Each of them is a unique historical landmark, but all of them are connected with a common history. Canada’s grand railway hotels are a synonym for Canadian luxury accommodation breathing with history. Originally, each hotel was built by one of the old big railway companies: the Canadian Pacific Railway, the Grand Trunk Railway and its successor, the Canadian National Railway. The hotels were built to serve the passengers of the Canadian railway companies along the rail network with style. The amazing architecture of the beautiful buildings still reflects the grandeur and confidence of the then-competing railway companies. In part one, we will have a look at the first three of the eleven most spectacular majestic railway hotels in Canada.
1. Hotel Vancouver
Currently branded as the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, this 17-storey magnificent hotel is located in the heart of downtown Vancouver, BC. The hotel was designed by architects John S. Archibald and John Schofield and opened in 1939. It was the third hotel to be named “Hotel Vancouver;” the second one became a troop barracks during the Second World War and was demolished afterwards, thanks to an agreement between the city and the developer of the current, third Hotel Vancouver. This was due to the second Hotel Vancouver’s being a serious potential rival to the newer one because it was built in an impressive, grand Italianate style and was considered one of the great hotels of the British Empire. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation had its offices and broadcast studios on the mezzanine floor of the current hotel until the 1970’s. Legendary radio shows were broadcast from the Panorama Roof Ballroom of Hotel Vancouver, and Dal Richards started his career there.
2. Banff Springs Hotel
This Fairmont hotel is located in Banff National Park, Alberta, and was built in 1888 by the Canadian Pacific Railway. It was designed by the American architect Bruce Price in the Scottish Baronial style as a Shingle Style-influenced wooden structure. In 1911, it was wholly rebuilt as a concrete, stone-faced building designed by Walter S. Painter, another American architect. An interesting fact is that the original building’s profusion of dormers, turrets and rooflines were thanks to the builder’s mistake: he had oriented it in the wrong direction, facing away from the mountains. The reconstruction saved the view from the 300 new guest rooms by designing and building a new eleven-storey central tower with two wings. This National Historic Site marked the birthplace of tourism in the Canadian Rockies, which are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and offers exceptional service.
3. Château Montebello
One of the leading recreation destinations of Eastern Canada, this unique hotel in Quebec is famed for its rugged luxury. The Château Montebello, a red cedar log edifice, and its resort complex are surrounded by forested wilderness and 70 lakes on the shore of the Ottawa River between Ottawa and Montreal. The first building on this beautiful site was a grand house built in a typically French style which is now a National Historic Site and a museum in the summer. Later, a 26,305 hectare wildlife retreat for business people and political leaders was envisioned by Saddlemire and works began as soon as 1930. The project was completed in only four months, during which a legion of 3,500 workers constructed the log château day and night. Even the local curé had to be sent to Rome on a paid trip during the construction in order for the clergy to overlook the night shifts that were not approved by the Church at that time. The architecturally acclaimed elite club hosted such events as the G7 summit in 1981 and the NATO summit in 1983.