Gentrification loves a shady backstory. In Canada, the latest fleabag to get a lattes-and-Aperol tarting-up is Jilly’s, a strip joint with rooms in Toronto’s traditionally hardscrabble east end.
Seedy even by strip joint standards, Jilly’s sat aging and unloved for years, to the derision of the young families moving into the streets around Broadview Avenue. But the bones of the building – a red-brick Richardsonian Romanesque built for retail in 1893 – were worth saving.
Three years ago mid-rise developer Streetcar acquired it, enlisting DesignAgency to restore the finer details and amalgamate the confused interior into a sweeping ground-floor social space, vine-creeping rooftop bar and 58 boutique rooms. Earlier this summer it opened as the Broadview Hotel and queues immediately appeared for the lifts to the seventh floor.
On warm afternoons just after 5pm (opening hour for the rooftop), tables skirting the glass balustrade are already full, the black-marble bar littered with crystal highball glasses. Up here in this new, found space, the only vestige of the old days is the banged-up neon sign for the New Broadview Hotel, where rooms went for $1.50 a night last century.
A private-dining space in the original turret has a more vintage feel, with exposed antique brick walls up to the Victorian clerestory windows and rafters. The guest rooms have contemporary brass globe lighting and clean-lined furnishings, but the upholstery nods to old kitsch and the drapes are retro burgundy velvet.
What most closely resembles the building’s past incarnation is the ground floor, wrapped in replica printed wallpaper and parquet flooring. Around the windowed perimeter are deep leather banquettes and at the heart a sinuous underlit bar.
Patrons are more apt to be propping it up with caffeine at hand than cheap beer. But should they need to sleep off a hard night, the Broadview Hotel’s reception – with its inlaid marble floor, Art Deco lifts and brass-faced check-in desk – is just around the corner.