Monday, July 4, 2011

The Empress Hotel in Victoria

Photo by Nathan Bauman

This Edwardian chateau style hotel was the work of Francis Rattenbury, who also designed the BC Legislature. Construction began in 1904, and the completed hotel was named in honour of Queen Victoria, then Empress of India. This majestic hostelry was to serve as a terminus hotel for the Canadian Pacific Steamship Line.

By 1965, the Edwardian marvel was looking dowdy and outdated. A vigorous debate ended with the decision to renovate and refurbish the old hotel rather than tear it down. Today the Empress continues as a Victoria landmark and a mecca for tourists. Afternoon Tea, served in the lobby, includes the traditional scones with jam and cream. It also requires reservations.

As well as evoking the glory days of the Edwardian era, the Empress has a long history of royal visits. In 1919 the Prince of Wales is said to have waltzed in the Crystal Ballroom until dawn. In 1939, the parents of Queen Elizabeth, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, attended a luncheon there as guests of the BC government.

Some say this old building also has a resident ghost or two. It is included in Victoria's ghost tours.

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