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Visiting the Winchester Hotel, Parliament Street, Toronto, Ontario: a Second Empire building dating from 1888

Updated on November 11, 2015
Provincial flag of Ontario
Provincial flag of Ontario | Source
Winchester Hotel, Toronto
Winchester Hotel, Toronto | Source

Late 19th century elegance

This former hotel building at 531 Parliament Street, Toronto, Ontario, is today the home of a number of businesses, but it is still sometimes known collectively as the Winchester Hotel, under which name it functioned from its inception in 1888.

Features of the building, executed in red brick in Second Empire style, include mansard roofing with dormer windows with Syrian arches. Interestingly, the mansard roofing is 'staggered' between two levels, so that the building at the southern end of its Parliament Street elevation has 2½ storeys, while at its northern end it has 3½ storeys. The cornices between the storeys are particularly prominent.

The pronounced domed roof at the corner of Parliament and Winchester Streets formerly provided a base for a lantern, now removed, but which is still visible in old photos of the property.

One of the businesses which uses the former Winchester Hotel is the iconic Tim Horton's, and this branch of the famous company, which has almost come to define Canadians, must be among the most photogenic.

It seems to me that in some ways the former Winchester Hotel, Toronto, is comparable with the Gladstone Hotel on Queen Street West: both date from the 1880s and are executed in red brick; but whereas the Winchester Hotel is in Second Empire style, and has long been put to other uses, the Romanesque Revival Gladstone Hotel still serves its original function.

The property was recognized in 1985 for its heritage value under the Ontario Heritage Act. The preservation of the former Winchester Hotel in good condition is part of the wide context of preservation efforts for older buildings in Cabbagetown, Toronto, with its many restored Victorian properties.

Kennedy and Holland were the architectural partnership responsible for the building (2). Modifications to the structure dating from 1941 were the responsibility of architect Benjamin Swartz (1899-1961) (3).

The building on Winchester Street adjacent to the former Winchester Hotel dates from 1880 and was formerly known as the Lake View Hotel, subsequently Winchester Hall.

November 11, 2015


(1) See also:

(2) The leader partner, Thomas Kennedy (c.1849-1916) was jointly responsible for numerous commercial and ecclesiastical properties across Ontario.

(3) Architect Swartz was notably responsible for the Kiever Synagogue,Toronto.

Map location of Toronto, Ontario
Map location of Toronto, Ontario | Source

Also worth seeing

In Downtown Toronto itself, visitor attractions include: the CN Tower, Old City Hall, St James's Cathedral, Osgoode Hall, Campbell House, the Ontario Legislative Assembly Building at Queen's Park, Fort York, Union Station, and many others.


How to get there: Porter Airlines, flies to Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, with wide North American connections. Car rental is available at Union Station. Air Canada flies to Toronto Pearson Airport, with wide North American and other connections, from where car rental is available, but visitors to Downtown Toronto will find many sights to be easily walkable. TTC Bus 65 passes 531 Parliament Street. Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent. For any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities, please refer to appropriate consular sources.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


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