Fairmont Chateau Laurier

The Fairmont Château Laurier is a landmark hotel in Canada’s capital region, Ottawa. It’s located on the intersection of Rideau Street and Sussex Drive. It’s very close to Parliament Hill and has been used as a meeting place for many notable political figures. It’s sometimes referred as the “third chamber of Parliament”.

The hotel is an impressive sight. That region of downtown Ottawa is filled with great buildings, excluding the eyesore of downtown Ottawa, the US embassy. I didn’t have time to visit it, but it’s built in a picturesque location. One side of the hotel is on Rideau Canal. The CMCP is wedged in between them, but you can’t really see much of it.

The hotel is near some of Ottawa’s most important landmarks, such as Parliament Hill, the Rideau Canal, the National Gallery of Canada, the Byward Market, the National War Memorial, the U.S. Embassy, and the Rideau Centre.

The hotel was commissioned by Grand Trunk Railway chairman Charles Melville Hays, and was constructed between 1909 and 1912 in tandem with Ottawa’s downtown Union Station (now the Government Conference Centre) across the street. The plans for the hotel initially generated some controversy as the Château was to be constructed on what was then a portion of Major’s Hill Park. Sir Wilfrid Laurier, then the Prime Minister of Canada, helped secure the important site for the construction, and the hotel was eventually named in his honour. Further conflict ensued when the original architect, Bradford Lee Gilbert, was dismissed due to disagreements with Grand Trunk executives, and the Montreal firm of Ross and Macfarlane was hired to complete the design.

The hotel was to be opened on April 26, 1912, but Hays, who was returning to Canada for the hotel opening, perished aboard the RMS Titanic when it sank on April 15. A subdued opening ceremony was held on June 12, 1912, with Sir Wilfrid Laurier in attendance.

When the Grand Trunk became part of the Canadian National Railway in 1923, the Château Laurier became one of CN’s most important hotels. For years, the hotel thrived, playing host to royalty, heads of state, political figures, celebrities and members of Canada’s elite. During the 1960s and 1970s, the construction of numerous competing hotels in the capital, as well as the closure of Union Station, led to a slow decline in the Château’s fortunes. Significant work was undertaken in the 1980s to refurbish and renovate the Château Laurier, however, thus restoring its position as Ottawa’s pre-eminent hotel.

The hotel was operated by Canadian National Hotels until the chain was purchased by Canadian Pacific Hotels in 1988. In 1999, it was renamed the Fairmont Château Laurier after Canadian Pacific Hotels bought the American Fairmont hotel chain and changed its name to Fairmont Hotels and Resorts.

In addition to hotel guests, the Château Laurier has also served over the years as the home of two important Ottawa institutions. From July 1924 to October 2004, the sixth floor of the hotel was home to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation‘s local English and French language radio stations (a legacy that commenced when the Canadian National Railway established Ottawa’s first radio station). Yousuf Karsh, one of the world’s most renowned portrait photographers, maintained his studio and residence at the Château Laurier for many years.

From Wikipedia’s entry on the Fairmont Château Laurier.

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Relevant Links

Fairmont Château Laurier’s official website


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