Now that we’ve looked at Union Station, let’s turn our attention to the Chateau Laurier across the street.
Here we have another one of those pictures of how things would look when they were finished in 1912, but drawn some years earlier. Like the other early drawings we’ve seen, this one fudges some details. The absentee artist’s treatment of the terrace and embankment above the canal is particularly confusing!
Since we’ll be coming back to the Chateau Laurier in later tours, I’ll just make a few points here, starting with the idea that the Chateau Laurier is now thought of as a posh place that only the relatively well-off can afford to stay in. It was originally built as a railway hotel in association with the train station. That meant, even though it did have rooms and suites for rich people, it had floors with rooms and even dormitories for ordinary people, passengers and commercial travellers, all at a price that normal folk could afford.
The second point is well-depicted in the picture. The Chateau was built as a railway hotel, so it was designed in the “Chateau Style” then in favour for train stations all over the country.
One might think this choice of style was out of place. I mean you have a Classical train station across the street, a Second Empire Post Office across the Plaza, and Gothic Parliament Buildings up the Hill. Why not go with one of those?
We’ve already touched on the answer. Architects of the time believed that old architectural styles could be perfectly appropriate for different kinds of modern buildings. The Classical style was thought to be just right for a train station. The Gothic style was good for Parliaments. The Chateau Style was thought to be perfect for hotels.
Although the Parliament Buildings and Chateau Laurier look so different, there’s a connection between them. In the case of the Parliament Buildings the idea was to go back in time to the Middle Ages and find a type of building that fit the function — like the old Palace of Westminster or the many medieval town halls — and that’s exactly what they did with the Chateau Laurier.
They went back to the Middle Ages to find a type of building that combined luxury with hospitality and housed a lot of people of different classes. The answer architects came up with was the Medieval French Chateau, which thus became a perfectly acceptable source of inspiration for the design for a hotel in the 1910s. The Chateau Laurier is said to be modelled on one French Chateau in particular, the Chateau de Langeais in the Loire Valley, built in the 1400s.
One last thing to say about this postcard. What you see is what you get! The original Chateau Laurier had a section fronting on Rideau Street and a wing along the canal. The wing along Mackenzie Avenue wasn’t added until the late 1920s.
Want a Free Lost Ottawa Book?
Join our mailing list and keep up to date with the latest Lost Ottawa news. Plus get our free book!