100 Years and Counting
Celebrate a century of the Fairmont Hotel MacDonald with magnificant (and strange) bits of the building’s history
illustration by Jeffrey Dekker
At 100 years of age, the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald has been many things to Edmontonians: a venue for graduation and wedding ceremonies, a tried and true dining destination and brunch spot, an abandoned eyesore, a renewed source of civic pride and – most importantly – a hulking piece of history overlooking the city from its river valley perch.
Upon its grand opening, the hotel was hailed as a modern marvel, boasting amenities never before seen within city limits. Catering to affluent travellers heading west by rail (namely the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, which built the hotel), the Mac featured running water and a restroom on every floor, a barbershop, a billiard room and a telephone in every room. It was state of the art – for 1915.
Today, the hotel stands proudly as one of Edmonton’s destination hotels. Celebrities and dignitaries have graced its halls.
And it’s a survivor, too, having been abandoned to rot for eight years before being rescued by Canadian Pacific Hotels and Resorts in 1991. Restored to its original grandeur, the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald stands as the best representation of its former glory. “I can see the fireplace and I can hear the bar behind me. And when I look at old historical photos, I see someone was sitting in this exact spot 100 years ago and nothing has changed. It looks almost exactly the same,” says Steven Walton, director of sales and marketing for the hotel. “It takes you back in time, and that is pretty exciting.”