Winchester Hotel & Hall – A Historic Cabbagetown Treasure

1954 - Winchester Hotel at Parliament & Winchester Sts, looking southeast (Toronto Public Library r-5790)
1954 – Winchester Hotel at Parliament & Winchester Sts, looking southeast (Toronto Public Library r-5790)

The Winchester Hotel & Hall is located at 531-537 Parliament St (at Winchester St on the southeast corner) in the Cabbagetown neighbourhood of Toronto. The beginnings of this landmark date back to the mid-1800s, and while it has gone through many phases, it has evolved back to its original grandeur.

The Early Years

In 1857, a farmer named James McCaffrey purchased the land and opened the Santa Claus Tavern three years later. The Lake View House Hotel was established in 1866 on the same site. Set-back from Parliament St, it was a 2-storey pebbledash building.

By 1880, the property was owned and managed by John Ayre. He added a pebbledash and brick addition in the direction of Parliament St. It was then that the Lake View House Hotel became Winchester Hall, while the new addition became the Lake View Hotel.

The Lake View Hotel

1891 - Lakeview Hotel, today's Winchester Hotel, at 537 Parliament St and Winchester St on the southeast corner
1891 – Lakeview Hotel, today’s Winchester Hotel, at 537 Parliament St and Winchester St on the southeast corner (Toronto: Old and New 1891 book by Adam G Mercer)

In 1888, the Lake View Hotel was replaced with the red-brick, 3½-storey building and 2½-storey extension we know today. The Second-Empire style hotel, which fronts onto Parliament St, was designed by architects Thomas Kennedy and William Holland. A popular “up-town” resort destination, it had the most up-to-date amenities, including telephones, electric bells and bathrooms on each floor, as well as iron and patent rope fire escapes in each room. Other highlights included a belvedere to view the lake, a public hall, billiard room, lodge room, a good lawn and in the summer, a garden. It was said to be “…kept scrumptiously neat and inviting throughout.”

The Architecture of the Winchester Hotel & Hall

Architectural features of the Winchester Hotel include a pressed metal ceiling on the interior of the main floor while the exterior has a mansard roof clad with slate, gabled dormers, brick corbelling, stone sills and lintels, pilasters and a domed corner tower which was topped with a belvedere/lantern.

The 2-storey Winchester Hall fronts onto Winchester St and is interconnected to the hotel. Its architectural elements include quoin corners, a gable roof with bracketed eaves and arched windows with bracketed stone sills and brick voussoirs. Inside the Hall on the second floor is the historic Laurentian Room, which dates back to the 1930s.

Art Moderne Updates

In 1941, architect Benjamin Swartz was hired to make updates to the Victorian-era buildings. On the hotel’s interior, the lobby and entrance off Winchester St were redesigned in Art Moderne style. Plus, a terrazzo and chrome staircase leading to the second floor replaced a wooden one. On the exterior, a 2-storey “Winchester” sign and clock were hung on the landmark’s northwest corner, and the main floor was clad with laminate panels called Vetrolite®. In 1955, the laminate panels were removed and replaced with Granox.

For a time, the Winchester became known as one of the toughest watering holes in the City.

The Restoration of the Cabbagetown Gem

2021 - Winchester Hotel & Hall with lantern back on the domed tower, looking southeast
2021 – Winchester Hotel & Hall with lantern back on the domed tower, looking southeast

In 2006, Stanford Downey Architects was commissioned to do some significant restoration work on the exterior. This included removing the Granox and rebuilding the damaged brick underneath with matching salvaged face brick. The ground-floor windows were enlarged and dressed with sandstone to match the original. Using vintage photos, they also recreated wood entry doors and windows.

In August 2009, a fire broke out, and flames were coming from the roof. Firefighters battled the flames and saved the historic building.

The Winchester Hotel & Hall owner hired Hunt Heritage, period-correct preservationists, to do the exterior restoration. In 2019, the company worked their magic in preserving the edifice. This included traditionally tuckpointing the brick and adding the lantern with flagpole back to the top of the domed tower (it had been removed before 1955). And while doing the work, they uncovered (and restored) a hidden gem – a mosaic tile apron at the Parliament St entrance that says “Lake View.”

The Cabbagetown landmark is residential and commercial, with a Church’s Texas Chicken and Subway on the main floor.

Did You Know?

  • Parliament St was named after the first Parliament Buildings constructed in the late 1700s. Governor Simcoe had the government buildings built on land south of Front St E, between Berkeley and Parliament Sts.
  • In the mid-1800s, many people who emigrated to Canada due to the Irish famine settled in this area. Since they did not have much money, they planted their gardens, and the main vegetable grown was cabbage, hence the name Cabbagetown.
  • The building received heritage designation from the City in 1975.

Winchester Hotel & Hall Photos

1891 - Lakeview Hotel and later Winchester Hotel once at 537 Parliament St at Winchester St, southeast corner
1891 – Lakeview Hotel and later Winchester Hotel once at 537 Parliament St at Winchester St, southeast corner (Photo from Toronto: Old and New 1891 book by Adam G Mercer)
2022 - Looking southeast towards the Winchester Hotel and Hall at 531-537 Parliament St and Winchester St
2022 – Looking southeast towards the Winchester Hotel and Hall at 531-537 Parliament St and Winchester St
2021 - The Winchester Hotel looking east from Parliament St, just south of Winchester St
2021 – The Winchester Hotel looking east from Parliament St, just south of Winchester St
1891 - Lakeview Hotel, today's Winchester Hotel, at 537 Parliament St and Winchester St on the southeast corner
1891 – Lakeview Hotel, today’s Winchester Hotel, at 537 Parliament St and Winchester St on the southeast corner (Toronto: Old and New 1891 book by Adam G Mercer)
1954 - Winchester Hotel at Parliament & Winchester Sts, looking southeast (Toronto Public Library r-5790)
1954 – Winchester Hotel at Parliament & Winchester Sts, looking southeast (Toronto Public Library r-5790)
1972 - Winchester Hotel & Hall at Parliament & Winchester Sts, looking southeast
1972 – Winchester Hotel & Hall at Parliament & Winchester Sts, looking southeast
2022 - The lantern on the Winchester Hotel & Hall
2022 – The lantern on the Winchester Hotel & Hall
2021 - Winchester Hotel & Hall with lantern back on the domed tower, looking southeast from Winchester St and Parliament St
2021 – Winchester Hotel & Hall with lantern back on the domed tower, looking southeast from Winchester St and Parliament St
2020 - Winchester Hotel & Hall after preservation work and before addition of the lantern back on the domed tower, looking southeast
2020 – Winchester Hotel & Hall after preservation work and before addition of the lantern back on the domed tower, looking southeast
2020 - Winchester Hotel, looking east
2020 – Winchester Hotel, looking east
2020 - Seating area inside Tim Horton's
2020 – Seating area inside Tim Horton’s
2020 - Photos located inside Tim Horton's of the Lake View Hotel and bar
2020 – Photos located inside Tim Horton’s of the Lake View Hotel and bar
2020 - Chandelier and metallic ceiling inside Tim Horton's
2020 – Chandelier and metallic ceiling inside Tim Horton’s
2021 - Winchester Hotel with lantern back on the domed tower, looking east
2021 – Winchester Hotel with lantern back on the domed tower, looking east
2021 - The Lakeview Hotel mosaic tile apron discovered during restorations on the Parliament St side
2021 – The Lakeview Hotel mosaic tile apron discovered during restorations on the Parliament St side
2021 - On the Parliament St side of the Winchester Hotel, a mosaic tile apron displaying the original name, Lakeview Hotel, was discovered during restorations
2021 – On the Parliament St side of the Winchester Hotel, a mosaic tile apron displaying the original name, Lakeview Hotel, was discovered during restorations
2020 - Winchester Hotel & Hall during restoration
2020 – Winchester Hotel & Hall during restoration
1939 - The Toronto City Directory showing the address and phone number of the Winchester Hotel
1939 – The Toronto City Directory showing the address and phone number of the Winchester Hotel (Toronto Public Library)
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