Monday, 8 June 2009

My Town Monday - Grand Hotels of the Canadian Pacific Railway

When the Canadian Pacific Railway was built between 1881 and 1885 it became the only connection between eastern Canada and British Columbia. The CPR, as it is known, built several ‘grand hotels’ across the country in varying ‘chateau’ styles: the Chateau Frontenac, the Banff Springs Hotel, the Royal York Hotel and the Empress.

The Chateau Frontenac was opened in 1893 after its sister hotel, the Banff Springs Hotel in Banff did 1887. William Cornelius Van Horne, the newly appointed president with the CPR, envisioned a string of grand hotels across Canada to draw visitors from abroad.

According to Wikipedia:

“The Château Frontenac was named in honour of Louis de Buade, Count of Frontenac, who was governor of the colony of New France from 1672 to 1682 and 1689 to 1698. The Château was built not too far from the historic Citadelle, whose construction Frontenac had begun at the end of the 17th century.”

Two historic posts about Louis de Buade can be found here and here.

The Château Frontenac, like its sister hotels below, has Old-Fashioned Tea . Hours of operation are June to October, Thursday to Saturday, from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Reservations are required.

The original Banff Springs Hotel became such an immediate sensation among the tourists that the CPR encouraged the federal government to establish the first national park.

The Banff Springs Hotel with its unique blend of opulence and seclusion has been a symbol of Rocky Mountain magnificence for more than a century. Styled after a Scottish baronial castle, the Fairmont Banff Springs offers stunning vistas, golf courses, skiing, classic cuisine and a European-style spa. I can provide a personal recommendation for staying in this luxurious hotel. There is nothing quite like this magnificent hotel with the surrounding pristine wilderness. For those visiting Banff and the surrounding area it is a wonderful experience to take Afternoon Tea, available daily, Monday to Friday from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm. The price is quite reasonable, starting at $32Cdn.

The Royal York Hotel opened on June 11, 1929, with 28 floors made it the tallest building in Toronto at the time. State of the art, the hotel had ten elevators, a radio in each of the 1,048 rooms, and what we take for granted now: a private shower or bath in each room.

Something new I was unaware of: in 2008 the hotel installed 3 beehives (three queens and 40,000 workers) on the 13th floor rooftop terrace to produce the chefs with 700 pounds of honey.

All the original Canadian Pacific Railway Hotels had afternoon tea, and the Royal York Hotel has continued this tradition but with an additonal treat: a tour of their Rooftop Garden on the 13th floor. The afternoon tea and rooftop garden tour began on May 23, 2009, continuing every Saturday and Sunday afternoon until September 6, 2009. The tea menu can be seen here. Reservations are required, and subject to availability.

The Fairmont Empress Hotel is considered to be the oldest and finest hotel in Victoria, British Columbia. This Edwardian, chateau-style hotel was designed for CPR Hotels as a terminus hotel for the CPR steamship line terminal a block away. It opened in 1908, with additional wings being added in 1909, 1914 and 1928. Later when the CPR ceased its passenger service, the hotel was successful as a tourist resort in the 1920s.

The Empress Hotel has always had an afternoon tea service in the summer months with sandwiches, fresh scones, preserves and Jersey Cream in its ‘Tea Lobby’. Reservations are required.

The Tea and Garden Package which includes one night accommodation, an afternoon tea and a round trip motorcoach tour to The Butchart Gardens. Prices start at $239Cdn during the off season and is subject to availability.

Some years ago I attended one of these sumptuous tea services at the Empress and found a similar delightful atmosphere at the Claridges Hotel in London, England. Purely divine.

Travis Erwin wanted to know the distances between these hotels.
The Chateau Frontenanc in Quebec City, Quebec is about 313 miles (504 km) from Toronto where the Fairmont Royal York Hotel is.

Toronto, Ontario is about 1,746 miles (2,811 km) to Banff, Alberta where the Banff Springs Hotel is located.

And the Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia is about 395 miles (635 km) from Banff, Alberta.

For anyone wanting to hotel hop this is a long way to go.

Photo Credits: Wikipedia.

Sources: wikipedia – frontenac ,,
Wikipedia – Banff Springs Hotel ,,
Wikipedia – Fairmont Royal York,,
wikipedia – Canadian Pacific Railway
Wikipedia – Canada’s railway hotels
Wikipedia – The Fairmont Empress Hotel ,

Travis Erwin from Amarillo, Texas is the founder of My Town Monday. For other locations to visit please go to Travis' site here.


A Cuban In London said...

The first two photos look so regal. They are absolutely beautiful. Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Gary's third pottery blog said...

I always wondered why that wonderful hotel was in the middle of nowhere (Banff)....

Clair D. said...

Such grand buildings! Lovely.

Teresa said...

I love this post on old luxury hotels of Canada, Barbara. One of my favorite holiday trips as a child was driving from Seattle to Vancouver, taking the fairy to Victoria and having tea at the Empress Hotel. (In those days one did not always need a reservation in the off-season.)

Charles Gramlich said...

I have a puzzle based on that top pic. Lovely on the land.

Marian Perera said...

I went to afternoon tea at a hotel once - not the Empress, but very nice. It was a lovely experience. China cups, scones, clotted cream, sandwich triangles... it all felt so elegant and refined.

When I get a tea service of my own, I'll do that again.

Travis Erwin said...

What is distance between these hotels.

pattinase (abbott) said...

One of the few pictures with snow. Funny considering how much we get up north.

Jenn Jilks said...

I still feel a certain pang when see photos of my mom's hotel!

Very interesting to compare them all.

laughingwolf said...

while beautiful, i find them too imposing...

Shelley Munro said...

Beautiful buildings. I've wandered through the Banff Springs Hotel and found it very impressive. I love the sound of the afternoon tea. That would be very nice.

Barbara Martin said...

Cuban, I love the old 'grand' hotels and am pleased that there are corporations interested in renovating them to their old grandeur.

Gary, by placing that luxury hotel at Banff, the CPR was able to woo thousands of wealthy visitors from the United Kingdom, Europe and farther destinations into coming to visit the Canadian Rockies. The visitors had to use the railroad to get across the breadth of the country, and in a later post I will be covering those many railroad stations with their rest-stop hotels for weary travellers.

Barbara Martin said...

Clair, these hotels are part of Canada's colonial history as they helped bring many immigrants to settle into a new country.

Teresa, it was the same when I visited the Empress with my mother while on a holiday trip in 1969.

Charles, of all the hotels listed here, the Chateau Frontenanc is the most expensive to stay in.

Barbara Martin said...

Marian, going to an afternoon tea in a luxurious location is a an excellent way to celebrate an occasion: birthday, having a visitor, or just wanting a change of scenery.

Travis, I answered by amending the post.

Patti, it was the best photo I could find of the Chateau Frontenac. In February Quebec celebrates Bon Homme and this would be a wonderful place to stay to soak in the French Canadian culture.

Barbara Martin said...

Jenn, whenever I'm in downtown Toronto I try to slip into the Royal York's deli in the underground area to have a bite to eat. The meal prices are cheaper but the food is the same quality as the guests upstairs get.

The Royal York hotel has many famous people staying there: one lunch at the deli I saw Harrison Ford.

Tony, for me they represent an old way of life that is quickly disappearing.

Shelley, now you know when you return for another visit to Banff to stop in for the afternoon tea. There is an indescribable feeling while sitting at a table with a linen monogrammed tablecloth, heavy silverware, delicious food, exquisite teas, and a view of outstanding pristine wildnerss out the window.

RuneE said...

Châteaus indeed! A style we seldom see today, but I'm glad to hear that they are taken well care of - although I'm afraid my economy would only cover the tea. Perhaps. :-(

Barbara Martin said...

RuneE, I cannot afford to stay in such luxury, though I do attend the afternoon teas on occasion with family or friends for a treat.

Barrie said...

You do some a great job with these MTM posts, Barbara! Oh, I'd love to be going for a formal tea.

Barbara Martin said...

Barrie, I'm certain there is a hotel in your area that has afternoon teas.

Rajesh said...

Superb snaps. Loved the architecture and history of these hotels. It must be pretty expensive here.

Barbara Martin said...

Rajesh, I linked the hotel contacts and each of them have packages available. Sometimes there are travellers or seasonal specials, and if these are combined with a business trip or group association the overnight stays are a little more reasonable. But the hotels are very 'grand' in the manner they were built and the inside decor reflects the same.

The Empress Hotel in Victoria has a dining room named the "Bengal Room" and decorated in an Indian style to reflect previous visits by Rudyard Kipling.

Linda McLaughlin said...

I love those old railway hotels. I've been inside the Empress and Banff Springs, and my DH and I stayed at the Chateau Frontenac for several days some years ago. I used my travel agent discount so we got a very small room, but it was such fun to stay there.

Barbara Martin said...

Linda, then these images brought lovely memories for you.