Canada’s grand railway hotels

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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.

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The Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, formerly and commonly referred to as the Château Frontenac, is a historic hotel in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. The hotel is situated in Old Quebec, within the historic district’s Upper Town. The Chateau Frontenac was designed by Bruce Price, and was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway company. The hotel is presently managed by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts.

Opened in 1893, the Châteauesque-styled building is 79.9-metre-tall (262 ft), containing 18 floors. The building’s height is furthered, as it is situated at an elevation of 54 m (177 ft). It is one of the first completed grand railway hotels. The hotel was expanded on three occasions, with the last major expansion taking place in 1993. The building was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1981.

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The Delta Hotels Bessborough, formerly and commonly known as The Bessborough, is a historic hotel located in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. The hotel is situated within the Central Business District, a commercial district in the Saskatoon. The Bessborough was designed by Archibald and Schofield for Canadian National Hotels, a division of Canadian National Railway.

Opened in 1935, the Châteauesque-styled building is 58.5-metre-tall (192 ft), containing 10 floors. The building is considered one of Canada’s grand railway hotels. After its completion, the building was the tallest building in Saskatoon, until the nearby Marquis Tower was completed in 1966. The hotel is owned by Leadon Investment Inc., although it is managed by Delta Hotels, a hotel chain brand of Marriott International.

The Delta Bessborough is situated near the South Saskatchewan River.

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The Fairmont Banff Springs, formerly and commonly known as the Banff Springs Hotel, is a historic hotel located in Banff, Alberta, Canada. The entire town including the hotel, is situated in Banff National Park, a national park managed by Parks Canada. The hotel overlooks a valley towards Mount Rundle, both of which are situated within the Rocky Mountain mountain range. The hotel is located at an altitude of 1,414 metres (4,639 ft).

The hotel opened in 1888 by the Canadian Pacific Railway, as one of the earliest of Canada’s grand railway hotels. The hotel property has undergone several stages of growth and redevelopment. The original hotel structure was designed by Bruce Price, with another structure completed in 1914. In 1926, a fire destroyed the original structure on the hotel property, although a replacement structure was later completed in 1928. The building was designated as a National Historic Site of Canada in 1988. The hotel property is presently managed by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts.

Banff Springs Hotel is situated near the confluence of two rivers.

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The Fairmont Royal York, formerly and commonly known as the Royal York, is a large historic luxury hotel in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Located along Front Street West, the hotel is situated at the southern end of the Financial District, in Downtown Toronto. The Royal York was designed by Ross and Macdonald, in association with Sproatt and Rolph, and built by the Canadian Pacific Railway company. The hotel is presently managed by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts.

Opened on 11 June 1929, the Châteauesque-styled building is 124-metre-tall (407 ft), and contains 28 floors. It is considered one of Canada’s grand railway hotels. After its completion, the building was briefly the tallest building in Toronto, as well as the tallest building in the country, and the British Empire, until the nearby Canadian Bank of Commerce Tower was built the following year. The building has undergone several extensive renovations since it first opened, with its first major renovation in 1972. An underground walkway linking the hotel with the Royal Bank Plaza and Union Station form part of the Toronto’s PATH underground city system.

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The Fairmont Hotel Macdonald, formerly and commonly known as the Hotel Macdonald (colloquially known as The Mac), is a large historic luxury hotel in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Located along 100 Street NW, south of Jasper Avenue, the hotel is situated in the eastern end of downtown Edmonton, and overlooks the North Saskatchewan River. The 47.7 metres (156 ft) hotel building was designed by Ross and MacFarlene and contains eleven floors. The hotel is presently managed by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts.

The hotel was opened by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway company on 5 July 1915. Built as a early-20th century railway hotel, the Châteauesque-styled building is considered one of Canada’s grand railway hotels. Following Grand Trunk’s bankruptcy, management of the hotel was taken over by Canadian National Hotels. The building has undergone several renovations since its opening, and an expansion wing to the hotel building was added in 1953. In 1983, Canadian National Hotels ceased operations, and demolished the building’s expansion wing in the same year. The hotel property was later sold to Canadian Pacific Hotels in 1988, and was restored and reopened to the public in May 1991.

Hotel Macdonald situated atop the escarpment of the North Saskatchewan River.

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The Fort Garry Hotel is a historic hotel in Downtown Winnipeg, Manitoba that opened for the first time on December 11, 1913. It is one of Canada’s grand railway hotels and was designated as a National Historic Site of Canada in 1981. A national heritage park connected to the hotel and to the remains of Upper Fort Garry was completed in 2017-18.

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 also reflects the François I style of hotel prevalent in the eastern United States at the turn-of-the-20th-century. Henry Janeway Hardenbegh 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, with related features that 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.

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The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, formerly and still informally called the Hotel Vancouver, is a historic hotel in Vancouver, British Columbia. Located along West Georgia Street the hotel is situated within the city’s Financial District, in Downtown Vancouver. The hotel was designed by two architects, John Smith Archibald, and John Schofield. The hotel is presently managed by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts.

Opened in May 1939, the Châteauesque-styled building is considered one of Canada’s grand railway hotels. The hotel stands 112.47-metre-tall (369.0 ft), and contains 17 floors. It was the tallest building in Vancouver until the completion of TD Tower in 1972.

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The Fairmont Empress, formerly and commonly referred to as The Empress, is one of the oldest hotels in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Located on 721 Government Street, it is situated in Downtown Victoria, facing the city’s Inner Harbour. The hotel was designed by Francis Rattenbury, and was built by Canadian Pacific Hotels, a division of the Canadian Pacific Railway company. The hotel is presently managed by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, part of AccorHotels since 2016. It is owned by Nat and Flora Bosa of Vancouver.

Opened on 20 January 1908, the Châteauesque-styled building is considered one of Canada’s grand railway hotels. Since its opening, the hotel has undergone two expansions, the first from 1910 to 1912, and a second expansion in 1928. The building was designated as a National Historic Site of Canada on January 1981. The Empress underwent a significant restoration between 2015 and 2017, which cost more than $60M. The hotel commemorated the restoration efforts on 28 June 2017.

Like most Chateauesque hotels, the Empress incorporates stone and brick cladding, steep pitched copper roofs, ornate neo-Gothic dormers and gables, and polygonal turrets. However, the design of the hotel also deviates from earlier Chateauesque hotels owned by the company, incorporating elements from contemporary architectural styles into its design. The hotel’s porch featured elements of Tudor architecture, the main roof of the hotel was designed in a Second Empire style with a flat top and iron railings. The building features an asymmetrical floor plan, with an interior featuring arcaded central loggia, and projecting pavilions accented by oriel windows.

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Place Viger was both a grand hotel and railway station in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, constructed in 1898 and named after Jacques Viger, the first Mayor of the city. Although combined stations and hotels were common in the United Kingdom in the late 19th century, Place Viger was the only such combination in Canada.

Place Viger was designed by Bruce Price for the Canadian Pacific Railway, and was built near what was then the central core of Montreal, in proximity to the financial district, the city hall, the port and the court house. The mayor of Montreal, Raymond Préfontaine, strongly encouraged its construction in an area central to the French Canadian élites, in contrast to the rival Windsor Hotel to the west, which was perceived to cater to the city’s anglophone classes. The rail station served as the terminus of the CP passenger rail lines running into downtown Montreal from the north and east. It replaced the older Dalhousie Station. Its counterpart terminus for CP passenger rail lines running into downtown Montreal from the south and west was Windsor Station.

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The Fairmont Château Laurier is a 660,000-square-foot hotel with 429 guest rooms in downtown Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, located near the intersection of Rideau Street and Sussex Drive and designed in a French Gothic Revival Châteauesque style to complement the adjacent Parliament buildings. The hotel is above the Rideau Canal locks and overlooks the Ottawa River. The main dining room (now the Laurier Room) overlooks Major’s Hill Park. The reception rooms include the Wedgewood-blue Adam Room; the Laurier Room defined by Roman columns; the Empire-style ballroom and the Drawing Room featuring cream and gold plaster ornament. The hotel was designated a national historic site in 1980.

The hotel features original Tiffany stained-glass windows and hand-moulded plaster decorations dating back to 1912. The walls were constructed of Indiana limestone. There are conical turrets and dormer windows and the roof is copper. The gables are carved with flowers, scrolls and crests. The lobby floors were constructed of Belgian marble.

6 comments

  1. ᛋᛉᚺᛟᚾ · February 22, 2020

    Québec in particular has some of the grandest European architecture in all of North America, or so I am told – my fiancée has family from both Denmark & Austria who moved there in favor to the U.S. due to; homogeneity, climate & the fact that they retain a strong sense of European Ethnos (Gallic) predominantly rather than American identity politics & other factors which make the U.S. less ideal for new European settlers.

    Like

    • Viking Life Blog · February 22, 2020

      The pictures look epic, so it’s easy for me to believe that.

      Canada was a very popular destination back in the days, it was a great country for the reasons you mention and the people. The same properly goes for New Zealand, Australia, etc.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Viking Life Blog · February 22, 2020

      New York still have some of it, too.

      Liked by 1 person

      • ᛋᛉᚺᛟᚾ · February 22, 2020

        New York has some fine Architecture yes, sadly I don’t think the edifices redeem that particular city, the blight of our *eternal enemy* is very strong in the big apple most unfortunately.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Viking Life Blog · February 22, 2020

      Oh yes, without doubt.

      Liked by 1 person

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