When the Mount Royal Hotel reopens next summer, guests will flow in through airy doorways opening onto Banff Avenue. They will peer out of steeped windows at the wide mountain views. The iconic hotel will take on a new life.
In the hotel’s former life, it was constantly expanding and evolving with the times.
A bold start
The story of the century-old Mount Royal Hotel began with a gutsy real estate deal and plans to expand. Perhaps when Jim Brewster purchased the hotel in 1912, he knew little about how long the hotel would survive, the stories that would come from it and the challenges it would overcome.
Either way, he had a grand vision. After all, Brewster took a bold step when he bought the 60-room hotel in those pre-war times. At a cost of $75,000—one of the largest real estate transactions in Banff—the deal included leases on three existing lots along the east side of Banff Avenue, three vacant lots and a livery.
The hotel almost doubled its capacity that year, with a renovated dining room and 50 new rooms for guests. By the end of the 1920s, under the direction of a new manager with big ideas, the hotel was beautifully redecorated.
Photo: White verandas of the Mount Royal Hotel are seen on the right of Banff Avenue. Historical images courtesy of the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
To meet the needs of visitors seeking out the Mount Royal for their stay in Banff, each decade onward saw further enhancements and additions. Retail business was added to the mix as well, with space allotted for storefronts along Banff Avenue.
In the winter of 1940, new construction began on the vacant lots adjacent to the hotel. This extension meant more new rooms and modern amenities in the old section of the building. By the late 1940s, with wartime in the past, and again in the mid-1950s, the hotel was remodeled to accommodate travellers hungry for better times and mountain adventures.
Misfortune of 1967
Ten years on, this wave of growth and expansion was interrupted when disaster hit the Mount Royal. A devastating fire in March of 1967 destroyed the oldest wing of the hotel taking down with it the beautiful dining room and more than 50 guest rooms.
However, this didn’t spell the end for the epic Mount Royal. Within the same year plans to renovate were approved and the hotel would get a makeover like it hadn’t seen before. It promised to be the most modern hotel in Banff, fully equipped with a cocktail lounge, stylish banquet rooms, a café and more guest living space.
The Fire of 2016
The Mount Royal’s saga continued into very recent memory with yet another adversity. This time, a rooftop fire in December of 2016 forced the suspension of hotel operations. It was a frightening event, but a team of firefighters from across the Bow Valley managed to extinguish the blaze and all 297 guests were safely evacuated.
Photo: Mount Royal Hotel Rendering
We now look forward to the summer of 2018, when the iconic Mount Royal Hotel will once again open its doors to the public. The beautiful new structure will honour its colourful history by letting the building go back to its former glory, says Dave McKenna, president of Brewster Travel Canada.
In the redesign, each of the additions and nuances added over the past century will be celebrated, and the story of the spirited Mount Royal Hotel will continue on.