This Week in History
Ottawa's Own Château
For the week of Monday May 31, 1999
On June 1, 1912, former Canadian Prime Minister, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, led the opening ceremonies for the Château Laurier. Built in the French Renaissance style, this landmark hotel was intended to attract Grand Trunk railway tourists.
The hotel has changed over the years. Always richly decorated, it was furnished with a private bath in every room — quite a luxury in the days when most houses had no indoor plumbing. The Château even had separate women's entrances, dining rooms, and sleeping quarters - to protect the reputation of ladies travelling alone. The Canadian National Railway bought the hotel in 1919 and added an east wing. Air conditioning, colour TVs, and convention rooms were added in the 1960s. In 1984, a marble staircase and lobby fountain were added, as was an updated fitness facility and an international business centre. Still the hotel's historic ambiance was preserved.
The Château Laurier has a lavish history of celebrity guests and important events. When the First World War ended a huge celebration took place at the hotel, and balls for debutantes were common. The first Marconi radio program came from the hotel, and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation broadcast from the 7th and 8th floors for 80 years. Second World War plans were made within the hotel, and the former Canadian Grill restaurant on the lower level was often called the "Third Parliament" due to its vast political clientele.
The Château Laurier was one of four grand château-style railway hotels recognized by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada in 1980.
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