William Cornelius Van Horne
|Sir William Cornelius Van Horne|
February 3, 1843|
near Frankfort, Illinois, U.S.
|Died||September 11, 1915
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Sir William Cornelius Van Horne, KCMG (February 3, 1843 – September 11, 1915) succeeded Lord Mount Stephen as President of Canadian Pacific Railway in 1888. He was key in building the Cuba Railway in 1901. He lived at the Van Horne Mansion in Montreal's Golden Square Mile.
Early Life 
Born in 1843 in rural Illinois, he moved with his family to Joliet, Illinois, when he was eight years old. He was the eldest child of Cornelius Covenhoven Van Horne (1794-1854) and his second wife Mary Minier Richards of Sandusky, Ohio. His father was of Dutch origin and studied law at Union College, but took his family out west to seek his fortune farming. Misfortune followed as his house, barns and law books were destroyed by fire, and his first wife died shortly afterwards. Abandoning farming, he returned to the law and became Recorder of Will County, Illinois, moving his family to Joliet. He was active in getting the city its first charter, and because of this he was elected Joliet's first Mayor. When the city later built a new bridge it was named The Van Horne Bridge.
At the age of fourteen, Van Horne began working on railroads serving in various capacities on the Michigan Central Railway until 1864, then for the Chicago and Alton Railway for whom he served as the general superintendent from 1878-1879. In 1882, he was appointed general manager of the Canadian Pacific Railway and in 1884 became its vice-president. Rising to president in 1888, he is most famous for overseeing the major construction of the first Canadian transcontinental Railway.
Van Horne considered the railway an integrated communications and transportation system and convinced the directors and shareholders to create a telegraph service and an express freight delivery service as a complement to the railway. Van Horne was knowledgeable in nearly every element of the railway industry, including operating a locomotive. A wealthy man, he later became an investor of the Cuba Railroad Company, which managed to build the first trans-country railway connecting Havana with the two eastern provinces (Camaguey and Oriente) and the city of Santiago de Cuba in 1901.
He was also responsible for launching the sea transport division of the Canadian Pacific Railway, inaugurating a regular service between Vancouver and Hong Kong in 1891 on the Empress luxury liners, and lastly presided over the expansion of the CPR in the luxury hotel business and participated in the design of two of the most famous buildings in the chain, the Château Frontenac in Quebec City and Chateau Lake Louise in Alberta.
He built the Van Horne Mansion in Montreal and a large summer estate which he named "Covenhoven" on Minister's Island, adjacent to CPR's resort town of St. Andrews, New Brunswick. The island estate is accessible by a road during the Bay of Fundy's low tide.
Following Van Horne's death in Montreal, Quebec in 1915 at the age of 72, his remains were interred at Oakwood Cemetery in Joliet, Illinois. His Montreal home in the Golden Square Mile was controversially demolished in 1973.
Sir William Van Horne Elementary School in Vancouver, BC, is named after Van Horne, in honour of his contributions to British Columbia. There are streets named for Van Horne in several Canadian cities including Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Sudbury and Brandon. In 2011, Van Horne was featured in Rocky Mountain Express, a 45-minute IMAX film about the construction of the CPR. In Cuba, a borough of the city of Camaguey (near to the railways) is named after van Horne, also a small stations in Central Railroad in the Province of Holguín.
- Biography at the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online
- Official Website of Ministers Island
- Photograph: Sir William Van Horne in 1902. McCord Museum
- Photograph: Sir William Van Horne circa 1905. McCord Museum
- Photograph: Sir William Van Horne's House, Montreal, Quebec circa 1900. McCord Museum
|President of Canadian Pacific Railway Limited
1889 – 1899
Thomas George Shaughnessy