Hotel Ford – The Rise & Steep Fall of a Once-Great Toronto Hotel

Posted:

Between 1950s and 1960s - Looking northeast towards the Hotel Ford, once at the corner of Bay St and Dundas St W in the Downtown. When the hotel opened in 1928, it was the most modern in the city until the Royal York Hotel opened in 1929
Between 1950s and 1960s – Looking northeast towards the Hotel Ford, once at the corner of Bay St and Dundas St W in the Downtown. When the hotel opened in 1928, it was the most modern in the city until the Royal York Hotel opened in 1929 (Toronto Public Library TSPA_0113469F)

Hotel Ford was once located at Bay St and Dundas St W (on the northeast corner) in the Downtown Yonge area of Toronto. It was across the street from the former Toronto Coach Terminal.

Toronto’s Most Modern Hotel

In July 1927, R.T. Ford & Company began constructing the latest hotel in their expanding chain in Toronto. Just ten months later, Mayor Sam McBride was formally opening the city’s newest hostelry with a golden key. From Bay St, guests poured into the flower-filled rotunda – the men’s lobby had red leather chairs and the women’s lounge with patterned furnishings. Within 30 minutes, the 750-room Hotel Ford was completely sold out. That evening, an inaugural dinner was attended by government officials and prominent citizens.

The “fireproof” hotel cost approximately $1 million to build. It was made of concrete, steel and brown brick and was uniquely E-shaped. A cross-section on the building’s north side joined three 12-storey wings, all supported by a double-height one-storey base.

Hotel Ford featured “first-class accommodation at minimum rates,” ranging between $1.50-$2.50 for single occupancy or $2.50-$3.50 for double. The hotel was also marketed to those looking for permanent residence at $8 per week for one or $10 for two.

Each guestroom had a wardrobe, a bathroom with hot and cold running water, a telephone, a radio, a reading lamp, sunproof curtains, and the finest mattress and linens with all furnishings by the T Eaton Company. There was also a dedicated section for women only, with no men allowed to enter that part of the building – a feature already found in larger American hotels.

Hotel Ford’s dining room featured cuisine by the internationally famous chef of the former Queen’s Hotel (where the Royal York Hotel is located today), plus there were lounges, nightly entertainment, dances and parties. Other amenities included a house physician, a barber shop, a shoe shine stand, a magazine counter, a cigar store and valet service.

For its first year, Hotel Ford was the best hotel in Toronto… until the Royal York Hotel opened in 1929.

Hotel Ford’s Decline

February 10, 1974 – The demolition company Teperman & Sons Limited fencing and scaffolding surrounding the former Hotel Ford. The up-close photo is looking north from Dundas St W and Bay St. Notice the red and white "Hotel Ford" sign still on the building
February 10, 1974 – The demolition company Teperman & Sons Limited fencing and scaffolding surrounding the former Hotel Ford (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 51, Item 50)

The property later had various owners, including Sheraton Hotels. They had sold it in 1954 for $3.6 million; however, due to a default in mortgage payments, the hotel ended up back in Sheraton’s possession in the mid-1960s. Some renovations were made through the years, but Hotel Ford had slowly gone downhill.

A portion of the guests were seniors who were permanent residents, but others were using the hotel for illicit activities. What began as the city’s most modern hotel had become a grimy haven for crime and, as one local newspaper writer put it, “The Queen of the Dumps.” By the early 1970s, only 509 rooms were available for rent – a single was $8 per night with shared shower facilities or a double at $17 with your own bathroom. Even though there were signs at the front desk with the types of credit cards accepted, it was mainly a cash-in-advance hotel.

After a series of tragic events in its final years, including a deadly fire, a fatal 12-storey fall down an elevator shaft, and the murder of a 9-year-old boy, Hotel Ford closed in October 1973. Its contents were sold off, and by the summer of 1974, the building had been demolished.

Since the early 1980s, the northeast corner of Dundas St W and Bay St has been home to the Atrium on Bay office building.

Did You Know?

  • When excavation work began on the hotel in 1927, the fill was hauled away by horses and wagons. It was causing major traffic disruptions, so it was ordered that the work be carried out at night. It looks like construction and traffic issues have gone hand-in-hand in Toronto for nearly a century.
  • Ford Hotel’s first manager was Lou Scholes, a champion oarsman. Mr Scholes was brought up in the hotel business as his sportsman father was one of Toronto’s pioneer hotel proprietors, operating Athletes Hotel (once on Yonge St, at the site of the former Colonial Tavern).
  • Perched 49 m or 160 ft in the air on top of the hotel’s roof was Toronto’s first “skyscraper bungalow.” The 6-room green stucco residence was designed by architects Shepard & Calvin for Jack Green and completed in 1928.
  • Travellers coming into the city from the bus terminal often had their first sandwich and cup of coffee at the hotel’s restaurant.
  • A scene from the 1969 movie “The First Time,” starring Jacqueline Bisset, was filmed in Hotel Ford.
  • Staff referred to the hotel as “the Big F” (for Ford?).

The Hotel Ford Chain

The R.T. Ford & Company built and operated four other hotels, all designed by architect John Foster Warner. They include:

Rochester, NY – Hotel Richford for Men at 67 Chestnut St was the company’s first hotel. Located in their hometown, the 350-room property opened in 1915. It was later renamed Hotel Ford, then the Richford Hotel. The building has served a variety of uses and still stands today.

Buffalo, NY – Hotel Ford at 210 Delaware Ave was the chain’s second property, opening in the early 1920s. It had 750 rooms, and its architectural style became the blueprint for the company’s future hotels. Like Toronto, this building did not survive and was demolished circa 2000.

Erie, PA – Hotel Ford at 515 State St opened just weeks before Toronto in 1928. The 400-room hotel had two wings instead of three. Today, it’s a mixed-use building known as the Richford Arms Apartments.

Montreal, QC – Hotel Ford at 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd W was the fifth hotel. It opened in 1930 and had 750 guestrooms. The building was later renovated for other uses, and today, the former hotel is primarily office space.

Hotel Ford Photos

1928 - Hotel Ford was once located on the northeast corner of Bay St and Dundas St W in downtown Toronto. The 750-room hotel opened on May 31, 1928. It was one of five hotels owned and operated by R.T. Ford & Company. Their other hotels were located in Rochester, Buffalo, Erie and Montreal
1928 – Hotel Ford was once located on the northeast corner of Bay St and Dundas St W in downtown Toronto. The 750-room hotel opened on May 31, 1928. It was one of five hotels owned and operated by R.T. Ford & Company. Their other hotels were located in Rochester, Buffalo, Erie and Montreal (Toronto Public Library TSPA_0113468F)
October 3, 1928 – Looking northeast toward Hotel Ford from the intersection of Bay St and Dundas St W. The hotel's entrance and a flower garden were on the Bay St side. This photo was taken during Hotel Ford's opening year, and rates started at $1.50 per night
October 3, 1928 – Looking northeast toward Hotel Ford from the intersection of Bay St and Dundas St W. The hotel’s entrance and a flower garden were on the Bay St side. This photo was taken during Hotel Ford’s opening year, and rates started at $1.50 per night (City of Toronto Archives, Series 372, Sub Series 3, Item 735)
Circa 1928 – Looking west along Dundas St W from Yonge St in downtown Toronto. Hotel Ford is the tall building in the distance
Circa 1928 – Looking west along Dundas St W from Yonge St in downtown Toronto. Hotel Ford is the tall building in the distance (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 7304)
March 30, 1937 – Looking towards the northeast corner of Elizabeth St and Hagerman St, behind the present-day Toronto City Hall. Notice in the background, the upper floors of Hotel Ford, once at Bay St and Dundas St W
March 30, 1937 – Looking towards the northeast corner of Elizabeth St and Hagerman St, behind the present-day Toronto City Hall. Notice in the background, the upper floors of Hotel Ford, once at Bay St and Dundas St W (City of Toronto Archives, Series 372, Sub Series 33, Item 159)
August 31, 1949 - Looking west along Edward St from Yonge St in Toronto. Hotel Ford is the taller building in the background on the left. The hotel opened in May 1928 and closed in October 1973
August 31, 1949 – Looking west along Edward St from Yonge St in Toronto. Hotel Ford is the taller building in the background on the left. The hotel opened in May 1928 and closed in October 1973 (City of Toronto Archives, Series 372, Sub Series 58, Item 1982)
Between 1950s and 1960s - Looking northeast towards the Hotel Ford, once at the corner of Bay St and Dundas St W in the Downtown Yonge area of Toronto. When the hotel opened in 1928, it was the most modern in the city until the Royal York Hotel opened in 1929
Between 1950s and 1960s – Looking northeast towards the Hotel Ford, once at the corner of Bay St and Dundas St W in the Downtown Yonge area of Toronto. When the hotel opened in 1928, it was the most modern in the city until the Royal York Hotel opened in 1929 (Toronto Public Library TSPA_0113469F)
September 14, 1954 – Looking southeast from Edward St, west of Bay St towards the Toronto Coach Terminal, with Hotel Ford in the background. Those coming into the city from the bus terminal often had their first sandwich and cup of coffee at the hotel’s restaurant
September 14, 1954 – Looking southeast from Edward St, west of Bay St towards the Toronto Coach Terminal, with Hotel Ford in the background. Those coming into the city from the bus terminal often had their first sandwich and cup of coffee at the hotel’s restaurant (City of Toronto Archives, Series 381, File 312, ID 12330-6)
1971 - Looking northeast from the top of the east tower of Toronto City Hall towards Hotel Ford. It stood at Dundas St W and Bay St from 1928 until its demolition in 1974. Today the northeast corner is home to the Atrium on Bay office building
1971 – Looking northeast from the top of the east tower of Toronto City Hall towards Hotel Ford. It stood at Dundas St W and Bay St from 1928 until its demolition in 1974. Today the northeast corner is home to the Atrium on Bay office building (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 552, Item 34)
1972 - Murray's Restaurant and a travel bureau were located on the ground floor of Hotel Ford, once at 595 Bay St in downtown Toronto. A portion of the hotel's guestroom wings are visible in the photo
1972 – Murray’s Restaurant and a travel bureau were located on the ground floor of Hotel Ford, once at 595 Bay St in downtown Toronto. A portion of the hotel’s guestroom wings are visible in the photo (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 2032, Series 841, File 61, Item 17)
1972 - Looking southeast along Bay St from Edward St towards Coleman's Delicatessen, shops and the main entrance to Hotel Ford once at 595 Bay St in the Downtown Yonge area of Toronto. The hotel closed the year after this photo was taken
1972 – Looking southeast along Bay St from Edward St towards Coleman’s Delicatessen, shops and the main entrance to Hotel Ford once at 595 Bay St in the Downtown Yonge area of Toronto. The hotel closed the year after this photo was taken (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 2032, Series 841, File 59, Item 24)
January 27, 1974 – Looking northwest on Dundas St W from Yonge St towards Desire clothing boutique in an old TTC streetcar and the demolition of Hotel Ford. When the 750-room hotel opened in 1928, it was the best and most modern in the city. Through the years, the hotel had a slow but steep decline. After 45 years in operation, Hotel Ford closed
January 27, 1974 – Looking northwest on Dundas St W from Yonge St towards Desire clothing boutique in an old TTC streetcar and the demolition of Hotel Ford. When the 750-room hotel opened in 1928, it was the best and most modern in the city. Through the years, the hotel had a slow but steep decline. After 45 years in operation, Hotel Ford closed (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 51, Item 46)
February 10, 1974 – The demolition company Teperman & Sons Limited fencing and scaffolding surrounding the former Hotel Ford. The up-close photo is looking north from Dundas St W and Bay St. Notice the red and white "Hotel Ford" sign still on the building
February 10, 1974 – The demolition company Teperman & Sons Limited fencing and scaffolding surrounding the former Hotel Ford. The up-close photo is looking north from Dundas St W and Bay St. Notice the red and white “Hotel Ford” sign still on the building (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 51, Item 50)
February 10, 1974 – Looking west along Dundas St W from Yonge St in downtown Toronto. In the foreground is Desire, a women's clothing boutique in an old TTC streetcar, surrounded by a white picket fence. In the background is Hotel Ford during demolition, with its top floor removed
February 10, 1974 – Looking west along Dundas St W from Yonge St in downtown Toronto. In the foreground is Desire, a women’s clothing boutique in an old TTC streetcar, surrounded by a white picket fence. In the background is Hotel Ford during demolition, with its top floor removed (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 51, Item 52)
April 14, 1974 - Looking northwest from a parking lot once at Dundas St W and Bay St towards a nearly demolished Hotel Ford. All that was left to tear down was the double-height first storey. In the background, notice the McKnight Building on the left, the red Toronto Coach Terminal sign and the cooling tower of the Enwave Energy Corporation – Walton Street Steam Plant
April 14, 1974 – Looking northwest from a parking lot once at Dundas St W and Bay St towards a nearly demolished Hotel Ford. All that was left to tear down was the double-height first storey. In the background, notice the McKnight Building on the left, the red Toronto Coach Terminal sign and the cooling tower of the Enwave Energy Corporation – Walton Street Steam Plant (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 51, Item 56)
2022 - Looking northeast towards the Atrium on Bay office building at the corner of Bay St and Dundas St W in the Downtown Yonge area of Toronto. Hotel Ford stood at the site from 1928 until its demolition in 1974
2022 – Looking northeast towards the Atrium on Bay office building at the corner of Bay St and Dundas St W in the Downtown Yonge area of Toronto. Hotel Ford stood at the site from 1928 until its demolition in 1974
Between 1931 and 1935 - Billboard advertising for Hotel Ford with rooms at "$1.50-$2.50 single - no higher." The 750-room hotel was once located at the northeast corner of Bay St and Dundas St W in Toronto
Between 1931 and 1935 – Billboard advertising for Hotel Ford with rooms at “$1.50-$2.50 single – no higher.” The 750-room hotel was once located at the northeast corner of Bay St and Dundas St W in Toronto (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1488, Series 1230, Item 57)
Between 1929 and 1930 - Billboard advertising for the Royal Alexandra Theatre and Hotel Ford. Along with accommodation for travellers, the hotel was also marketed to those looking for permanent residence at $8 per week for one or $10 for two
Between 1929 and 1930 – Billboard advertising for the Royal Alexandra Theatre and Hotel Ford. Along with accommodation for travellers, the hotel was also marketed to those looking for permanent residence at $8 per week for one or $10 for two (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1488, Series 1230, Item 3707)
1928 - The Toronto City Directory showing the address of Hotel Ford
1928 – The Toronto City Directory showing the address of Hotel Ford (Toronto Public Library)
1970 – The Toronto Yellow Pages showing an ad for Hotel Ford
1970 – The Toronto Yellow Pages showing an ad for Hotel Ford (Toronto Public Library)
2021 - The former 750-room Hotel Ford at 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd W in Montreal. The hotel opened in 1930. The building was later renovated for other uses, and today its primarily office space
2021 – The former 750-room Hotel Ford at 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd W in Montreal. The hotel opened in 1930. The building was later renovated for other uses, and today its primarily office space (Google Maps)
2018 - The former 400-room Hotel Ford at 515 State St in Erie, PA. The two-wing hotel opened in 1928, just a few weeks before Toronto's Hotel Ford opened. Today it’s a mixed-use building known as the Richford Arms Apartments
2018 – The former 400-room Hotel Ford at 515 State St in Erie, PA. The two-wing hotel opened in 1928, just a few weeks before Toronto’s Hotel Ford opened. Today it’s a mixed-use building known as the Richford Arms Apartments (Google Maps)
2021 - The R.T. Ford & Company's first hotel was opened at 67 Chestnut St in Rochester, NY, in 1915. It was originally called Hotel Richford for Men and later Hotel Ford. The building has served a variety of uses and still stands today
2021 – The R.T. Ford & Company’s first hotel was opened at 67 Chestnut St in Rochester, NY, in 1915. It was originally called Hotel Richford for Men and later Hotel Ford. The building has served a variety of uses and still stands today (Google Maps)
SOURCE
  • The Toronto Daily Star Newspaper Archives: Jul 8, 1927, pg 16
  • The Globe Newspaper Archives: May 31, 1928, pgs 16 & 18
  • The Toronto Daily Star Newspaper Archives: Jun 1, 1928, pgs 5 & 13
  • The Globe and Mail Newspaper Archives: Jul 8, 1954, pg 23
  • The Globe and Mail Newspaper Archives: Oct 9, 1968, pg B13
  • The Globe and Mail Newspaper Archives: May 12, 1969, pg 1
  • The Globe and Mail Newspaper Archives: Nov 16, 1970, pg 5
  • The Globe and Mail Newspaper Archives: Sep 29, 1973, pg 5
  • The Toronto Daily Star Newspaper Archives: Oct 1, 1973, pg A3
  • The Globe and Mail Newspaper Archives: Nov 1, 1973, pg 1
  • The Globe and Mail Newspaper Archives: Jun 12, 1979, pg D1
  • Photos: Denise Marie for TorontoJourney416
  • Vintage Photos: City of Toronto Archives & Toronto Public Library
  • Street Photo: 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd W (Montreal), 515 State St (Erie, PA) & 67 Chestnut St (Rochester, NY) from Google Maps
  • Toronto City Directory by Might Directories Ltd 1928 courtesy of Toronto Public Library
  • Toronto Yellow Pages 1970 courtesy of Toronto Public Library

Stay Connected

23,624FollowersFollow
103FollowersFollow
8,925FollowersFollow