THE SAD TALE
- OTTAWA -
The mastermind behind this palatial hotel perished on the Titanic weeks before its grand opening.
With its elegant turrets and enormous size, this riverside hotel looks like it could double as some sort of fairytale castle perched atop a European hillside. The nearby canal even makes it seem as though a moat surrounds part of what could easily be mistaken as a stoic fortress.
The architectural beauty isn’t a palace at all, though it has had a few brushes with royalty. Many famous figures, prime ministers, and royalty from around the world have stayed within this 429-room hotel.
Its insides reveal early 20th-century hand-moulded plaster decorations, original Tiffany stained-glass windows, and walls made with the finest Indiana limestone. When it first opened in 1912, a private room cost a whopping $2 per night.
Yet despite the hotel’s grandeur, its story is tinged with sadness. The palatial Château Laurier was commissioned by Charles Melville Hays, American millionaire, philanthropist, and president of the (now long-bankrupt) Grand Trunk Railway System. But unfortunately for Hays, he died before he could see the hotel’s grand opening.
Hays, anxious to return from London to Ottawa for the Château’s big opening, booked a ticket on the famously ill-fated RMS Titanic. Strangely, he reportedly prophesied an “appalling disaster” on the very night the ship collided with the iceberg and met its demise. Hays sadly perished when the ship sank.
Notably, the Château has a second connection to the Titanic. Hays commissioned French sculptor, Paul Chevré, to create a bust of prime minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier for the hotel’s official opening. The bust, still located in the hotel foyer today, was transported aboard another ship, La Bretagne. Chevré and Hays boarded the Titanic, but unlike Hays, Chevré survived the sinking.