The Mount Royal Hotel has long been a leader in Banff hospitality, dating back 109 years now. There are a lot of chapters to its history, paralleling the growth of Banff. Here’s a brief timeline of what happened when.
Originally called the Banff Hotel, the hotel we now know as the Mount Royal first opened to the public in 1908. Under the ownership of Dave and Annie McDougall of Morley, it was a red brick structure with a turreted lead roof to house 60 guests. Guests had space to relax in the hotel dining area or billiard room.
Jim Brewster purchases the hotel for $75,000 – stamping his (and his pioneering Brewster family’s) key involvement in Banff’s pre-war boom. Deemed by the press as one of the largest real estate deals in the area at the time, it includes leases on three existing lots along Banff Avenue as well as three vacant lots and a livery.
Jim Brewster makes his mark right away. Plans move ahead quickly for a major expansion of the hotel. It nearly doubles in capacity that year with enhanced dining and billiard rooms, 50 new guest rooms and an elevator.
By the end of the 1920s, under the direction of a new manager with big ideas, the hotel is beautifully redecorated. Major renovations begin, including redecorating and remodeling of the upper floor and upgrades to 24 rooms to include both hot and cold water – a luxury at the time. Other rooms are equipped with complete bathrooms.
In the winter of 1940, construction begins on the vacant space between the hotel and the Mount Royal Garage. Exciting new retail space is allocated at street level opening onto Banff Avenue. Many rooms in the old part of the hotel are modernized and 31 new rooms are added.
To honour of origins of Brewster Transport, a plaque by renowned Banff sculptor Charles Beil depicting two men packing a horse is mounted on the façade of the new addition.
Four years after the Mount Royal expansion along Banff Avenue, an annex is added and an additional 16 guest rooms enhance the space.
Construction is complete on an expansion over what was previously the Mount Royal Garage. This modern construction includes 28 new rooms with baths, a full basement and space for four retail stores on the ground floor.
A devastating fire on March 31 of 1967 destroys the oldest wing of the hotel, taking down with it the beautiful dining room and more than 50 guest rooms. Fortunately, no lives are lost. One special guest visiting that night, acclaimed novelist Arthur Hailey, retells the story for Calgary’s Albertan newspaper.
Soon after the fire, plans to renovate are approved and the rebuild is promised to produce the most modern hotel in Banff. While maintaining the 1940 and 1955 additions, it would incorporate Rundle stone, red brick and cedar shank construction and be fully equipped with a cocktail lounge, stylish banquet rooms, a cafe and improved guest living space.
Beginning in 1992, all guest rooms, corridors, food and beverage outlets and public spaces are enhanced. Integration with the attached Cascade Inn, including 34 more rooms, brings the Mount Royal Hotel to its most current size.
The exterior of the Mount Royal Hotel receives a facelift designed to complement its prominent and historic location.
A rooftop fire in December of 2016 forces the suspension of hotel, food and beverage and retail operations. A team of firefighters from across the Bow Valley converges to extinguish the blaze and all 297 guests are safely evacuated.
Historic images courtesy of the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies.