That’s my first thought upon walking into my 23rd-floor suite at the new St. Regis Toronto. I should be wearing a pair of satin shoes, dyed to match my gown, instead of salt-stained boots, and I should be peeling off a pair of white elbow-length gloves instead of sensible woollen mitts. Ideally, I’d be coming from a glamorous party given by one of my monied friends, but this is Toronto in 2019, not Gilded Age New York City. And I’m here for work. Also, I don’t have any monied friends.
Still, I can appreciate luxury as much as the next Astor, and as I look around, I try to imagine what the Mrs. Astor — Caroline Webster Schermerhorn Astor, that is — would think of the newest addition to the iconic hotel brand, founded by her son, John Jacob Astor IV, in 1904. She would surely be impressed by its height: rising 65 storeys (236 metres) above the intersection of Bay and Adelaide Streets, in the heart of downtown’s Financial District, the hotel is Canada’s third-tallest skyscraper. (At the time of Mrs. Astor’s death in 1908, the tallest building in the world was New York City’s Singer Building, at 186 metres.)
As the gatekeeper of New York society during a time of rapid industrialization, Mrs. Astor hosted exclusive parties for the old-money elite (attendance was limited to the 400 most influential people, as chosen by Mrs. Astor and her social secretary, Ward McAllister) and was famously frosty toward the Vanderbilts, whose new railway wealth she considered vulgar. I can’t help but wonder what she would have made of the fact that the St. Regis Toronto was originally branded the Trump International Hotel and Tower. A combination of anti-Trump public sentiment and financial problems led to a change of ownership in 2017, and the property underwent an interior design refresh to prepare for its rebranding as a St. Regis property in November 2018.
Gone is the black wall that once dominated the marble-and-mirror-clad lobby; the reception area now flows into the chic, cream- and gold-accented Astor Lounge, where the nightly champagne sabering — a St. Regis tradition — happens. Also new is the 31st-floor restaurant, Louix Louis, which has a turn-of-the-century Paris vibe and a jaw-dropping ceiling mural meant to evoke the feeling of being inside a whisky glass. The Bloody Mary, another St. Regis tradition invented at the Manhattan hotel’s King Cole Bar in 1934, is reimagined here as the Rouge 140, a toast to the more than 140 languages spoken in Toronto.
Then there are the rooms, which are spacious, quiet and filled with 21st-century conveniences that would be unthinkable to the Astors and their associates; even I’m slightly confounded by the flatscreen TV seamlessly embedded in the bathroom mirror. The rooms are a splurge at $600 per night — $8,500 for the John Jacob Astor suite, which at 2,035 square feet is bigger than my house — but personal butler service is included and if you’ve always, say, fantasized about gathering eight of your most intellectual friends for the modern-day equivalent of a Paris salon but are embarrassed by the amount of pet hair on your furniture, I can’t imagine a better place to do so.
As someone whose bank account is more Filene’s Basement than Saks Fifth Avenue and whose sphere of influence is limited to the same 30 friends who comment on all my cat pictures, I feel like a bit of a fraud as I brush my teeth in my suite’s second bathroom and then climb into bed. But perhaps that’s the beauty of the “new age of glamour” ushered in by the arrival of the St. Regis brand in Canada: with a little planning, we can all feel like one of Caroline Astor’s chosen 400.