Canada's grand railway hotels
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; some are considered to be the grand hotels of the British Empire. 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.
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.
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." The original Banff Springs Hotel, of wooden construction, was destroyed by fire in 1926 and replaced by the present structure.
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.
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.
In 1988, Canadian Pacific acquired Canadian National Hotels. 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. Fairmont continues to operate most of Canada's landmark hotels (see Canadian Pacific Hotels).
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
|Hotel Charlottetown||1931||Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown||John Schofield, G. F. Drummond||Operated by Rodd Hotels and Resorts|
|Hotel Newfoundland||1926||Newfoundland and Labrador, St. John's||Demolished in 1983.|
|Hotel Vancouver (third)[note 1]||1939||British Columbia, Vancouver||Archibald and Schofield||Operated by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts.|
|Jasper Park Lodge||1922||Alberta, Jasper||Burned down in 1952. Rebuilt in 1953. Operated by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts.|
|Queen Elizabeth Hotel||1958||Quebec, Montreal||George Drummond||Operated by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts.|
|The Bessborough||1935||Saskatchewan, Saskatoon||Archibald and Schofield||Operated by Delta Hotels.|
|The Nova Scotian||1930||Nova Scotia, Halifax||Archibald and Schofield||Operated by Westin Hotels & Resorts.|
Canadian Pacific Railway
|The Algonquin||1889||New Brunswick, St. Andrews||Barott Blackadder and Webster||Purchased by CPR in 1903. Original building burned down in 1914. The currently building opened a year later. Operated by New Castle Hotels & Resorts.|
|Banff Springs Hotel||1888||Alberta, Banff||Bruce Price (original)
Walter Painter (tower)
John Orrock (main block)
|Operated by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts.|
|Château Frontenac||1893||Quebec, Quebec City||Bruce Price|
|Château Lake Louise||1890||Alberta, Lake Louise|
|Château Montebello||1930||Quebec, Montebello|
|Fraser Canyon House||1897||British Columbia, North Bend||Burned down in 1927.|
|Glacier House||1887||British Columbia, Glacier National Park||Thomas Charles Sorby, 1902 addition by Francis Rattenbury||Demolished in 1929.|
|Hotel Incola||1912||British Columbia, Penticton||Demolished in 1980.|
|Hotel Saskatchewan||1927||Saskatchewan, Regina||Ross and Macdonald||Operated by Marriott International.|
|Hotel Vancouver (first)||1888||British Columbia, Vancouver||Thomas Charles Sorby||Demolished in 1912.|
|Hotel Vancouver (second)||1916||Francis S. Swales||Demolished in 1949.|
|Hotel Sicamous||1900||British Columbia, Sicamous||Edward Maxwell||Demolished in 1964.|
|Hotel Revelstoke||British Columbia, Revelstoke|
|Kootenay Lake Hotel||1911||British Columbia, Balfour||William Wallace Blair||Demolished in 1929.|
|Lord Nelson Hotel||1927||Nova Scotia, Halifax||O. C. Gross||Operated independently.|
|McAdam Hotel||1901||New Brunswick, McAdam||Edward Maxwell||Hotel closed in 1959. Building now operates as a museum.|
|Mount Stephen House||1886||British Columbia, Field||Thomas Charles Sorby, 1901 addition by Francis Rattenbury||Demolished in 1963.|
|Palliser Hotel||1914||Alberta, Calgary||E. and W.S. Maxwell||Operated by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts.|
|Place Viger||1898||Quebec, Montreal||Bruce Price||Hotel closed in 1935. Now used as office building.|
|Royal Alexandra Hotel||1911||Manitoba, Winnipeg||E. and W. S. Maxwell||Hotel closed in 1967. Demolished in 1971.|
|Royal York||1929||Ontario, Toronto||Ross and Macdonald;
Sproatt and Rolph
|Operated by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts.|
|The Empress||1908||British Columbia, Victoria||Francis Rattenbury|
Grand Trunk Railway, Grand Trunk Pacific Railway
|Château Laurier||1912||Ontario, Ottawa||Bradford Gilbert,||Operated by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts.|
|Fort Garry Hotel||1913||Manitoba, Winnipeg||Ross and Macdonald||Operated independently.|
|Highland Inn||1908||Ontario, Algonquin Provincial Park||Closed in 1954. Demolished in 1957.|
|Hotel Macdonald||1915||Alberta, Edmonton||Ross and Macfarlane||Operated by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts.|
|Minaki Lodge||1914||Ontario, Minaki|
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.
|Digby Pines||1905||Nova Scotia, Digby||Operated independently.|
|Prince Arthur Hotel (Canadian Northern Railway)||1911||Ontario, Thunder Bay||J.D. Matheson||Operated independently.|
|Prince Edward Hotel (Canadian Northern Railway)||1916||Manitoba, Brandon||Pratt and Ross||Demolished in 1975.|
|Prince of Wales Hotel (Great Northern Railway)||1927||Alberta, Waterton||Thomas D. McMahon||Operated by Glacier Park Company.|
|Windsor Hotel||1878||Quebec, Montreal||Hotel closed in 1957. All sections save the 1906 north annex demolished.|
- Chisholm, Barbara, ed., Castles of the North: Canada's Grand Hotels (Toronto: Lynx Images Inc., 2001) (ISBN 1-894073-14-2)
- "History of The Fairmont Banff Springs". Archived from the original on 11 February 2015. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
- "Red Deer Advocate, 8 Feb 1988". www.newspapers.com. p. 21.
- "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)
- 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.
- Media related to Canada's grand railway hotels at Wikimedia Commons