A unique destination for travellers.
by Denise Davy
Back in 1907, the armouries in London, Ontario looked and operated like every other armoury in the province. They were located in towns like Woodstock, Stratford, Windsor and St. Thomas and served as training bases for soldiers during two World Wars and for many years afterwards.
With their red brick exteriors, heavy stone bases and turrets, the armouries all had the same distinctive look of a military training base and became known for their architecture. All of the armouries were designed by David Ewart, who studied the architecture of Hampton Court and Windsor Castle. They’re said to be excellent examples of early 20th-century armouries in the popular Richardson Romanesque style.
While most armouries remain intact and are still in use today, London’s was abandoned in 1978 in favour of other facilities that could be used at a lower cost. It stood vacant for many years. Then a fellow named Donald Wharton, a visionary hotelier, came up with the idea to maintain the shell of the original building, gut the inside, and construct a tower to house a hotel.
After years of design and construction, a tower was created with the original building and outer walls of the armoury remaining intact. When it first opened in 1986, it was called the Wharton and was a four-star luxury hotel. It then changed hands and became the Sheraton Armouries and finally, the Delta London Armouries Hotel. It’s safe to say that the hotel can be considered one of the most original and unique hotels in the country because of its history and architecture.
Today the outside of the armoury looks much like it did more than 100 years ago. But inside the doors is the 20-storey hotel tower that houses 220 rooms. A new door and canopy was added and all windows had to be replaced. Something to definitely appreciate is the fact that the integrity of the original design was kept intact and that architects honoured the history of the original building. In addition to the historic value of the hotel, the draw for many guests is the same as it is for most hotels – the location. The hotel is located near train and bus terminals as well as the London Convention Centre, Budweiser Gardens, the University of Western Ontario, Fanshawe College, and the London Health Sciences Centre.
It’s come a long way from its original military usage but the history of what it stood for has not been forgotten. That has been kept alive with photographs, wartime artifacts and uniforms which depict the militia units that once occupied the building. Items from the armoury are displayed throughout the hotel, like the original door, which was solid wood, and now serves as a decoration in the salad bar area. The original WW1 gun wheel sits in the lobby. There are also numerous photos of the armoury on the walls. What is now the pool area is where Jeeps used to park. One of the staff’s offices was where the uniforms were once stored. Those who attended training at the armory in the past have even dropped by for a visit and walk down memory lane. Hopefully they also enjoy a good night’s rest at the hotel and enjoy the rest of what downtown London has to offer.
International Food Festival
London International Food Festival is the host to an array of savoury dishes from around the globe: featuring international cuisine selections, a beer garden, world craft vendors, carnival rides and live entertainment.
The London Beer and BBQ Show
Sample over 100 beverages and tear into outstanding BBQ, enjoy live cooking demos, seminars, entertainment and accessories.
Lambeth Rose & Flower Show
Enjoy a walk through 150 years of gardening history by visiting Lambeth Horticultural Society’s Rose & Flower Show.