This Sunday was an alumnae gathering of university friends—“High Tea” offered each week at the King Edward (Meridian) Hotel on King Street.
The King Edward has always been one of my favourites because of its rare (for Toronto) Edwardian architecture. Most of our older buildings are Victorian, that is, overly ornate and rather scary-looking as they age. Edwardian style is much less fussy, with less clutter and lovely art nouveau influences.
When it opened in 1903, the hotel was lauded for many things, including being fireproof—a critical fact considering a year later the city’s second great fire destroyed most of lower Bay and Front Streets. The King Edward, however, made of stone and survived. It was designed by Chicago architect Henry Ives Cobb and prominent Toronto architect E.J. Lennox (who also designed the Old City hall and Casa Loma).
Named after Edward VII (Queen Victoria’s son), the King Eddy has hosted its share of sleeping royals including the Queen Mother and Prince Philip (not sure where the Queen was). For those recently caught up in The King’s Speech, King Edward VII was the grandfather of “Colin Firth” (George V1) —not to be confused with Edward the VIII who married Mrs. Simpson (who, by the way, also slept at the King Eddy at least once).
If those walls could talk —our “King Eddy” hotel has a celebrity guest list that boasts the rich, the famous, the royal and the controversial. It’s where John Lennon and Yoko staged one of their famous “bed-ins for peace”, and Richard Burton presented Elizabeth Taylor with her giant Krupp Diamond while a few protested outside because Liz was staying at the hotel with Richard Burton before they were married (just imagine that!). We peaked into the room where they stayed, today the dining room, so adored with filigree plaster that it looks like its covered in lace. Authors that may have found inspiration while inside its walls include Twain and Kipling. Guests still alive today include the Rolling Stones (I think all are still alive?) Catherine-Zeta-Jones, Celine Dion, and Beyonce Knowles, the list goes on….
So we were part of the guest list this week, savouring King Edward-blend tea with plates piled high with scones and treats. We were tourists in our own city for the afternoon, soaking up attention as doormen greeted us in the lobby as if we too were staying in its lovely quarters rather than returning home in within the hour!