Almost 100 years ago, the Crystal Ballroom atop the Omni King Edward Hotel opened, becoming the city’s first luxury event space. “The Crystal Ballroom became the premier room where people wanted to entertain outside their homes, outside of private clubs,” explains hotel general manager Christophe Le Chatton. Here, the city’s fur-clad elite mixed and mingled: in 1927, the ballroom housed a lavish state dinner for the Prince of Wales; in 1934 it was the location for the city’s official centennial luncheon; over the years, big bands including those of Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, and Count Basie played beneath its 21-foot ceilings, Saint James church and Toronto’s original city hall aglow beyond oversize windows. In 1955, nearly 700 doctors and nurses gathered in the ballroom to watch news broadcasts on the invention of the polio vaccine on TV sets installed for the occasion.
In short, the Crystal Ballroom quickly became a place of social and cultural significance and so when it closed in the late seventies (due to a combination of city code reformation and the unfashionability of the room circa the disco era) Toronto felt its loss (over 2,000 people lined up for a peek of its abandoned hall during one edition of Doors Open Toronto in the early aughts). “People wanted to see the room as they’ve heard someone in their family talk about it,” says Chatton.
During its fallow years, the ballroom still saw some action—rapper Drake used the space as the backdrop for a magazine photo shoot and hotel guests were known to practise fly fishing from its windows—but only now, 38 years since its closure, has the Crystal Ballroom officially reopened to the public.
As part of a renovation Omni hotel group committed to upon purchasing the King Edward in 2013, the ballroom has undergone a $6.5-million renovation by Moncur Design Associates Inc. (the cherry on top of a $400-million renovation of the rest of the hotel). While the original design details remain intact—ornate mouldings and a glamourous orchestra balcony—the room has been updated with modern touches. Three enormous dandelion-burst, Czech-made crystal chandeliers hang from a French blue ceiling and thick ocean-hued carpet covers the ground. The 5,000 square-foot-space, which has a 300 person capacity, has already been booked at least once a month through to 2018 for weddings and special occasions. The Crystal Ballroom is the talk of the town, again.
Images courtesy of the Omni King Edward Hotel.
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