Originally published on Torontoist on April 29, 2008.
Toronto Life, February 1975.
Today’s ad offers an ideal 1970s entertainment lineup for upper middle class patrons on business, vacation, or a wild night in the suburbs. The Royal Box offered dinner theatre twice a night. The “merely posh” Le Continental filled the decade’s appetite for romantic meals loaded with soft jazz and slabs of meat (chateaubriand for two, ma belle amie?). Katsura supplied a then-exotic Japanese dining experience. The Brandy Tree offered fancy drinks and a piano bar. The Coffee Garden catered to those for whom none of the above appealed to (or were affordable for) and to those with an appreciation for macrame walls.
Opened on July 10, 1974, this luxury hotel was the first foray by Prince Hotels International into North America and its second outside of its Japanese base (the first was in Guam). In an article published shortly after the hotel opened, the Toronto Star noted that:
A recurring theme of conversation with the hotel executives was a determination from the outset not simply to transplant a Japanese hotel to Canada but to fit it in with the environment (even the dead trees on the property have been left standing) and with Canadians (domestic materials, almost exclusively, Canadian architects, local people comprising almost all the operating staff).
Another way the owners ingratiated themselves to nearby residents was through minor hockey sponsorship a year before the hotel opened. The team won their division and Prince executive Kikuo Yamazaki treated them to a party at his home.
The Prince experienced growing pains, tearing through three operations managers and four PR firms by the time Christmas of ’75 rolled around. By March 1976, the hotel was one of three the Star marked as the emptiest luxury spots in Toronto, along with the Harbour Castle and the Plaza II (now the Marriott in the Hudson’s Bay Centre). The paper felt that apart from a few specialty suites and Katsura, the hotel didn’t provide enough Japanese decor and atmosphere. With its average occupancy hovering under 32%, Prince did not move forward with further North American expansion plans. The site was eventually rebranded as a Westin hotel.
Additional material from the August 24, 1974, December 9, 1975 and March 23, 1976 editions of the Toronto Star.