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Almont Hotel

May 25, 2020 (0) comment

The Globe’s October 25, 1890 edition has a sketch of this building when it was John Sheene’s Hotel on the corner of Mimico Avenue (today Kipling) and Lakeshore Road. (Unfortunately, The Globe misspelled the name Shean and it took me some time to find the detailed history). In the May 24th, 1988 edition of the The Star, it was touted as “the” place to stay in the 1890’s. Below is a copy of the picture owned by the Etobicoke Historical Board.

John Shean, son of Patrick John Shean from Ireland, married Mary Hickey in 1872 and they rented part of Montgomery’s Inn, another historical building in Etobicoke located on Dundas and Islington. They lived at the Inn for several years; six of their children were born there. In 1890, John Shean decided to build his own hotel in New Toronto. Being across the street from the asylum, young people in the neighbourhood were often sent invitations to dances held to give the patients a chance to socialize.

The location of the hotel was perfect – it was halfway between the farms of the Peel region and the markets downtown Toronto. Farmers would often stop overnight on their regular trips to market.

The family sold the hotel in 1896 and moved to Elmbank to take up farming. While the building changed hands several times, it soon became widely known as the New Toronto Hotel.

On August 14, 1899, the Globe & Mail reports an accident that occurs close to the Mimico Asylum and refers to the New Toronto Hotel, as follows:

“While driving along the Lake Shore road yesterday, Hon. Richard Harcourt, Provincial Treasurer, and Mr. W.J. Hill, M.P.P. for West York, met with a rather serious accident. Their horse took fright at an electric car near the Mimico Asylum, and ran away, throwing both gentlemen out into the ditch. Mr. Hill sustained some severe cuts and bruises about the legs, and the Provincial Treasurer got a bad shaking up. At first it was feared that a couple of his ribs were broken, but subsequent medical examination indicated that his injuries were not serious. Dr. Beemer of the Asylum drove the injured gentlemen back to the city. The horse – a livery stable beast – ran to the New Toronto Hotel, where it was captured.”

On May 24, 1912, Mr. Ambrose O’Brien, the proprietor of the New Toronto Hotel passed away after several weeks of illness. He had owned the hotel for 7 years.

In 1915, Mr. John O’Meara, licensee of the New Toronto Hotel, was called before the Ontario License Board to answer some allegations of an incident that took place in the hotel involving illegal sale of alcohol after-hours and some tussle that ensued with a License detective. (Toronto Daily Star, 1915/08/23). Unfortunately, the hearing had not been completed at the time that the article was written, and I haven’t been able to locate a follow-up article that gives the judgment.

Later, on May 1, 1917, the Globe & Mail reports another incident with the New Toronto Hotel close to the Asylum, but later in the article refers to the same as the Lakeview Hotel: (I’ve quoted the story in full, as it also gives an interesting reflection of the effects of prohibition. From 1916 to 1927 the Ontario Temperance Act was in place, whereby no alcohol sale or service was permitted).

“Coroner G.W. Graham’s jury at the Humber Beach Hotel last night found that William Griffin, whose body was discovered in the Asylum creek on the morning of April 23, came to his death by drowning under suspicious circumstances. The proprietor of the New Toronto Hotel and Griffin’s comrades all declared they had no liquor in the hotel, and the jury added a rider to their verdict declaring their disbelief of this evidence, and recommended that the proper authorities close up the premises.

Want Traffic Stopped. “We find” read the verdict, ” that William Griffin came to his death on April 22, 1917, by drowning in the Asylum Creek under suspicious circumstances. The jury believes that the evidence given by Mortimer Galvin, Arthur Littleton and Michael Carroll to be untrue, and recommend that the Lakeview Hotel at New Toronto be immediately closed by the proper authorities. The jury further recommends that the proper authorities take steps immediately to prevent the traffic of liquor at New Toronto.” Post-mortem evidence was to the effect that Griffin came to his death by drowning, and that there were no marks of violence on the body.

Griffin was “Pretty Drunk”. Littleton, Galvin, Carroll and Griffin left Sunnyside for New Toronto after midnight, and, according to their story, Griffin was pretty drunk at that time. Littleton and Carroll, the hotel proprietor, swore that Griffin went past his home to the hotel, where he sat down on the porch outside, which was the last seen of him.

Liquor Easy to Get. Michael Carroll, the hotel proprietor, told the jury that whiskey was more easily obtained at New Toronto than before prohibition. He denied having liquor on his premises for sale, but admitted his hostler, who was caught on one occasion with some bottled goods, might have kept it without his knowledge.”:

While there is no concrete evidence that the hotel was involved in the bootlegging trade, it is reported that residents found two secret compartments. One was a under a spring-loaded baseboard in a space that could hold liquor bottles placed horizontally end to end. Another secret door was found at the back of a closet concealing a tiny room only three feet deep. When the hotel was renovated in 1984 for Chatter’s Restaurant, wine-making equipment was found in the basement.

In 1924, the Long Branch Racetrack opened and brought new business to the hotel. The owners provided a shuttle service to and from the racetrack.

By 1935, it was known as the Almont Hotel (spelled Almonte Hotel in an advertisement in the 1947 Lakeshore District Police Association Yearbook). By that time, the name “New Toronto Hotel” had been resurrected for use on a new building on the corner of Fourth Street and Lakeshore. (See the section on New Toronto Hotel). The rooms of the Almont were often rented to retired men who more or less became permanent boarders. I found many advertisments in the classified sections of the newspapers over several years listing unfurnished and furnished rooms for ent. The building existed as the Almont for many, many years. By the early 1980’s, the building had closed and had been boarded up.

Below is one picture from 1953 as posted in the TPL Digital Collections website. The picture on the right is a photograph lent to me by a “friend of a friend of mine”. The date of this photo is unknown. I would have to say that it is later than 1953 since the building looks like it has been resided. The 1953 picture looks like the original brick.

In 1984, Carl Thomas Georgevich and John Paul Evans purchased the historic building. They made extensive repairs and it became Chatter’s Restaurant.

I am told that for a couple of years in the late 1990’s it was Vendetta’s Bar & Grill, and then changed hands again a couple more times, before it became the Phantom Lounge as it is today, pictured below:

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