Empress Hotel (Toronto)

The Empress Hotel was a three-storey red-brick building at the corner of Yonge and Gould streets, in downtown Toronto, that was destroyed by fire on January 3, 2011.[1] The hotel was opened in 1888.[2] The hotel changed hands several times.[3] The property ceased operating as a hotel in the mid-1970s.

Hotel period

335 Yonge Street housed hotels from 1888, under different owners, to sometime in the 1970s. In the 1960s, it was known as the Edison Hotel and was a major live music venue in Yonge Street's booming Rock n' Roll culture.[4]

Designation as a heritage property in 2010

Part of the building's facade collapsed in April, 2010.[5]

After the building stopped functioning as a hotel portions were leased by a number of businesses. In 2010, after the property was bought by the Lalani Group, the owners started to demolish the building, only to be stopped when the Toronto city council designated it a protected heritage property on July 16, 2010.[5]


The building was severely damaged by fire on January 4, 2011.[6] At the time, the owners were planning a meeting with the City of Toronto to discuss their strategy for promptly restoring the property.[7] After the building's destruction Heritage Toronto quoted from the intent to designate application describing the building as a "local landmark", and a "well-crafted example of a late 19th century commercial building that blends elements of the popular Second Empire and Romanesque Revival styles of the era."[1]

A security camera captured an individual whose face was obscured by a hood in the vicinity of the building around the time the fire was set.[8]

After an investigation (profiled in The Detectives on CBC Television in 2018),[9] Stewart Poirier was charged with the arson and convicted; he was sentenced to ten years in December 2012.[10] Poirier died of natural causes on February 10, 2013, while incarcerated at the Joyceville Institution.[11]

Future of the site

Eventually, the site was cleared and taken over by developer Rumpf Corporation who was building a commercial property in late 2017, to be owned and managed by Prime Corporation.[12]


  1. "335 Yonge Street (The Empress Hotel) Destroyed by Fire". Heritage Toronto. 2011-01-04. Archived from the original on 2011-12-07. Retrieved 2011-12-06. The property was included on the City of Toronto's Inventory of Heritage Properties in 1974, and was designated last year under the Ontario Heritage Act in response to a demolition application.
  2. Jamie Bradburn (2011-01-06). "An Empress Hotel Mystery". Torontoist. Archived from the original on 2011-12-07. Retrieved 2011-12-06. In 1888, Richard Dissette leased much of the newly built property at the southeast corner of Yonge and Gould and opened the Empress Hotel, which initially used 339 Yonge as its address.
  3. Curtis Rush (2011-01-03). "The long and storied history of 335 Yonge St". Toronto Star. Archived from the original on 2011-12-07. Retrieved 2011-12-07. 1947: Edison Hotel Limited purchases the site and retains it until 1991. The hotel, however, operates there only until the 1970s.
  4. MacDonald, Bruce. "Part 2 (1960-1965): Clip 6". Yonge Street: Toronto Rock & Roll Stories. Toronto: Bravo Canada. Archived from the original (Video) on 2012-01-21. Retrieved 2011-05-14.
  5. Amy Dempsey (2010-07-20). "Old Empress Hotel caught in tug-of-war". Toronto Star. Archived from the original on 2011-12-07. Retrieved 2011-12-06. Lilani Group, the company that owns the property, filed a demolition request with Toronto Building on July 2 after its engineers recommended demolition as the best option. But within days counsellors stopped that application by voting to designate the 19th Century building a heritage site. The city will now have its own engineer — an expert on heritage sites — assess the stability of the building.
  6. Liam Vu (2011-02-07). "Empress Hotel fire ruled as arson". Toronto Star. Archived from the original on 2011-12-07. Retrieved 2011-12-06. Built in 1888, the building at 335 Yonge St. previously housed the Empress Hotel before an early morning fire on Jan. 3 broke out shortly after 4 a.m.
  7. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/toronto/new-details-released-in-unsolved-heritage-building-arson/article4181196/
  8. "Update: Police release photos of person near site of Yonge St. fire". National Post. 2011-01-07. Archived from the original on 2011-12-07. Retrieved 2011-12-07. Steps away from the collapsed structure at the corner of Yonge and Gould Streets, police officers held up grainy images captured by a surveillance camera of a lone figure approaching the abandoned building just before a six-alarm fire broke out early Monday morning.
  9. http://www.cbc.ca/thedetectives/episodes/season-1/episode-6-burning-season
  10. https://www.thestar.com/news/crime/2012/12/14/torontos_empress_hotel_fire_serial_arsonist_jailed_10_years_after_torching_historic_site.html
  11. "Death of Inmate at Joyceville Institution". Correctional Service Canada.
  12. http://www.rumpfhighstreets.com/en/development-detail/731/335-yonge-street-toronto-canada

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