Can a building boast nine lives? Seeing the latest iteration of an edifice in Toronto’s historic east end, one might think so.
Located east of the Don Valley (a channel of green space that dissects the city at the outskirts of the downtown core), the Broadview Hotel, which opened in the summer of 2017, is now one of Toronto’s chicest boutique hotels. Part of the Broadview’s charm is its varied history — and those nine lives, if such can exist, have been all over the spectrum.
The structure was built in 1891 by Archibald Dingman, a wealthy entrepreneur who earned his substantial fortune in the soap trade. Looking to invest that fortune, he turned his attention to the real estate boom that was occurring in Toronto’s east end. The intersection of Queen and Broadview served as a thoroughfare between Toronto proper and the newly annexed community of Riverside, and Dingman aptly predicted the value of such a location. He purchased the land and erected Dingman Hall, a social hub for the prominent figures of the day; it served as a regular haunt for politicians, athletes, and other well-known Toronto personalities.
When Dingman turned his attentions and prospects towards the oil boom that was occurring in Alberta at the turn of the twentieth century, he sold the building and it was transformed into the Broadview Hotel. It has since changed hands and names numerous times; in the ’30s, it was known as the Lincoln Hotel, and in the ’70s, a notorious strip joint opened on the ground floor, and the upper floors were converted into a cheap boarding house. Jilly’s, as the strip club was called, operated for three decades and, according to the Broadview’s website, became the setting for numerous myths and urban legends — including one story in which, supposedly, a live tiger appeared onstage beside a dancer.
In May of 2014, the building was once again purchased and transformed. With a luxurious vision and a careful eye trained on the structure’s architectural and social history, Streetcar Developments infused what was once the Broadview Hotel with new life. And in homage to its history, that name was revived.
Today the hotel has been mindfully and imaginatively restored by one of Canada’s most distinguished design firms, DesignAgency, and boasts fifty-eight guest rooms and three venue spaces. The Rooftop, situated on the seventh floor and boasting a large indoor/outdoor terrace as well as magnificent 360-degree views of the Toronto cityscape, is a room meant for any private function, be it night or day. The centrepiece of this room is, perhaps, its grand pyramidal skylight, which floods the cool, airy space with natural light. The Dominion Suite, on the other hand, is a grand guest room that offers views of the Queen and Broadview intersection, and is designed for smaller cocktail parties and receptions.
The true star of the building’s redesign, however, is the Tower. Located on the seventh floor rooftop, this venue offers a breathtaking vaulted ceiling and arched historic windows. Exposed brick, warm wood tones, and numerous chandeliers help to create a swanky atmosphere, a seeming throwback to the building’s early days of glitz and glam.
While elements of the original structure have been honoured and highlighted in this redesign, the rooms themselves are rich with contemporary details. Sleek, streamlined furniture makes the most of each space, and subtle details like floral wallpaper and saturated jewel tones in the upholstery and curtains infuse each room with vintage flair. Each room also comes equipped with a vinyl turntable, so guests can relax or dance to the kind of grainy acoustic sounds that perfectly match this throwback atmosphere.
Rich with character, history, and contemporary elegance, the Broadview Hotel is now a landmark of Toronto’s cultural scene. When it was built, the structure was the tallest building east of the Don Valley — and thanks to the exciting vision of its designers and developers, the Hotel is reaching great heights in a brand new way.
Photos courtesy of the Broadview Hotel