I hadn’t been to the Château Laurier (properly called “Fairmont Château Laurier”) since my high school prom, and for numerous reasons was not able to fully appreciate the beauty of this hotel at the time.
The hotel has its origin and history on display with a series of captioned photographs. It was commissioned by the Grand Trunk Railway (which, unfortunately, has no connection to the Grand Funk Railroad) in 1909, designed in conjunction with the Union Train Station (which is now the Government Conference Centre, and a marvel of architecture in itself). The Château Laurier was completed in 1912, but never seen by the Grand Trunk Railway commissioning chairman, Charles Melville Hays, as he was returning from England on the ill-fated RMS Titanic.
However, Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the hotel’s namesake, was present for the opening ceremony. The hotel was Ottawa’ hot spot for decades to come, hosting a plethora of royalty, politicians, celebrities and artists. After the closing of Union Station, the hotel went through a slump in the 60s and 70s. However, it was heavily renovated in the 1980s, restoring it to glory. Eventually, the hotel chain that owned the Château Laurier, Canadian Pacific Hotels, was purchased by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, and the name was updated to “Fairmont Château Laurier”.
In addition to the beautiful photo gallery which describes the history above, the hotel is filled with uncountable interesting details. It is host to a collection of shops carrying both tourist goods and works of Canadian art. It also hosts an upscale restaurant (Wilfrid’s Restaurant), a seasonal patio (La Terrasse), and a lounge (Zoé’s Lounge). Zoé’s offers a daily tea service, which is a tradition for many Ottawa residents.
For the holiday season, the hotel has a stunning array of Christmas trees on display, as well as extensive holiday programming. I know my brief trip to take in the sights was enough to plunge me into the holiday spirit.
The Château Laurier is remarkable – to stay at, eat at, or just visit. If you’re like me, and haven’t taken in everything the hotel has to offer, then I would strongly encourage you to stop by next time you’re downtown. All the better if you can make it before the holiday season is over!
Do you have a favourite memory from the hotel that you’d like to share? Feel free to leave a comment or send us an e-mail at LTOttawa@gmail.com!