It housed Cole Porter, Frank Sinatra, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. It’s considered one of America’s most venerable hotels. What does New York’s Waldorf-Astoria have to do with Muskoka? The answer lies with the Royal Muskoka.
The Royal Muskoka Hotel
The Royal Muskoka was once cottage country’s grandest hotels. Built by the Muskoka Navigation Company in 1901, the hotel introduced an unprecedented level of sophistication to the region: tennis courts, bowling greens, fine linens, and swimming decks, plus a golf course, riding stables, electricity, a beauty salon, and of course, acres of shaded trails for strolling.
New York’s Waldorf-Astoria
Its level of refinement was thanks, in part, to a man named Lucius Boomer. At the turn of the 20th century, Mr. Boomer was at his best, managing the New York’s Waldorf-Astoria as it was in its heyday, sitting on the very spot, as it once did, of the Empire State Building. Mr. Boomer knew style and he knew substance, offering respite at the Waldorf to Royals, movers, and New York City shakers — he knew sophistication so well, in fact, he was called on to lend his ideas in the design of the Royal Muskoka Hotel.
Whatever Happened To…?
In the ensuing years, the enormous Royal Muskoka Hotel, situated on Wrenshall’s Point on Lake Rosseau, housed musicians, politicians and plenty of Royalty of its own… at least until 1929 when the stock market crashed and left Muskoka’s booming tourism industry in peril.
Mr. Boomer’s Waldorf-Astoria in New York met its own demise around the same time, demolished to make way for… yes, the Empire State Building. It was rebuilt soon after in another location, but some historians argue the Waldorf never quite regained its panache of the Roaring ’20s.
As for the Royal Muskoka, it met more disaster. The hotel burned to the ground on an early spring morning of 1952. Little was salvaged, save a few swish relics housed now in the Muskoka Boat and Heritage Centre of Gravenhurst.
And that, MuskokaStyle watchers, is what Muskoka and the Waldorf have in common.
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Top photo courtesy of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York City. Centre Photo courtesy of VirtualMuseum.ca. Bottom photo courtesy of InterestingAmerica.com