After four decades of gradual decline, and by the early 1970s one of the few remaining historic edifices on the block, the Hotel Victoria had hit a major turning point. Facing foreclosure, and most likely a hasty demolition in the name of progress, the old hotel was saved via its purchase – for the paltry sum of $10,000 [$66,500 today] – by an aspiring hotelier named Paul Phelan. Following its purchase by Phelan in 1971, the hotel was completely refurbished yet again, for $2.5 million [$16.4 million today], thereby giving the establishment its first major overhaul in nearly half a century. Phelan is reported to have gone to great lengths to return the hotel to its Edwardian glory days, sourcing decor, fabrics, and furnishing appropriate to the period, albeit with a heavy dose of 1970s flair. The upstairs bar was given a nautical theme, while the main lobby was graced by a large commissioned oil painting by Ken Cameron. Under Phelan’s stewardship, the Hotel Victoria was successfully brought back from the brink, Toronto’s first “boutique” hotel fashionable and profitable once more.
While Phelan’s Hotel Victoria enjoyed commercial success for fifteen eyars, by the mid-1980s, facing pressure to spend millions in renovations owing to the City’s recently updated fire and safety codes, the hotel was once again put up for sale. In 1984, the Hotel Victoria was purchased for a fifth time by fellow real estate developer Charles Goldsmith for $2.5 million [$5.6 million today]. During Goldsmith’s thirteen-year tenure, the hotel was brought up to code, its facade given a thorough cleaning and facelift, and its historic interior plaster and marble detail work was restored to its original condition. Outside, the front entrance was completely remodelled, the original configuration transformed via the creation of a large glass atrium. Inside, the lobby was fully redone, the original spiral staircase removed and closed off for fire safety reasons, the old crank elevators replaced, the dumbwaiters filled in and covered over, and a new sprinkler system installed. Profitable yet again, the Goldsmith era was one of renewed 1980s elegance and sophistication, the hotel featuring a popular destination restaurant for visitors to the city looking to see a show. Reivewed by the Toronto Star in 1989, the hotel’s recently updated restaurant received glowing comments, the menu praised for its “up-to-the-minute” calamari and leek and parsnip crème fraîche, even if its goat cheese bruschetta was “a bit California”. Entering once more into relevance and profitability, the Hotel Victoria prospered under the Goldsmith era until its eventual sale in 1997 to the Silver Hotel Group.
The Hotel Victoria underwent yet another large scale renovation, its facade cleaned and restored once again, its historic interior details similarly preserved amid a host of contemporary updates. In 2011, the Silver Hotel Group saw through yet another complete remodelling of the lobby and guestrooms, the original marble and plaster work preserved throughout the process. In 2013, an application was sent to the City as part of a request on behalf of the Silver Hotel Group, to double the height of the structure – an effort which was ultimately abandoned in favour of the property’s sale. Thus in 2017, the Hotel Victoria was sold yet again, this time to Quadreal Property Group, which has since harboured extensive redevelopment plans for the site, including the encasing of the hotel’s facade into what would be a 64-storey addition to Commerce Court. While little of the current plan has been elaborated upon in recent years, it would seem that the Hotel Victoria could yet be in for another significant chapter as the 110 year-old hotel enters its next act.