Friday, November 24, 2017

Omni King Edward Hotel

The Omni King Edward Hotel is located on an entire block that is bounded by King Street, Victoria Street, Colborne Street and Leader Lane in downtown Toronto, Ontario.  The King Edward was designed by Chicago architect Henry Ives Cobb, known for his Richardsonian, Romanesque and Victorian Gothic styles and Toronto architect E.J Lennox, who was responsible for the design of many prominent buildings in Toronto.   The building was commissioned by developer, businessman and politician, George Gooderham for his Toronto Hotel Company.  The hotel cost $6 million to build. When the hotel opened it was billed as the most luxurious hotel in Toronto, equipped with electricity, telephones and all the modern facilities in each room for guests to enjoy.  All guests rooms had private bathrooms and showers and were beautifully carpeted and decorated with rich colours and soft furnishings.  

The hotel was named in honour of King Edward VII and opened in 1903 boasting 400 hundred rooms and 300 baths.  The hotel claimed to be fireproof. In 1922 an18 storey tower was added with 530 additional rooms.  The top two floors of the tower contain the Crystal Ballroom, the most lavish in the city. High above the city with floor to ceiling windows the Crystal Ballroom boasted the best views in the city. When stricter fire codes were introduced in the 1950s in Toronto the Crystal Ballroom didn’t comply and was closed.  As part of the luxurious style of the time four large murals depicting Canadian history, painted by American artist William de Leftwiche Dodge were commissioned for the hotel.  The four murals depicted the French fur traders, First Nations People, exploration of North America by John Cabot and General Wolfe’s victory at the Plains of Abraham.  The fourth of the mural depicting Wolfe and the Plains of Abraham was not to the liking of architect Lennox, and following a court ruling in favour of the artist, Lennox replaced the mural anyway with a work by Canadian artist Frederick Challener.  The mural painted by Challener was titled Trading at Fort Rouille.  Sadly these murals disappeared during the renovations of the hotel in the 1980s.

 The hotel became an exclusive destination for gentlemen to smoke cigars and women who sipped tea in the hotel's elegant sitting rooms.  In  accordance with the strict gender role expectations of the time, the King Edward was sensitive to females travelling alone and had a seperate entrance for such women for the check in process.  This entrance was known as the Ladies Booking Room and served as a place that women could use the telephone, make bookings for events and even receive guests.  A Ladies Parlour on the second floor was a place women could relax and look down at the going on at the hotel.  The Palour was furnished with beautiful soft furnishings and artworks, including an ivory jewel box owned by a French Noble woman during the renaissance in the 16th century, Diane de Poitiers. For men the hotel boasted a mahogany newsstand and cigar store, that was situated in the main lobby.  The Bar and Gentlemen’s Cafe, located on the main floor of the hotel was strictly for men only.  The Grill Room was a place that men could have the finest grilled meats and like the male only Billiard Room was located in the basement of the hotel.  A well equipped and modern barber shop was also located in the hotel for the use of its male patrons.

The artwork in the hotel is worth over $75 million.  When the hotel opened, the art installations in the hotel included, paintings, carvings, metalwork and pottery.  Some of the art work was purchased from the Clemenceau collection of Paris. Clemenceau was a physician, the Prime Minister of France  and reportedly a good friend of Monet.  Some of the artwork was purchased from a church in Bruges, Brussels. Other rare pieces include the terracotta statue of Venus dating back to 300BC and the Japanese Bronze Temple Lantern from the 15th century.  Paintings by John Constable, Jean Baptiste Regnault, Charles-Francois Daubigny, Adolphe-Joseph Thomas Monticelli and Caspar Netscher adorn the walls of the hotel.  

The Omni King Edward was also famous for housing one of the first radio stations in Toronto. CKGW, a Toronto based station, was owned by Gooderham and Worts Ltd, the local distillery that belonged to George Gooderham.  With Radio stations becoming a popular source of promotion, Gooderham and Worts set up offices and studios in the King Edward Hotel.  CKGW began broadcasting from the hotel on March 5th 1928.  Having the lasted equipment the station shared its wavelength and broadcast only six hours every other day.  

The hotel passed through a number of hands in the following years.  In 1933 the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company became the owners of the hotel.  Between 1941 and 1950 the hotel was owned by C.A Ripley and Vernon Cardy. The Mount Royal Hotel in Montreal, the Royal ConnaughtHotel in Hamilton, the General Brock in Niagara Falls, the Prince Edward in Windsor and the Alpine Inn in Sainte Adele Quebec were all owned by the Cardy's hotel chain.  In 1950s Sheraton bought the Cardy Hotel chain.  Following several years of decline the King Edward Hotel was bought by Trans Inc in 1979.  They paid 6.3 million dollars for the establishment.  The hotel was closed for a 30 million dollar restoration completed by Stanford Downey Architects Inc. The property reopened in 1981 as part of the Trusthouse Forte Hotels, after Forte had acquired the Meridien Hotels from Air France.  In 1994 the King Edward was renamed Le Meridien King Edward.  

On the hotel's 100th anniversary Ontario Heritage Trust unveiled a commemorative plaque.  The Crystal Ballroom was also renovated with a $6.5 million dollar makeover. In 2005 Starwood Hotels purchased the property.  A huge restoration ensued and Omni Hotel assumed the management in 2013.  The hotel was renamed Omni King Edward Hotel buying it outright in 2015.  

Many notable people have stayed at the hotel including Mark Twain, Rudolph Valentino, Louis Armstrong, Elvis Presley and Ernest Hemingway, who lived there for a period of time.  The Beatles stayed in the hotel,.  Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor carried on a notorious affair in the hotel.  Leonard Cohen wrote a musical set in the hotel called "I am a Hotel".

The Omni King Edward is a source of many paranormal reports. The service elevator to the Crystal Ballroom behaves erratically, stopping for no reason.  Chandeliers have been known to swing with vigour for no apparent reason.  Guests staying in rooms below the deserted Crystal Ballroom have reportedly heard music and the sounds of celebration and people talking. 

I thought that the Omni King Edward Hotel was a beautiful place to stay.  My suite was huge and opulent with gorgeous views of Toronto.  The breakfast was served in an opulent room that was adorned with magnificent art and tapestries.  The foyer of the hotel is grand and luxurious.  I would definitely recommend this gorgeous hotel.  

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Fulford Place, Brockville Ontario

Fulford Place is an Edwardian building situated in Brockville, Ontario on the shore of the St Lawrence River.  Formerly known as Elizabethtown, Brockville is a city in Eastern Ontario. It was first settled by English speakers in 1785 when refugees from the American Revolution fled north.  William Buell Sr was the first loyalist to settle in the area, resulting in locals calling it Buell’s Bay.  As the area grew the town was renamed Elizabethtown by officials from Upper Canada.  In 1812 leading residents of the town suggested naming the town Brockville in honor of Major General Isaac Brock, widely recognised as the saviour of Upper Canada during the war with America.  

By the nineteenth century Brockville had developed into a local centre of industry with a foundry, shipbuilding, a tinsmith, tanneries and a brewery.  In 1854 Brockville and Morristown NY, situated across the Lawrence River, became centres for the patent medicine industry.  Such medicinal products as ‘Dr Morse’s Indian Root Pills’ And ‘Dr McKenzie’s Worm Tablets’ were made.  It was the patent and creation of ‘Dr William’s Pink Pills for Pale People’ that resulted in Fulford Place being built.  

George Taylor Fulford was the proprietor of a drug store and also famous for owning the patent for ‘Dr William’s Pink Pills for Pale People’.  The Pills claimed to cure cholera, nervous headaches, palpitations, sallow complexions and partial paralysis.  The medicine contained iron oxide and magnesium sulfate. G.T Fulford & Company aquired the exclusive patent and the product came to be advertised in over 80 countries around the world.  

With his growing wealth Fulford commissioned NY architect Albert W. Fuller to design and build a summer home in Brockville.  The mansion was decorated in Beaux Arts style, characterised by French and Italian Baroque and Rococo formulas.  The building of the Edwardian mansion was begun in 1899 and finished in 1901 and the mansion was famous for its lavish design and decor.  The mansion has 35 rooms including a grand hall, huge verandah, a moorish smoking room and billiard room as well as a rococo style drawing room. The gardens, originally part of the ten acres of land on which Fulford Place was constructed, were designed by the Olmstead Brother.  The Olmstead Brother’s Company were an influential landscape architectural firm from the United States, established by brothers, John Charles Olmstead and Frederick Law Olmstead Jnr.  

At the age of 53 Fulford was the first person in Canada to die in an automobile accident. On October 8th 1905, Fulford was riding in a chauffeur driven open roadster in Newton, Massachusetts.  The car slammed into a streetcar, resulting in the death of the chauffeur and Fulford who died seven days after the accident.  Following his untimely death his socialite wife Mary Wilder White became fascinated with spiritualism and started to hold regular seances at the mansion.  Mary was close friends with the Prime Minister of Canada, William Lyon MacKenzie King, also an enthusiast of the occult.  In the 1930’s King met medium Henrietta Wreidt and it is reported that they attended a seance at the Fulford house and experienced Direct Voice Mediumship.  King was said to have participated in many seances held in Fulford Place.  He is even reported to have continued spending time in the house following Mary’s death.  While he was Prime Minister, King’s interests in the occult were kept secret.

Fulford Place is now a Museum, with the house and gardens preserved by the Ontario Heritage Foundation.  Mary White is said to haunt the mansion.  She was terribly afraid of thunderstorms and it is said that anytime there is a thunderstorm, loud and unexplained knocking occurs at the door as though someone is trying desperately to come in from the storm. 

When I went to photograph Fulford Place the Museum was closed.  The house has a strange feel about it and while I walked around alone taking pictures it was hard not to feel as though someone was watching from the empty house.  The garden also has some interesting statues.  This beautiful mansion is well worth a visit.  

Monday, October 16, 2017

McBurney Park, Kingston Ontario

Situated midway between Montreal and Toronto, Kingston Ontario is one of Canada's oldest towns.  Built on Lake Ontario and at the mouth of the St Lawrence River, Kingston began as a French trading post and fort called Cataraqui.  After the British conquered the French the town was renamed Kingston and became the first capital of the Province of Canada on 10th Feb 1841.  

McBurney Park, also known as Skeleton Park is situated in Kingston.  The park, which is surrounded by houses, has a wading pool, play equipment and a basketball court.  Also visible in some parts of the park are protruding parts of headstones that are indicative of the history of the land below the neighbourhood park. Around about 1813, the area that is now McBurney Park became established as a graveyard for the growing city of Kingston.  Formal burials began in 1816 with the graveyard becoming known as the Common or Upper Burial Grounds in 1825.  Primarily the graveyard accommodated the influx of Scottish and Irish immigrants who fell victim to several epidemics that struck the area.  The cemetery filled quickly, especially after an epidemic of typhus in the 1840s.  Due to the belief that diseases such as typhus were airborn, victims were buried quickly and evidence has come to light that many bodies were placed into mass graves that were not very deep.  

The graveyard was also a favourite haunt of the Ressurection Men.  In 1841, under a Royal Charter from Queen Victoria, Queens University was founded in Kingston.  The School of Medicine required students to obtain their own cadavers for research.  Students paid Ressurection Men or dug up bodies themselves.  The shallow burials and number of bodies made the graveyard a simple place to obtain cadavers.  Empty coffins and graves discovered in recent times further serve as evidence of such nefarious activities. 

In 1864 the graveyard was deemed full and was closed.  Over the next thirty years there were many complaints about foul odours, graves stones being knocked over, graves being desecrated and skeletal remains surfacing.  In 1893 the City of Kingston decided to make the graveyard into a park.  Relatives were informed they would have to pay to relocate the remains of loved ones.  When the American Consul heard that the City of Kingston were going to dig up the bodies of epidemic victims they threatened to close the port.  Only one hundred of over ten thousand bodies were relocated.  Headstones were bulldozed and the area was covered with grass to create a neighbourhood park.  Only one obelisk was left standing, that of the First Presbyterian Minister of Kingston.

In the 1950s McBurney Park became known as Skeleton Park, with children digging up human remains and playing with them, some even attaching them to their bikes as macabre trophies.  There has been many reports of paranormal phenomena associated with McBurney Park and the surrounding houses.  Several people have reported seeing a strange mist envelope the park and graves materialising before their eyes.  Strange dreams haunt the nights of some of the residents near the park. Two women actually reported having the same dream of an Irish man materialising in their home and strangling them, telling them to leave.  Disembodied voices and full apparitions have been reported at and near the park.  

I visited the park on a sunny autumn day and it seemed like a lovely place for people to enjoy however when you know what's just beneath your feet it's hard not to feel a chill. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Buckingham Palace

Serving as the London residence and administrative headquarters for the monarch of the United Kingdom, Buckingham Palace is located in the city of Westminster.  During the Middle Ages the site, which was marsh ground due to the Tyburn River, which still runs under the courtyard of Buckingham Palace, formed part of the Manor of Ebury.  Where the river was fordable the town of Eye Cross was established.  Changing hands many times over the years, the site was notably owned by Edward the Confessor and his consort Edith of Wessex.  After the Norman conquest, William the Conquerer aquired the site and in turn went on to gift it to Geoffrey de Mandeville, the Constable of London Tower.  The site was then bequeathed by de Mandeville to the monks of Westminster Abbey.  

In 1531, after acquiring ownership of the Hospital of St James, which would later become St James' Palace, HenryVIII, took the Manor of Ebury from Westminster Abbey in 1536.  This resulted in the site of Buckingham Palace being back in Royal hands after 500 years.  James I sold of part of the Crown freehold during his reign, establishing a four acre mulberry farm to facilitate silk production on 4 acres of the kept land.  In 1624 the first house was established on the site by Sir William Blake.  The next owner of the house, Lord Goring, was an English parliamentarian and soldier who extended the original house built by Blake.  He also established and developed much of what is still the garden area of the Buckingham Palace. Goring lost the lease of the house to George III who claimed that the contract to acquire the land had not been official because it lacked the Great Seal from Charles I.  

The mansion was then acquired by Henry Bennet, 1st Earl of Arlington, an English statesman.  The house burnt down in 1674 and the following year Arlington rebuilt the house, which still exists as the southern wing of today's Palace.  The lease was acquired in 1698 by John Buckingham, the Duke of Buckingham and Normandy.  Buckingham was an English poet and Tory politician who served as Lord Privy Seal and President of the Council, during the reign of the Stuart's. Architect William Winde was commissioned to build the house for the Duke, which now forms the architectural core of the  current palace.  
In 1761 King George III acquired the property for his wife Queen Charlotte.  A patrons of the arts and an amateur botanist, Queen Charlotte spent most of her time at the residence and it became known as The Queen's House.  In 1775 the property was settled for Queen Charlotte through an act of parliament, in exchange for her rights to Somerset House. 

King George IV continued working on the residence.  Following his death his brother, King William IV, commissioned British landscape and architectural artist, Edward Blore, to finish the work his brother had started.  In 1837 Buckingham Palace became the principal Royal Residence.  In 1840 after Queen Victoria had married Prince Albert, some design flaws, including ventilation issues were corrected.  The Palace was deemed too small in 1847 and Master Builder Thomas Cobitt was commissioned to enclose the central quadrangle of the Palace.  A ballroom and more state suites were designed and added by Sir James Pennethorne, a student of John Nash.  Before the death of Prince Albert,  Balls and musical concerts were often held at Buckingham Palace.  Mendelssohn and Strauss both performed at the Palace during this time.  In 1861, following the death of Albert, Queen Victoria left Buckingham Palace and lived in Windsor Castle, Balmoral Castle and Osborne House.  For many years Buckingham Palace was empty and neglected.

In 1901 following the accession of Edward VII new life was breathed into the Palace and the Victoria Monument was constructed.  George V and Mary, connoisseurs of the arts, restored and purchased new furnishings and art for the Palace.  Despite being bombed nine times Buckingham Palace was largely unscathed during WWII.  The Queen’s Gallery was built on the site and opened in 1962.

The Palace has 775 rooms.  There are 19 state rooms, 52 principal bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms.  Buckingham Palace has its own cinema, post office, swimming pool, doctors surgery and jewellery workshop.  Every year the Palace hosts 50000 people who are invited to garden parties, audiences, receptions and banquets.  The forecourt of the Palace is used for the changing of the Guards. 

Buckingham Palace is said to be haunted by Major John Gwynne, the personal secretary of King Edward VII.  Gwynne was divorced by his wife and subsequently shunned by society.  He is said to have retired to his office in the Palace and shot himself in the head.  Staff working in the vicinity of what was once Gwynne’s office have reported hearing the sound of a gunshot coming from the empty room.  The Palace is also said to be haunted by a monk who appears in chains wearing a brown cowl.  The monk is said to predate the construction of the Palace and is believed to have died in a punishment cell.  The ghost of the monk is said to appear annually on Christmas Day at the Palace.

I love Buckingham Palace but my favourite view of the beautiful building is from St James Park 

Friday, August 25, 2017

Camden Stables Market

The Camden Stables Markets, located in Camden, London, is the largest of Camden's market spaces. The London & Birmingham Railway was London's first main line and represented the biggest civil engineering project attempted in the country at that time.  In January 1837 a 25 acre plot was purchased from Lord Southhampton to construct the Camden Goods Depot.   The site was chosen by engineer Robert Stephenson, because of the way in which it provided a link between the Regent Canal, constructed in the early 1800s and the London Docks.  

The Camden Goods Depot, constructed to serve as a terminus for goods and traffic on the London & Birmingham Railway Line, was opened in 1839. The Camden Goods Depot bought industry and many jobs to the area. The London & Birmingham Railway required the use of horses to pull the barges and trains as well as transport goods by wagons, including passengers luggage, in the London area. Heavy duty work was done by Shire horses and Clydesdales.  

Pickford & Co were the agents for the London & Birmingham Railway line.  The Pickford Company is believed to have been founded in the 17th century by a Manchester family who began supplying quarry stones using pack horses.  The pack horses would then return carrying goods and supplies. The company relocated to London in 1756. The company built stables in Camden near the railway line. 

Victorian attitudes towards horses meant that they preferred them over machines due to their low cost to run and their flexibility. Initially one and one and a half storey buildings were constructed on the site, the trains and the horses working at the same level.  Eventually with the increased traffic this became too dangerous and it was decided that the railway track would be raised and a viaduct with special horse passages was created.  A network of stables, horse tunnels, tack rooms, saddle workshops and a horse hospital were constructed on the site.  Further expansion took place in the 1880s.  This construction involved additional levels being built all connected with ramps and bridges. 

Towards the end of the 19th century there were approximately 250000 working horses in London and at its peak the Camden Good Depot was using 800 horses.  The last shunting horse was removed from service in 1967.  

It is said that the Camden Stable Markets are haunted by the apparition of a women dressed in Victorian clothing.  There have been reports of the sounds of horses hooves galloping over the cobble stones.  

The Camden Markets are one of my favourite places to shop.  In the Stable Markets there are many shops selling interesting and unique wares. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Art Gallery of Western Australia - Centenary Gallery

The Art Gallery in Western Australia was opened on 31st July 1895 by Sir Alexander Onslow, the third Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Western Australia.  Originally the gallery was housed in the Jubilee Building as part of the State Library and Museum.  Shortly after Federation in Australia, on the 24th July, 1901 HRH The Duke of Cornwall and York, later King George V, laid the foundation stone for the Beaufort Street Art Gallery.  The Art Gallery Act of 1959 gave control of the Western Australian Art Gallery to a board of Trustees appointed by the Governer of Western Australia.  

In 1978 the Art Gallery was renamed the Art Gallery of Western Australia and a new building was commissioned to house the states art collection.       Charles Sierakowski, a Polish architect who had survived the occupation of his country by the nazis, was commissioned to design the new art gallery.  The main building designed by Sierakowski is a modernist building with angular walls allowing art to be viewed at wide angles.  A cast iron spiral staircase is the central feature of the gallery, with vistas across and between the nine viewing galleries.  The building was said to have been inspired by the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.  Attached to this beautiful modern building is the Centenary Gallery.  

The Centenary Gallery was initially the Perth Police Courts.  The building was restored and opened in 1995 as a venue to exhibit Western Australia's collection of 19th and 20th century paintings and decorative arts.  The building was originally built during the Western Australian gold rush.  The Gold Rush changed the face of Western Australia, which until that time had been a poor state.  The economic boom resulted in new buildings in Perth.  

Western Australia's acting chief architect, Hillson Beasley designed the building.  It was designed in the style of French Regency and has a mansard roof, which was not common in the architecture of Perth at the time. Western Australian materials were primarily used in the construction with limestone being quarried and transported from Donnybrook, in the states south west.  Local jarrah, from the forests in the south west,  was used to build the flooring and interior furnishings.  The building had stained glass features and press metal ceilings.  The building also had four cottages beside it to house the police and their family, a mortuary, a laundry, a yard and a stable for twenty four horses.

The Centenary Gallery in the Western Australian Art Gallery still retains much of the original building including all the jarrah Court fixtures and two holding cells.  Visitors to the gallery have claimed to see apparitions.  Cold spots have been reported in various parts of the Centenary Gallery.  EVPs have been recorded by paranormal investigators in the preserved Court room.  I personally spoke to a guard at the gallery that assured me it was haunted and some blessing ceremony had been held to appease the spirit.  I have also experienced the cold spots in the gallery.  

It's a fantastic place to visit and in my opinion houses some of the most spectacular art pieces that the Art Gallery of Western Australia owns.