Even if I had arrived at The Drake’s low-lit lobby wearing a blindfold and standing with my back to its street-looking windows, upon tearing it off I would have known I was in Toronto’s famed West Queen West district. I think, too, I would have guessed I was in a space somehow associated with The Drake – so true-to-self is the design and ambience of the newly opened Modern Wing.

Double Space PhotographyDouble Space Photography

Double Space PhotographyDouble Space Photography

The Drake Hotel has had many past lives. Built in 1890 as Smalls Hotel, it was a place where passengers of the nearby Canadian Pacific Railway hung their hats. Its next transformation was a 1949 expansion and rebrand as The Drake. But rail travel waned and the station closed  – and The Drake did, too. By the 70s it became a down-and-dirty "flophouse." Next: a punk bar and rave venue through the 80s and 90s. In 2004, The Drake made a triumphant revival as a boutique accommodation recognized for its embrace of arts and culture.

And while all of us were under lock down, worrying and wondering if we’d ever set foot in a bar, restaurant or hotel again, The Drake Hotel was undergoing yet another evolution. On December 1, 2021, a five-storey, 32-room expansion to its flagship 19-room property (now dubbed “the Classic Wing”) was revealed. The Modern Wing, as it is known, is a resounding nod to the art community that breathes life into the hotel, as well as the rest of the neighbourhood.

Double Space PhotographyDouble Space Photography

With architecture by local allies Diamond Schmitt Architects, design by DesignAgency in collaboration with John Tong, and art curation by Ashley Mulvihill, the entire wing is a funhouse of creativity flush with engaging, thought-provoking installations and pieces. Home to the contemporary art programme, DrakeArt, the lobby, stairwells, corridors, elevator and courtyard feature extraordinary works from local and international artists such as Primary Idols, acrylic on mirror by Sarh Alinia Ziazi, Botanist, a 3D generated and animated video on loop by Malik McKoy, Untitled (Wasteland), Melanie Luna’s paint on mylar and New Love (orbital revolution), tricoya and sequins by Teresa Himmer.

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The new rooms are lovely, restful spaces that range from doubles to queens and kings of a decent size with a fully stocked bar, snack cubby housing a mini-fridge, customized work/dining nooks and, of course, locally curated art. All rooms are thoughtfully appointed with hand-selected furnishings and design accents like custom millwork, tufted velvet headboards and terrazzo shower stalls. Some rooms offer courtyard or street-facing views from floor-to-ceiling windows. The Modern Wing’s crowning jewel is a spacious, two-bedroom, two-bath Rooftop Suite complete with a living area, kitchenette and oversize, 540-square-foot terrace suited to entertaining.

Created with the goal of providing guests with a respite from a hectic day in the city, hugged by a Toronto neighbourhood dripping with ambience, The Drake’s Modern Wing is at once a hang-out, art gallery and stunning accommodation that inspires us to dream, encourages us to connect, and rewards us for travel.


The Drake fast facts

Address: 1150 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6J 1J3
Website: thedrake.ca/thedrakehotel
Telephone: (416) 531-5042
$$: Modern wing rates start at $409 per night

Amenities: Restaurant, Sky Yard roof-top patio, Drake Underground (performance venue), complimentary spin classes at 6ix Cycle or yoga at Good Space, Malin+Goetz toiletries, free Wi-Fi. 

All images courtesy of The Drake Hotel.