Canada's grand railway hotels

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Banff Springs Hotel is one of several grand railway hotels built across the country.

Canada's grand railway hotels are a series of railway hotels across the country, each a local and national landmark, and most of which are icons of Canadian history and architecture. Each hotel was originally built by the Canadian railway companies, or the railways acted as a catalyst for the hotel's construction. The hotels were designed to serve the passengers of the country's then expanding rail network and they celebrated rail travel in style.


The Château Frontenac is an early example of a Canadian châteauesque-styled hotel. The style was used for many of Canada's railway hotels.

Many of the railway hotels were built in the "château style" (also termed the "neo-château" or "châteauesque" style), which as a result became known as a distinctly Canadian form of architecture. The use of towers and turrets, and other Scottish baronial and French château architectural elements, became a signature style of Canada's majestic hotels. Architects also used the style for important public buildings, such as the Confederation and Justice buildings in Ottawa.

In later years, the railway companies departed from the château style for some of their properties, notably with the construction of Winnipeg's Royal Alexandra Hotel in 1906; the Palliser Hotel in Calgary, built in 1914; and the elaborate second Hotel Vancouver, designed in grand Italianate style, unlike any of the previous Canadian railway hotels.


Canada's first grand railway hotel, the Windsor Hotel in Montreal, opened in 1878. Although it was not owned by a railway company, it was built to serve railway visitors from nearby Windsor Station. Given its location next to Montreal's main train station, the Windsor served for years as the permanent residence of executives of both the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) and Grand Trunk Railway.[citation needed]

The railways' development role in the construction and operation of large hotels was inaugurated with Canadian Pacific Railway's opening of the Hotel Vancouver on May 16, 1888. This was the first of three railway-owned hotels by that name in Vancouver. Two weeks later, the Canadian Pacific Railway officially opened the Banff Springs Hotel on June 1, 1888. The president of the Canadian Pacific Railway, William Cornelius Van Horne, had personally chosen the site in the Rocky Mountains for the new hotel. He envisioned a string of grand hotels across Canada that would draw visitors from abroad to his railway. Van Horne famously remarked: "If we can't export the scenery, we'll import the tourists."[1] The original Banff Springs Hotel, of wooden construction, was destroyed by fire in 1926 and replaced by the present structure.[2]

Situated in Downtown Toronto, the Royal York is the largest railway hotel built in Canada.

Canadian Pacific next built the Château Frontenac in Quebec City, which quickly came to be the symbol of the city. It was designed to rival any hotel in Europe. Its elevated location overlooking the city also made it a readily identifiable landmark as viewed from passing trains as well as ships plying the waters of the Saint Lawrence River en route to or from Montreal. Place Viger followed in Montreal, followed by The Empress in Victoria, British Columbia, and the Château Lake Louise in Alberta. The largest of the railway hotels is the Royal York in Toronto, which opened in 1929.

The main competitor to Canadian Pacific, the Grand Trunk Railway, was not prepared to leave the field solely to its rival. It also determined to build a chain of luxury hotels across the country, which it did in the château style. The GTR built the Château Laurier in Ottawa in 1912, with the Fort Garry Hotel in Winnipeg and the Hotel Macdonald in Edmonton following in 1913 and 1915 respectively.[citation needed]

Opened in 1958, the Queen Elizabeth Hotel was the last railway hotel built in Canada.

The GTR was amalgamated into the Canadian National Railway (CNR) in 1920. During the decades that followed, the hotel divisions of CPR and CNR, Canadian National Hotels and Canadian Pacific Hotels, continued to expand their competing hotel chains across the country. The Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, built in 1958 over that city's Central Station, was perhaps the last true railway hotel built in Canada. Both railways continued to open new establishments in subsequent years, although none had any connection to the railways, except through their ownership.[citation needed]

In 1988, Canadian Pacific acquired Canadian National Hotels.[citation needed] For the first time, many of Canada's railway hotels were operated by the same company. In 2001, Canadian Pacific Hotels was renamed Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, using the name of an American company it had purchased in 1999.[3] Although Fairmont continues to operate many of Canada's landmark hotels, a number of the historic railway hotels, such as Saskatoon's Delta Bessborough, are owned and managed by other hotel chains.[citation needed]


The majority of Canada's grand railway hotels were built by three railway companies, Canadian National Railway, Canadian Pacific Railway, and Grand Trunk Railway. However, a few railway hotels were built and operated by other companies. Great Northern Railway was the only American company that built a railway hotel in Canada, the Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton, Alberta.

Canadian National Railway[edit]

The following are grand railway hotels built for Canadian National Railway, and its hotel division Canadian National Hotels.

  •   Hotel open, original building demolished
  •   Hotel open, original building burned down
  •   Hotel closed, building demolished
Name[note 1] Photo Location Province Year hotel opened Present hotel chain Year hotel closed
Hotel Charlottetown Rodd Charlottetown 2012.jpg Charlottetown  Prince Edward Island 1931 Rodd Hotels and Resorts N/A
Hotel Newfoundland Newfoundland Hotel (1926).jpg St. John's  Newfoundland and Labrador 1926 Sheraton Hotels and Resorts N/A
Hotel Vancouver (third)[note 2] Hotel vanc 2007.jpg Vancouver  British Columbia 1939 Fairmont Hotels and Resorts N/A
Jasper Park Lodge Jasper Park Lodge.jpg Jasper  Alberta 1922 Fairmont Hotels and Resorts N/A
Prince Arthur Hotel Prince Arthur Hotel and Suites Thunder Bay.jpg Thunder Bay  Ontario 1911 Independent N/A
Prince Edward Hotel Brandon  Manitoba 1916 N/A 1975
Queen Elizabeth Hotel The Queen Elizabeth.jpg Montreal  Quebec 1958 Fairmont Hotels and Resorts N/A
The Bessborough Delta Bessborough, Spadina Cres E, Saskatoon (505713) (25518317544).jpg Saskatoon  Saskatchewan 1935 Marriott International N/A
The Nova Scotian Westin Halifax.jpg Halifax  Nova Scotia 1930 Westin Hotels & Resorts N/A

Canadian Pacific Railway[edit]

The following are grand railway hotels built for Canadian Pacific Railway, and its hotel division Canadian Pacific Hotels.

  •   Hotel open, original building burned down
  •   Hotel closed, building repurposed
  •   Hotel closed, building demolished
  •   Hotel closed, building burned down
Name[note 1] Photo Location Province Year hotel opened Present hotel chain Year hotel closed
The Algonquin Resort Algonquin hotel New Brunswick.jpg St. Andrews  New Brunswick 1889 New Castle Hotels & Resorts N/A
Banff Springs Hotel The Castle - Banff Springs - panoramio.jpg Banff  Alberta 1888 Fairmont Hotels and Resorts N/A
Château Frontenac Château Frontenac 02.jpg Quebec City  Quebec 1893 Fairmont Hotels and Resorts N/A
Château Lake Louise Chateau Lake Louise in Alberta.jpg Lake Louise  Alberta 1890 Fairmont Hotels and Resorts N/A
Château Montebello Montebello Castle 28Sep2014.JPG Montebello  Quebec 1930 Fairmont Hotels and Resorts N/A
Fraser Canyon House North Bend  British Columbia 1897 N/A 1927
Glacier House Glacier House and Illecillewaet Glacier, BC, 1909.jpg Glacier National Park  British Columbia 1887 N/A 1926
Hotel Saskatchewan Hotel-Saskatchewan.jpg Regina  Saskatchewan 1927 Marriott International N/A
Hotel Vancouver (first) Vancouver  British Columbia 1888 N/A 1912
Hotel Vancouver (second) Hotel Vancouver2 Vancouver BC.jpg Vancouver  British Columbia 1916 N/A 1939
Hotel Sicamous Sicamous  British Columbia 1900 N/A
Kootenay Lake Hotel CPR hotel at Balfour.gif Balfour, British Columbia  British Columbia 1911 N/A 1929
Lord Nelson Hotel Lord Nelson Hotel.JPG Halifax  Nova Scotia 1927 Independent N/A
McAdam Hotel McAdam New Brunswick Train Station07.jpg McAdam  New Brunswick 1901 N/A 1959
Mount Stephen House Canadian Pacific Railroad Hotel and Mount Stephen, Field, British Columbia, c. 1908.jpg Field  British Columbia 1886 N/A 1918
Palliser Hotel Fairmont Palliser Hotel 1.jpg Calgary  Alberta 1914 Fairmont Hotels and Resorts N/A
Place Viger Gare Viger 08.jpg Montreal  Quebec 1898 N/A 1935
Royal Alexandra Hotel Main Street Subway, Winnipeg, looking south, circa 1910.jpg Winnipeg  Manitoba 1911 N/A 1967
Royal York Toronto - ON - Royal York Hotel.jpg Toronto  Ontario 1929 Fairmont Hotels and Resorts N/A
The Empress Fairmont Empress, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada 08.jpg Victoria  British Columbia 1908 Fairmont Hotels and Resorts N/A

Grand Trunk Railway[edit]

The following are grand railway hotels built for Grand Trunk Railway.

  •   Hotel closed, building demolished
  •   Hotel closed, building burned down
Name Photo Location Province Year hotel opened Present hotel chain Year hotel closed
Château Laurier Château Laurier Ottawa Canada (6).jpg Ottawa  Ontario 1912 Fairmont Hotels and Resorts N/A
Fort Garry Hotel FORT GARRY HOTEL NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE OF CANADA 01.jpg Winnipeg  Manitoba 1913 Independent N/A
Highland Inn Algonquin Provincial Park  Ontario 1908 N/A 1957
Hotel Macdonald Hotel-Macdonald-Edmonton-Alberta-1A.jpg Edmonton  Alberta 1915 Fairmont Hotels and Resorts N/A
Minaki Lodge Minaki Lodge, Ontario (1929).jpg Minaki  Ontario 1914 N/A 2003

Other companies[edit]

In addition to Canadian National Railways, Canadian Pacific Railways, and Grand Trunk Railways, several other companies built "grand railway hotels" in Canada. The Prince of Wales Hotel is the only grand railway hotel to be built by an American company, Great Northern Railway.

  •   Hotel closed, building partially demolished
Name[note 1] Photo City Province Year hotel opened Present hotel chain Year hotel closed
Digby Pines Digby Pines 2010.JPG Digby  Nova Scotia 1905 Independent N/A
Prince of Wales Hotel Prince of Wales Hotel Waterton (8047361077).jpg Waterton  Alberta 1927 Glacier Park Company N/A
Windsor Hotel Le Windsor 09.jpg Montreal  Quebec 1878 N/A 1981


  1. ^ Chisholm, Barbara, ed., Castles of the North: Canada's Grand Hotels (Toronto: Lynx Images Inc., 2001) (ISBN 1-894073-14-2)
  2. ^ "History of The Fairmont Banff Springs". Archived from the original on 11 February 2015. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  3. ^ "CP hotels take Fairmont name". The Globe and Mail. The Globe and Mail Inc. 9 December 2000. Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  • Knowles, Valerie, From Telegrapher to Titan: The Life of William C. Van Horne (Toronto: Dundurn Group, 2004) (ISBN 1-55002-488-4)


  1. ^ a b c The following names are the names used when the hotel first opened. Several hotels have changed names since their opening.
  2. ^ Although the hotel was initially developed by Canadian National Railways, its completion required the company to partner with rival Canadian Pacific Railways. The hotel was jointly managed by both companies until Canadian National Railways acquired full ownership of the hotel in 1962.

External links[edit]