Wednesday, 9 March 2016




I love hearing stories of people experiencing heritage when they least expect it.  Lunch, With a Side of Heritage, describes author Katherine Hannemann's unexpected encounter with Toronto's hockey heritage at the 60 Carlton Street Loblaws.  Katherine reminisces about her unexpected Bill Barilko history lesson, and how heritage is hidden throughout the building.  It goes to show that history can be found in the most unexpected places. 

I have also had a similar experience at the Fairmont Royal York hotel here in downtown Toronto. 

My family decided to have Afternoon Tea at the Royal York to celebrate my Aunt's birthday.  I had never been to the hotel, and didn't know what to expect.  Once I arrived, I quickly understood the appeal.  The tea and dessert were divine.  

Photo Credit: Laura Nigro

 What followed was an unexpected treat: a historical guided tour of the hotel.  Neither myself, nor my family knew that the Fairmont offered tours to their diners.  The tours were supposed to be 20-30 minutes long; however, mine ran longer due to the fact that I asked a million questions (I was that person).

On the tour, we saw some of the gorgeous ballrooms, while learning about the history of the building.  Through these stories, and visits, to normally inaccessible areas, I was able to gain insight into how a hotel can contribute to the history of Toronto.   

Photo Credit: Hayley Mae Jones

The 60 Carlton Street Loblaws, and the Fairmont, are not traditionally seen as heritage sites, but rather as businesses.  This raises a two questions: how can businesses promote their heritage, while maintaining their primary function as businesses? Should businesses spend time promoting themselves as sites of heritage?  Unfortunately, I don't think that there is one overarching answer to these questions. 

I believe that each institution should critically reflect on their mandate.  It is important to recognize that promoting your business, and promoting heritage are not always one in the same. More specifically, it may not be suitable for your institution's goals or organization's brand.  Only after this reflection can the institutions understand whether or not they should promote their corporation's history, and how they should share their heritage with the public.  In formulating a strategic plan, businesses can control the platform, and the amount of historical information they share with the public, in a way that suits their organization. 

Regardless, I am happy to have found an unexpected glimpse of history at the Fairmont Royal York.  Let me know in the comments if you have had any similar experiences!

If you want to treat yourself to Afternoon Tea and a tour at the Royal York, the tours are still being offered to patrons on Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm/4pm, and reservations can be made by email (

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