Hotel building being moved south, away from Danforth Ave, to make way for a new hotel addition. Notice the numbers over the doors, 1601 and 1603. In the early 1920s, the address was changed to 2763 Danforth Ave
1913 – The original Empringham Hotel building being moved south, away from Danforth Ave, to make way for a new hotel addition. Notice the numbers over the doors, 1601 and 1603. In the early 1920s, the address was changed to 2763 Danforth Ave (Toronto Public Library R-3769)
1914 - Looking southwest from Danforth Ave and Dawes Rd towards the new addition to the Empringham Hotel. The original hotel was pushed back from Danforth Ave to make way for the Danforth streetcar line and the hotel's expansion. A portion of the first hotel is visible behind the hotel on the left
1914 – Looking southwest from Danforth Ave and Dawes Rd towards the new addition to the Empringham Hotel. The original hotel was pushed back from Danforth Ave to make way for the Danforth streetcar line and the hotel’s expansion. A portion of the first hotel is visible behind the hotel on the left (Toronto Public Library R-3775)
Circa 1914 - Empringham Hotel, later the Danforth Hotel, was once at the southwest corner of Danforth Ave at Dawes Rd. The original hotel building is visible on the left. It was moved back for the expansion of the hotel and for the Danforth streetcar line. The hotel was clad with brick and featured stone trim, a marquis over the main entrance, and to accommodate the angle of Dawes Rd, the building was slightly wedge-shaped
Circa 1914 – Empringham Hotel, later the Danforth Hotel, was once at the southwest corner of Danforth Ave at Dawes Rd. The original hotel building is visible on the left. It was moved back for the expansion of the hotel and for the Danforth streetcar line. The hotel was clad with brick and featured stone trim, a marquis over the main entrance, and to accommodate the angle of Dawes Rd, the building was slightly wedge-shaped (Toronto Public Library R-3776)
1914 - The livery stable behind the Empringham Hotel from Dawes Rd
1914 – The livery stable behind the Empringham Hotel from Dawes Rd (Toronto Public Library R-3783)
December 25, 1914 - George Empringham, owner of the Empringham Hotel, holding up a rather large loaf of bread on Christmas Day
December 25, 1914 – George Empringham, owner of the Empringham Hotel, holding up a rather large loaf of bread on Christmas Day (Toronto Public Library R-3776)
December 25, 1914 - George Francis Empringham also posing with a large loaf of bread
December 25, 1914 – George Francis Empringham also posing with a large loaf of bread (Toronto Public Library R-3776)
1914 - Margaret L Empringham (Westlake), George Francis's wife, standing in the snow by the Empringham Hotel
1914 – Margaret L Empringham (Westlake), George Francis’s wife, standing in the snow by the Empringham Hotel (Toronto Public Library R-1007)
1915 - George Empringham's funeral procession in front of the hotel. Mr Empringham suffered a stroke and passed away at the age of 78. He was born in England and came to Canada with his parents at the age of 15. The family settled in Scarborough and always resided in the city's east end
1915 – George Empringham’s funeral procession in front of the hotel. Mr Empringham suffered a stroke and passed away at the age of 78. He was born in England and came to Canada with his parents at the age of 15. The family settled in Scarborough and always resided in the city’s east end (Toronto Public Library, R-991)
1915 - George Empringham's flag-draped casket being placed in a horse-drawn carriage in front of the hotel for the funeral procession. Mr Empringham is interred at Saint Jude's Anglican Church Cemetery in the Wexford/Maryvale neighbourhood
1915 – George Empringham’s flag-draped casket being placed in a horse-drawn carriage in front of the hotel for the funeral procession. Mr Empringham is interred at Saint Jude’s Anglican Church Cemetery in the Wexford/Maryvale neighbourhood (Toronto Public Library R-987)
1954 - Looking southeast towards the Danforth Hotel, originally the Empringham Hotel, once on Danforth Ave at Dawes Rd. Notice the parking lot next to the hotel. When it opened in the 1870s, horses and wagons were hitched to posts in front of the hotel
1954 – Looking southeast towards the Danforth Hotel, originally the Empringham Hotel, once on Danforth Ave at Dawes Rd. Notice the parking lot next to the hotel. When it opened in the 1870s, horses and wagons were hitched to posts in front of the hotel (Toronto Public Library R-3826)
2021 – Looking southwest towards the corner of Danforth Ave and Dawes Rd in the East Danforth neighbourhood of Toronto. The Empringham Hotel, later the Danforth Hotel, once stood at the corner
2021 – Looking southwest towards the corner of Danforth Ave and Dawes Rd in the East Danforth neighbourhood of Toronto. The Empringham Hotel, later the Danforth Hotel, once stood at the corner (Google Maps)
1890 - The Toronto City Directory showing the proprietor of the Empringham Hotel in Little York
1890 – The Toronto City Directory showing the proprietor of the Empringham Hotel in Little York (Toronto Public Library)
1968 - The Toronto Yellow Pages showing the address and phone number of the Danforth Hotel
1968 – The Toronto Yellow Pages showing the address and phone number of the Danforth Hotel (Toronto Public Library)
SOURCE
  • The Toronto World Newspaper Archives: Dec 22, 1883, pg 4
  • The Toronto World Newspaper Archives: Mar 18, 1912, pg 2
  • The Toronto World Newspaper Archives: Jun 17, 1915, pg 7
  • The Toronto Telegram Newspaper Archives: Jun 17, 1915, pg 7
  • The Toronto Daily Star Newspaper Archives: Aug 4, 1917, pg 14
  • The Toronto Daily Star Newspaper Archives: Oct 11, 1919, pg 7
  • The Toronto Daily Star Newspaper Archives: Nov 13, 1971, pg B6
  • The Toronto Star Newspaper Archives: Nov 3, 1983, pg A6
  • Department of Tourism and Information: Where to Stay in Ontario 1964, pg 65
  • Ontario Labour Relations Board Reports: Decisions November 1984, pgs 1700-01
  • Vintage Photos: Toronto Public Library
  • Street Photo: Danforth Ave and Dawes Rd from Google Maps
  • Toronto City Directory by Might Directories Ltd 1890 courtesy of Toronto Public Library
  • Toronto Yellow Pages 1968 courtesy of Toronto Public Library

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