Built in 1913 by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, it is located one block from the railway's Union Station, and was the tallest structure in the city when it was completed. Like other Canadian railway hotels, it was constructed in the "château style" (also termed the "neo-château" or "châteauesque" style), which as a result the hotels became known as a distinctly Canadian form of architecture. The design reflects the François I style of hotel which became prevalent in the eastern United States at the turn-of-the-20th-century. Henry Janeway Hardenbergh initiated the architectural trend, with New York City's Plaza Hotel (1906–07) as his most well known structure. The Fort Garry Hotel has more than a passing similarity to The Plaza, related features include: the classic base, shaft, and capital divisions of the skyscraper; flat facades with slightly projecting, four-bay end pavilions; an arcade of large, segmented windows below a prominent cornice; and, the composition of the steeply sloped roofs. Architects Ross and MacFarlane of Montreal modelled their original plans for the hotel after Ottawa's Château Laurier; plans originally called for a 10-storey structure, but two floors were added during construction.
The hotel, originally owned by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, was later owned by the Canadian National Railway. In 1979, the hotel was purchased by the prominent John Draper Perrin family of Winnipeg, who operated it as an independent hotel until 1987. It was then owned for a few years by a company controlled by Quebec hotelier Raymond Malenfant. Presently it is run as an independent hotel.
According to local folklore, the hotel is haunted. The Fort Garry Hotel is infamous for its haunted Room 202. A woman apparently committed suicide in the room many years ago after hearing of the death of her husband in a car accident. Overcome with grief, she hanged herself in the closet.