This Week in History


A Prince of a Place at 75!

For the week of Monday July 22, 2002

On July 25, 1927, the Prince of Wales Hotel opened its doors in Waterton Lakes National Park. The hotel stands isolated on a bluff overlooking a spectacular vista of mountains, lakes, town and prairie. Its striking design and dramatic setting make it Waterton's most recognized landmark.

Prince of Wales Hotel and Mount Richards behind

Prince of Wales Hotel and Mount Richards behind
© Parks Canada / J. F. Bergeron / Envirofoto / 1999

In 1910, James Hill, president of the Great Northern Railway of the United States had a vision. He wanted to make Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Parks "the playground of the Northwest." With help from his son Louis, he designed and built a chain of hotels, camps, chalets, several boats, roads and trails to attract tourists to the area. To reach the parks they would ride the Great Northern.

Louis Hill first visited Waterton in 1913 and selected the knoll overlooking the townsite and Upper Waterton Lake as the spot for the new hotel. The park's administration granted the newly formed Canadian Rockies Hotel Co. Ltd. a 42-year lease on February 1, 1926.

Constructed in 1926-27, the hotel became the sole Canadian link in this U.S. chain of resort hotels. Its soaring roofs, gables and balconies convey the appearance of a giant alpine chalet and enclose a magnificent timber-framed interior that continues to evoke the rustic atmosphere of mountain lodges built in that period.

Prince of Wales Hotel
Prince of Wales Hotel
© Heritage Recording Services / 1995 / Public Works

Beginning in 1927, after arriving by train at either East or West Glacier, Montana, travellers began an exciting vacation using a variety of hotels, lodges and tent camps. They ended their trip with a ride aboard the MV International on Upper Waterton Lake from Goat Haunt, USA to Waterton Lakes National Park of Canada. They would spend an evening at the Prince of Wales Hotel before bussing back to Glacier National Park. This was one of many routes through the park supplied by the Great Northern, which were designed for the "affluent tourist," as one week's travel and accommodation could cost more than $1000—an enormous sum in the 1920s and 1930s.

Situated in Waterton Lakes National Park of Canada the Prince of Wales Hotel is a grand survivor from the golden age of railway resort development in Canada and the United States. It was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1994.

For more information, visit the Waterton Lakes National Park of Canada Web site.

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