From the Windsor Star, December, 31, 1974.

The end of an era
The Norton-Palmer is no more


Thirty-four years ago The Border Cities Star devoted a couple of inside pages to lavish praise of an addition to the Norton-Palmer Hotel.

Now a yellow-brown clipping in a Windsor Star file, the story seems oddly out of step with a faster, more glamorous age.

The Norton-Palmer, it proclaims in the lead paragraph, “can be ranked among the finest hotels in the district.”

A few paragraphs later, it sings even higher praise.

“No expense has been spared in decorating and furnishing the place. It can be said, and without exaggeration, that the Norton-Palmer is one of the most beautifully furnished hotels in the Dominion.”

The day after the story ran “a high class Border Cities orchestra” took its place in the ballroom and played through the evening as the people of the border cities crowded in for a look during the official opening.

Amid the hoopla of those stories, there was one small sentence which stops the eye.

“If further expansion is desired, there is plenty of room for a third big annex of at least 200 rooms”

It was never to be, of course.

Fingering through the clipping file, you’ll find stories of strikes, of busy years, facelifts, conventions and one or two small kitchen fires.

Then there is a five-year gap.

A small item dated March 14, 1969, tells you that the Norton had been named the Hotel of the Year in Ontario in 1968 by the National Garment Salesmen’s Association of Canada — the place, that salesmen ranked best in “courtesy, co-operation and service to salesmen.”

And just to the right of that story, is another dated May 22 this year (1974), spelling the death of the old matron (that) had stood those 46 years at the corner of Park and Pelissier.

“Sale of the Norton-Palmer Hotel, is imminent the hotel will close July 20.”

A month later—another story appeared, out of Toronto, quoting the housing minister Sidney Handleman as saying that a highrise apartment building for senior citizens would be constructed on the site.

End of an era.

Down in the bar on the main floor, bartender Bill Hanson plunked a letter on the bar, shrugged, and went about his business serving customers as usual. But not for long.

The letter told him that as of July 20, he’d be out of a job.

It wasn’t the end of the world for Bill Hanson — he just started looking for another job — but he’d hoped to stay at the Norton until he retired a couple of years from then.

The same kind of letter arrived in the mail for owners and proprietors of businesses in the Norton building facing Pelissier.

One of them, Sam Kopstein, decided to close down for good and retire, after working in the jewelry business since the 20s.

Others felt the weight of the decision to close as well.

The Algonquin Club an association of history buffs who had been meeting in the hotel for 34 years held one last meeting and tried to figure out where to meet next.

Members of the 33-year-old Press Club held a similar meeting shortly afterward.

Named after owner Preston Norton, the club was formed by local businessmen who met for lunch at the hotel each Thursday.

Mr. Norton told the group, “I hate to get out, but the doctor has told me to. I have to quit this business.”

A clipping-three days later, tells the rest of the story.

“Hesitantly, with a trace of embarrassment, the female employees of the Norton-Palmer Hotel approached owner Preston Norton. They chatted then kissed him, then fled into the harsh light of the Saturday sun.”

“The male employees were outwardly more stoic, but you could tell by the looks on their faces they hurt inside.”


It’s a shame that Windsor lost both of her grand old hotels.

The Norton Palmer was a very attactive building, and with the recent interest in rehabbing historic hotels, there’s a good chance the NP would today be a great boutique hotel or a condo conversion.

Alas, as is usually the Windsor way it met the wrecking ball.

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