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Leisure & Landscape: Resort Disasters

(Added 26 June 2006)

Image No: NA-3342-5
Title: Fire at chateau, Lake Louise, Alberta.
Date: Summer 1924
Remarks: Furniture in foreground.
Glenbow Museum- Photo Archives

Resort Architecture: Fire & Glamour
Chateau Lake Louise & Banff Springs Hotel

Due to the nature of early building materials, fire was a recurring theme in the past century, causing destruction in both
the Banff Springs Hotel as well as the Lake Louise Hotel.

Chateau Lake Louise
On July 3, 1924, a fire destroyed the wooden chalet at Lake Louise. However within the year, the CPR rebuilt a new eight-story brick wing to join the Painter wing of 1913. It was then that they decided to change the hotel name to Chateau Lake Louise.

As the Canadian Rockies began to make appearance on the Hollywood circuit, more and more celebrities and dignitaries began coming to the area… movies such as 1928’s Eternal Love staring John Barrymore (Drew Barrymore’s grandfather), Betty Grable and Carmen Miranda’s Springtime in the Rockies and the 1944 Son of Lassie all shot at the beautiful location. The Chateau has had a number of royal visits over the years including Prince Rainier of Monaco, Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Noor of Jordan.

Banff Springs Hotel
The renowned architect Bruce Price designed the hotel in 1886 after being commissioned by Van Horne the year before. Price ultimately went on to design a number of the luxury hotels that Van Horne built along the Canadian Pacific railway, including the Chateau Frontenac, in Quebec. In the spring of 1887 construction began on Van Horne’s hotel, and by June 1, 1888 the Canadian Pacific Railways Banff Springs Hotel opened for business.

When a fire swept through the North wing of the hotel on April 7, 1926 the entire section was destroyed, leading to an extensive reconstruction of the hotel. The fire caused damage to the central stone portion of the hotel, which was completed in 1913. Heat combustion and water damage contributed to the destruction of fixtures, furniture with entire rooms being burned.

The heat from the blaze led to an explosion in the tower of the centre section of the wing, which caused windows and fittings to shatter. While no one was seriously hurt, many suffered from smoke inhalation from the fire, as well as exhaustion from battling the flames. The local youth aided the firemen, rushing throughout the grounds to put out fires. Stationing themselves in the surrounding bush to beat out flames before they developed into more serious secondary fires the youth of Banff proved themselves invaluable that day.

Excerpts:
The Beginning of a great Hotel
Castle in the Rockies
Both by Jackie Gold for the Banff Crag & Canyon

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