Its 429 guest rooms – the third-most among local hotels – rise above the Rideau Canal, a stone’s throw from Parliament Hill.
With nearly 400 employees, it is currently the largest employer among local hotels and has been a significant economic generator over the past 10 decades, outlasting stock market crashes, ownership transfers and tourism funding challenges.
Through ownership rotations and economic crises, the former railway hotel has withstood 10 decades of change. Ahead of its centennial on June 1, here are some of the most significant business events in the hotel’s history:
1907 - The Château Laurier is commissioned by Charles Melville Hays, the general manager of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. It officially opens April 26, 1912, two weeks after Mr. Hays dies on the Titanic.
1919 - Grand Trunk Railway defaults on federal government loan payments and is nationalized under Canadian National Railways, a Crown corporation.
1929 - The stock market crash slows down business at the Château as the general economic climate of the capital worsens. Poor prospects continue for several years; in 1932, temporary relief comes in the form of an Imperial Economic Conference held in the city. Workers who had been laid off or reduced to part-time hours are called back to full-time while the conference was in session.
1967 - One of the brightest years in the Château’s history is Canada’s Centennial Year, which draws more tourists to the capital. Officials say all the special rooms were booked and often, four or five wedding receptions took place daily.
1987 - Canadian Pacific purchases eight Canadian National hotels, including the Château Laurier, for a total of $260 million.
1998 - Legacy Hotels REIT forms and purchases 11 hotels – among them the Château Laurier – from Canadian Pacific Hotels for $835.6 million.
2000 - The Château’s brand becomes the Fairmont Château Laurier as Fairmont Hotels & Resorts takes over management.
2001 - From record occupancy levels of 81 per cent in 1998-99, the hotel sees a steep plunge as the tech crash hits Ottawa.
2004 - Amid falling occupancy, the Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association introduces for its members a destination marketing fund in 2004 that charges travellers a three-per-cent levy on hotel rooms to help Ottawa Tourism market the city to travellers.
2007 - The Château’s current owner, LGY Acquisition LP, acquires previous owner Legacy Hotels REIT in an all-cash transaction valued at $2.5 billion. LGY is a limited partnership made up of InnVest REIT and Cadbridge Investors LP (a limited partnership between Caisse de dépôt division SITQ and Westmont Hospitality Group).
2011 - The Ottawa Convention Centre opens just down the road from the Château, bringing in business such as the NHL All-Star gala and, in 2015, a 1,700-delegate conference from Education International. While it’s still early to quantify the long-term business effect, the Château expects steeper occupancy and more business in the years to come.
To experience the Château's 100th anniversary gala, view OBJ's slideshow from the event.
Sources: Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, Colliers International Hotels, Fairmont Château Laurier, OBJ files