Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Historical Images Of A Chateau

The Chateau Laurier was opened in 1912 and named in honour of Prime Minister Sir Wilfred Laurier. It was a dream project for Charles Melville Hays, a railroad baron who had the misfortune to be aboard the Titanic during that whole little scrape with an iceberg. Hays was buried at Mount Royal Cemetery in Montreal, though there are stories that his ghost carries on here in the hotel he never got to officially open. His portrait can be found here, alongside a number of period photos that grace some of the corridors on the first floor, showing the development and life of the place.

Laurier and his wife Zoe feature in one of those photographs, from the opening of the hotel's first phase, held weeks after the opening was supposed to happen out of respect for the death of the hotel's founder.

Yousuf Karsh features prominently in the story of the hotel- several of his photographs hang in a lounge off the main entrance, while the man himself appears in this photograph amid the others. Long before Karsh had moved his studios here to the hotel for the latter part of his career, he already had an association with the place. His first solo exhibit in the 1930s had been held in the Chateau.

Winston Churchill also had an association with the hotel, often staying here when he came to Canada, or attending official conferences or dinners. In the second shot, he's accompanied at his left by our prime minister at the time, Louis St. Laurent.

Many famous people have come to the hotel at one point or another down through the decades. This photograph of Prime Minister Mackenzie King has him flanked by the American actor Jack Benny and Benny's wife Mary Livingstone, who were promoting the war bond drive during the Second World War. The hotel has also served as a place for state functions, such as a dinner held in honour of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth during their visit in 1939.

On those occasions when I do pop into the Chateau, I often stop by this portrait of Churchill himself, in the lounge near other Karsh portraits. It's the defining image of both men- Churchill's resilience in the face of war made Karsh's career internationally. The photo, taken after Churchill had addressed the House of Commons on a visit to Ottawa on the 30th of December, 1941, features the legendary scowl for a very good reason- Karsh had taken the great man's cigar away.

The Chateau plays host to all sorts. It even lets disreputable scoundrels pass through and take selfie shots via over-sized mirrors.


  1. I think the last photo of your nice selfie. Lol!

  2. The Churchill cigar story is hilarious. I am sure sir winston would not like that story being bantered around. And your selfie in the last photo suggests captures an important-looking stance. Love it.

  3. These old photos are unique and interesting.
    I like your selfie!

  4. A lot of famous people have visited the hotel.

  5. i enjoy the light reflection in the photo. u 2, we hardly ever seen William ... that is a rare shot. ok, that age or year is around my parents age. but age is just a #. lol! ( :

  6. I love old photos, William! Thanks for sharing these.
    The last one is the oldiest, right? :)

  7. Always nice to see those old portraits.
    The last one seems to be a kind of odd man in that collection, I think ... ;-)

  8. A rich history beautifully displayed.

  9. I simply adored this visit! Wonderful info richly backed up by your shots. And there YOU are! My favourite pic today (amid those smashing Karsh works too :)

  10. What a fun visit. I appreciate the various photos with your commentaries. That hotel did see a lot of notables! Here we have lots of deplorables and they are heading up our government! Nice selfie!

  11. Well, this scoundrel is going to have to visit the Chateau

  12. @Nancy: thanks!

    @Gemma: and the irony is that Churchill let him take a second shot- and smiled for it!

    @Marleen: thank you!

    @Marianne: a great many.

    @Beth: I'm usually not one for selfies.

    @Karl: hah!

    @Jan: very odd.

    @Sharon: I agree.

    @Cloudia: thank you!

    @Lowell: thanks!

    @Red: you should.

  13. I think 'disreputable' is a bit harsh William, dodgy maybe.. only kidding ☺☺ I love old black and white images so much, what a fantastic collection here!

  14. Haha I love the scoundrel in the mirror!

  15. Ha ha, William! I, too, love the scoundrel in the mirror! :)

  16. I love that famous photo of Churchill suddenly minus his cigar! Karsh was a master.

  17. So many great associations with this place, especially the "disreputable scoundrel" in the last photo.


  18. Some serious historical people came through that door. I love looking at old photos too and wonder what it was like to live in any of those eras. And now you have added your image as a disreputable scoundrel to stand the test of time among the greats. :) Nice post William and the selfie is very creative!

  19. @Grace: I wear the disreputable label with pride.

    @Tanya: I couldn't resist.

    @Linda: I definitely fit the bill.

    @Catalyst: he was. I think even the portrait of him was a self portrait- it has his style.

    @RedPat: thank you!

    @Janis: hah!

    @Bill: and there are even more of them- these were just a taste!

  20. I love Karsh's work. The Churchill story is one for the ages. After he took that shot, Churchill smiled for another one. Karsh took it and Churchill said, "You can even make a roaring lion stand still to be photographed." Karsh filed it under "The Roaring Lion."
    I do like your selfie, too.

  21. Taking the cigar from Churchill was a brave act. Loved the picture of the last scoundrel.

  22. Okay, that's a good selfie, but you should have moved closer to the mirror!

  23. @Kay: I think it's a wonderful story.

    @Revrunner: it certainly is.

    @Mari: thank you!

    @Jennifer: thanks!

    @Norma: and break the mirror? :)

    @Linda: thank you!