The Gladstone Hotel is located at 1214 Queen St W and Gladstone Ave (on the northeast corner) in the Queen Street West Art and Design District of Toronto. While the Gladstone is not located directly in Parkdale, the hotel and its 5-storey tower have been highly visible from the area for over 130 years.
The Previous Gladstone Hotel
Before the Gladstone building we know today, there was another hotel at the site dating back to around 1879. One of its early owners was Nixon Robinson, a hotelier and brewer. In July of 1880, after purchasing the Gladstone Hotel property, Mr Robinson suddenly passed away, leaving his wife Susanna and thirteen children.
Mrs Robinson continued to operate the business, advertising the hotel as a “$1 a day house.” Later that decade, Susanna commissioned architect George Martell Miller to draw up a proposal for a new hotel. The building permit valued the new structure at $30,000.
The Gladstone House – A Railroad Hotel
Built between 1889 and 1890, the Gladstone House was designed in the Richardsonian Romanesque style. Its exterior is made of rough-cut stone and red brick. Architectural highlights include beautiful arched windows, gargoyles that gaze down at passersby, ornately carved stonework, the words “GLADSTONE HOUSE” over the Queen St W entrance arch, wrought-iron balconies, lion head keystones and a corner observation tower that, until about the 1940s, was topped with a wooden cupola. A decorative marquis once protected the main entrance.
Inside the 58-room hotel were dining areas, parlours, a bar, a ballroom, a wood staircase and floors, and spacious corridors.
Back then, the hotel was near two train depots – the Parkdale Station was right across the street, and the C.P.R. Station was near the southeast corner of Queen St W and Dufferin St. Plus, the hotel was about a 10-minute walk to Exhibition grounds. The Gladstone House was clean and affordable, providing accommodation for commercial travellers doing business with the nearby factories, CNE exhibitors, and long-term guests such as railway employees. The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair recognized the hotel as “the only safe place for one’s great aunt to stay alone.”
From about 1896 until 1908, the hotel’s proprietor was a Scotsman named Turnbull Smith, and in 1907, during his ownership, a hand-operated Victorian elevator was installed. Then, for a few years, it was operated by Victor Gianelli, who sold it for $110,000 in 1912 to the newly formed Gladstone Hotel Company.
In the 1950s, much of the hotel’s first-floor exterior was clad with a lighter colour material. Over the years, the area’s factories gradually closed, and the hotel went into decline. In 1989, the Appelby family, who had owned the hotel since the mid-1960s, made some restorations to the tired building, which included cleaning the exterior.
New Ownership & A Major Restoration
In 2000, the Tippin and Zeidler families purchased the Gladstone for $2.3 million. Many retired people called the hotel home – it was about $156 a week for a room without a private bathroom or $201 with. But after decades of neglect, the hotel needed a lot of work. While there were assurances that no one would be evicted, the repairs required were so extensive that there was no choice but to relocate the 50 or so residents. In 2004, staff of the Gladstone helped many of them find a new home, with some moving into the Parkdale Arms.
Christina Zeidler, an artist and designer, along with her father, Eberhard (whose architectural firm designed the Eaton Centre), created the plans for the updates while ensuring the preservation of the building’s rich history.
Artist-Designed Room Project
As a part of Gladstone’s rejuvenation, local artists were asked to submit designs for the hotel’s guestrooms, which have 14 ft ceilings and were mostly around 200 sq ft. The submissions went through a formal juried process, and winning designs were selected based on their individuality and objectives while considering guests’ comfort. After each room underwent a general overhaul, which included wiring, plumbing, wood flooring, and a fully updated bathroom, the selected artists then had the freedom to design the artfully inspired rooms that were the result.
During the restoration, events from concerts to karaoke continued at the hotel. Reconstruction crews would work by day, and hotel staff would move the protective plastic coverings and tables at night for entertainment.
In late 2005, the revitalized and reinvented Gladstone Hotel reopened. A few of the other improvements included restoring the warm and spacious lobby as well as the restaurant, bars, ballroom, hotel corridors, wood floors, exposed brick walls, painted faux marble support columns and the historic hand-operated elevator, which is one of the last in existence in Toronto.
The Gladstone House Today
In 2020, the Gladstone was bought by the team behind the Broadview Hotel. The following year, the hotel was renamed the Gladstone House, and the guestrooms were fully renovated with a neutral colour palate and unique, locally crafted artwork.
The charming 55-room hotel also features the Bistro + Bar, the Melody Bar, the Robinson Room, and the Ballroom. It is available to host weddings, meetings, celebrations, films and photo shoots, corporate events and more.
Did You Know?
The Gladstone is Toronto’s oldest operating hotel.
Gladstone Ave is named after William Ewart Gladstone, who served four times as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1868 to 1874, 1880 to 1885, 1886 to 1886, and 1892 to 1894.
In architect George Miller’s late 1880s proposal drawings for the new hotel, it was going to be called “New Robson House.” Mr Miller was also the designer of Parkdale Collegiate.
The hotel was part of Heritage Toronto’s initial induction list in June 1973.
The Gladstone House was one of ten Toronto hotels featured in the 2022 Michelin Guide.