A historic jewel in the heart of Toronto’s financial district, THE ALBANY CLUB is one of Canada’s oldest and most respected private clubs.
The busy city of Toronto, capital of the province of Ontario, may seem to consist mainly of dazzling high-rises occupied by media and film production companies, but in the downtown area there are places that provide a hint of what life was once like here in Canada’s biggest city. One of those places is The Albany Club, one of the country’s oldest private clubs and one that has remained absolutely true to its original principles. Established in 1882 as a meeting place for the city’s Conservatives, the club’s members have included every Conservative prime minister, starting from Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister and one of the club’s founding members. The Albany Club describes itself as the only remaining politically-minded private club in the country and prides itself on being the place where Canada’s Conservatives connect, with its membership rolls past and present reading like a Who’s Who of the Tory party. The Albany Club’s membership counts more senators, MPs and MPPs than any other club in Canada, fully justifying its claim of being “The exclusive social and business club for those who influence, celebrate, debate, and promote Canada’s conservative and political history, ideals, values and leadership.”
The club was named after the Duke of Albany, Queen Victoria’s youngest son and the great-great uncle of the present queen, Elizabeth II. It moved to the current premises on King Street East in downtown Toronto in 1898. The building is presently undergoing extensive refurbishment that is focusing on preserving the magnificent original Georgian-style architecture and the limestone facade, while making the interiors as efficient as possible. The modernisation includes numerous projects to upgrade and replace much of the infrastructure and building systems, while also protecting the heritage that makes the Albany Club so special. For example, original bricks – sourced from the building next door after it was demolished – have been used for brick repair work. One of the many benefits of the refurbishment, alongside a new heating and air conditioning system, is direct access to the car park. A new rooftop patio now crowns the clubhouse and is a popular place to enjoy a drink or lunch, and meet other members.
One of the original features is the shiny, double entrance door surrounded by elegant stone carving. Step through these doors and you enter a clubhouse redolent with history – with glossy oak panelling, gleaming brass fixtures and deep blue, monogrammed carpets. The sunlight pours through elaborate stained glass windows representing the provinces of Canada, and the walls are covered with memorabilia of Canada’s political past and its outstanding politicians. The four storeys of the club house two dining rooms, eight private suites and four bars and lounges, all furnished with impeccable taste.
The Albany Club is a popular place to dine, with its main dining room – which features double-height stained glass windows – and second-floor dining room serving five-star cuisine. Ingredients are sourced locally based on the quality of the suppliers’ products and on their commitment to green practices and sustainability. The menu features a delicious choice of contemporary dishes, created by the head chef, and an extensive wine list, picked by the club’s own sommelier. The Albany Club offers a number of smaller dining suites for intimate dinners with business associates, family and friends, and also has the capacity to host large events, such as black-tie dinners for up to one hundred guests. Breakfast is served in the Backroom Bar.
The dress code is smart, and members and guests are asked to wear business causal. Jackets and ties are not required, except for social events; jeans, logoed apparel, sandals and sports shoes are not permitted.
As an establishment that prides itself on its special events for members and guests, the club rose to the challenge of lockdown and offered its members an inspiring range of virtual events. Despite the success of these digital meetings, the membership team hopes to be able to offer members in-person networking events again very soon. The regular calendar usually includes high-level political speaker events, which offer front-row access to some of the country’s leading political lights, and the popular Conservative Conversations, where members engage in lively debates on current affairs. There are also several “club in clubs”, including The Pitt Society for members under 35, a wine club, the art society, and a film club.
The club has an extensive concierge service to assist members and visitors with bookings, tickets for events and shows, assistance with travel plans and tourism information. Members and reciprocal guests benefi t from preferential rates at two nearby hotels and full access to the 24-hour gym facilities at the Royal Canadian Military Institute, which is around the corner.
Over the decades, the Albany Club has evolved to meet the needs of modern members while continuing to uphold traditions that date back to the founding of the country. In recognition of its commitment to unparalleled service, the Albany Club has again been awarded the status of “Platinum Club of the World”.