Banff Jasper Collection

Banff is a community of storytellers – from which peak you climbed yesterday to what packers were up to 100 years ago. There’s a rich history of raconteurs here, and an appreciation for legends and tales. In Banff, visitors and locals alike have a thirst for learning and sharing stories. 

The story of Banff’s Mount Royal Hotel, set to reopen July 1, 2018, parallels the story of the community. 

Firefighters battling the fire at Mount Royal Hotel

Photo: Firefighters battle the fire at the Mount Royal Hotel in 2016

When a fire destroyed the landmark hotel in December 2016, it was upsetting. But for Dave McKenna, President of Brewster Travel Canada, it was also an opportunity to revisit the past and look to the future.

“The story of the Mount Royal Hotel really is the story of Banff,” McKenna says.

The Mount Royal is the second oldest hotel in Banff. It started as a small hotel on the corner of Banff Avenue and Caribou Street that dates to 1908. It went through expansions, renovations and extensions through the 1940s and 1950s. There was a devastating fire in 1967 that led to a complete reconstruction. In the 1990s, the former Cascade Hotel next door joined the Mount Royal. 

Historic Mount Royal Hotel Photo

Photo: Historic Mount Royal Hotel

“So the hotel itself has had additions, and each addition has its own unique flavour and signature based on the decade it was built,” McKenna says. Construction is well underway and the team is energized. At the heart of the renovation is a story – one that weaves together eras in Banff’s history. It’s a story that celebrates and honours the hotel’s history. 

“In the past, there was an attempt to make it all feel the same – like one large homogenous hotel,” McKenna says. “What we’re doing now is celebrating the uniqueness.”

When the Brewster team met with the architects from the design firm Dialog to begin preparing for the newest version of the Mount Royal Hotel, they knew there was a lot to work with. The hotel as it stands today is essentially an amalgamation of three separate buildings, each reflecting different elements of design. And then there’s the long story of the people of this hotel, a centre of the community for over 115 years. 

And so the idea of a quilt emerged – layering together the historical pieces in a modern way, says Dialog’s Alison McNeil. Because the structure is so layered historically, there was clearly a need to let the past shine. “We couldn’t go with a typical cookie cutter approach to a tourist hotel,” McNeil says. “This place has its own life and personality. Like someone’s home, the imperfections here make it special.” 

The lobby of the Mount Royal Hotel, with historic tourism posters and modern art above a fireplace.

Photo: The new Mount Royal Hotel

The unique quirks of each building element will now be clearly visible on the outside and the inside. “We want to celebrate the nuances,” McKenna says. 

And while heritage will be celebrated at every turn through design and interpretive elements, the new Mount Royal Hotel will be stocked with modern amenities. 

“It’ll have everything you want in a modern hotel, but in a curated-way,” McNeil says. “Travellers today are looking for something more authentic and meaningful. There’s nothing like it in Banff.”

For Dave McKenna, telling the story of the hotel is both exciting and important. “The Mount Royal is the historic centre of Banff,” he says. “By feeling compelled to understand the story of this hotel, you’ll also learn the story of Banff.” 

As we move towards opening day, we look forward to sharing more information on the Mount Royal’s past and future. We’ll pull back the layers, and examine the patches of the quilt. And along the way, together we’ll all become storytellers. 

Be one of the first to stay at the new Mount Royal Hotel, we're now taking bookings for summer 2018.

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