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It was "the in place to go" in Toronto. Mel Lastman's two sons had their weddings there. Its garden had a stream that became a skating surface in winter, and it opened Canada's first disco in 1964.

But the disco era is gone, and soon, the Inn on the Park will be, too. The once-luxurious hotel on the hill overlooking the intersection of Leslie Street and Eglinton Avenue East will close in January.

The man whose company built the hotel is saddened but not especially surprised.

"It's had its time," said Isadore Sharp, chairman of Four Seasons Hotels Inc. "It's 40 years ago [that it opened] These buildings weren't built that well. At that time, they were virtually built on a shoestring."

The Inn on the Park was not the fledgling chain's first hotel -- that was the Four Seasons Motor Hotel on Jarvis Street -- but it's the one that signalled Four Seasons would become one of the world's premier luxury hotel businesses.

"More important than just another hotel in Toronto, it was really a new concept. When it first opened [in 1963] it was an overwhelming success. You couldn't get in the place. . . . It worked like a Swiss clock," Mr. Sharp said.

The development of Don Mills and North York gave the hotel a base of commercial clients, such as IBM, its next-door neighbour. But the Inn on the Park was also the forerunner of the city hotel as a resort.

It was designed by noted Toronto architect Peter Dickinson, who was responsible for some of the city's other signature buildings of the period.

In 1964, "we were the first to bring a discotheque to Canada," Mr. Sharp said. "That was the craze of the frug and all that dancing. We had a room there that was great success."

But the disco closed at the height of its success -- beer sales to those frugal dancers didn't pay the bills.

In came a room for dining and dancing, the Café L'Auberge, which for a period was the place the middle class went for anniversaries and other special occasions.

"It was the in place to go in Toronto," said Toronto Blue Jays president Paul Godfrey. "If you wanted to go out New Year's Eve, you wanted to go to Inn on the Park. You were considered a big shooter if you could take somebody to Inn on the Park, because it was the first major suburban hotel."

For Mr. Lastman, there was a touch of personal loss in his sadness when he learned the hotel will close.

"It was an institution. It was a great place for functions. We had our two sons' weddings there," the former mayor said.

"We used it for various charities that Marilyn and I put on. It was the place where people really held their functions in Toronto. There was no other place, except there and the Royal York Hotel."

It also drew its share of the rich and famous. While Mr. Sharp still draws on his hotelier's discretion about who might have stayed there, he did say Toronto industrialist E. P. Taylor frequented the place and former Soviet chairman Nikita Khrushchev stayed there once.

But tragedy struck in 1981, when a fire killed six guests. "I'm not sure if it ever recovered from the fire," Mr. Godfrey said.

The hotel's staff were told of the closing last weekend.

Four Seasons had sold much of the land around the Inn on the Park in the mid-1990s to a developer who put up two condominium buildings, and in 1996, the hotel was sold to a Vancouver based-company.

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