Prince of Wales Hotel National Historic Site
The Prince of Wales Hotel National Historic Site © Parks Canada
Built in 1926-27 during one of Waterton’s windiest and snowiest winters, the Prince of Wales Hotel is the park's most recognized landmark.
During its construction the extreme weather conditions and poor access created many problems for contractors Douglas Oland and James Scott, from Cardston, Alberta.
On December 10, 1926 hurricane-force winds (estimated at 145 km/hr) blew each of the hotel's wings about 7.5 cm off their foundation. The men managed to winch the sections back in line. Three months later winds reached speeds of over 129 km/hr, again pushing the building off its foundation. This time Oland feared structural damage if they tried to pull back the now fully-framed building so he decided to leave it slightly out of plumb.
The hotel is named after Edward, Prince of Wales who later became King Edward VIII, and, like its namesake, it has a colourful history. If its Douglas fir pillars could talk they would tell you a tale of American imagination and money, built with Canadian grit and patience.
A railway hotel
Today many people recognize the Prince of Wales as a railway hotel, but few realize it was built by the Great Northern of United States and not the Canadian Pacific.
The last in a chain of 1920s luxury hotels, backcountry chalets and tent camps, the Prince of Wales offered a final stop for affluent visitors travelling Glacier National Park's backcountry by horseback.
For just over $1,000 you could ride the train to either East or West Glacier and then enjoy a week’s adventure in the wilderness via several routes created by the Great Northern. After 1927, many folks chose to go to Goat Haunt’s backcountry ranger station and hop aboard the M.V. International to come to Waterton. After a stay at the Prince of Wales hotel, guests were bussed back to Montana to catch their train home.
The Second World War and the 1930s depression put an end to this mode of travel through Glacier and into Waterton but many of the hotels and two of the chalets remain.
A national historic site
In February 1993 the Historic Sites and Monuments Board approved the Prince of Wales' designation as a National Historic Site, recognizing its architectural style (rustic design tradition, with peaked roofs, gables, balconies and timber-frame interior that give it an appearance of a giant alpine chalet) and its contribution to tourism in the mountains. On July 23, 1995 a commemorative plaque ceremony was held at the hotel.
The Prince of Wales Hotel is operated by Glacier Park, Inc. For operating dates and bookings, please visit their website.