For over a century-and-a-half, the northeast corner of Front and York Streets has offered tourists and dignitaries a place to lay their head. Its central location and easy access to a major transportation hub made the intersection an ideal spot for a hotel ever since the first passenger train pulled out of a nearby platform in 1853. The Fairmont Royal York carries on a tradition of hospitality with a regal moniker from its predecessor, the Queen's Hotel.
The first elements of the hotel were built in 1844 as four row houses designed by John Howard, who later bequeathed High Park to the city. After a decade housing Knox College, the homes were combined and opened for business as Sword's Hotel in August 1856. Most of the early clientele were government officials—when the colonial capital was moved to Quebec City the following year, operator Patrick Sword followed. A decade of expansions and name changes followed, with the name "Queen's Hotel" permanently assumed in 1862.