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.