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Six Million Pieces

March 30, 2011

The historic Fairmont Royal York Hotel is a Toronto landmark known for its stature, history and design. Built in 1929 during the art déco era, it was once the largest hotel in the British Empire. It was also the highest building my nineteen-year-old father had ever seen when he immigrated to Canada in the early 1950’s.

Dad crossed the Atlantic in a small propeller plane, landing in Gander, Newfoundland. He spent his first night in an immigration detention center before continuing on to Montreal. Once there he exchanged wings for rail, riding the Canadian Pacific Railway into Toronto where a job on a mushroom farm waited for him. His worldly possessions packed in a single suitcase, he made his way through the great hall of Union Station, stepped out onto Front Street and into the tallest shadow he had ever seen. The sight of The Royal York hotel branded the beginning of his new life adventure. Whenever I catch a glimpse of this magnificent building in the skyline, I’m reminded of his immigration story and try to imagine having stood in his shoes.

Sixty years later, the hotel is dwarfed in the company of neighboring skyscrapers, like a crown jewel framed by modernity, it commands an equal amount of admiration today. In 2001 the lobby underwent a major renovation that included a new mosaic floor designed by Deborah Lloyd Forrest of Forrest Perkins. Created with 6 million pieces of hand-laid, italian marble that sparkles in the light, it spans over 9,500 square feet. The finished piece is truly a spectacular sight.

After the renovation project was complete, I was gifted with a sample board of the marble design. A friend had saved it from disposal for me knowing how much I loved it and that I’d find a way to re-purpose it. (Cue excited back-flips and much gratitude for her kindness!). It was in a state of disrepair when it landed in my lap; unglued, broken and missing pieces. I was able to source the same marble tiles easily enough, cut in the missing pieces, added a border, applied new grout and set it inside a custom, black iron table frame.

I’ll always treasure the history representative in this piece because it encapsulates a personal connection. Much like the cultural mosaic Canada’s relatively short history is built on, my father’s story is just one piece amongst six million more that help make up a country I feel very lucky to have been born in.

The historic Fairmont Royal York at night.
The Royal York hotel mosaic floor and mosaic floor table.

Photo of The Fairmont Royal York (top) adapted from a tourist postcard.
Photo of the finished floor (upper left) courtesy of Art Deco Style.

Marble mosaic in disrepair.

Marble mosaic table top.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Nancy permalink
    March 30, 2011 2:49 pm

    What an incredible story leading up to its current incarnation of an amazing table!

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