Saturday, February 17, 2018

Queen Elizabeth Hotel, Montreal

The Queen Elizabeth Hotel opened on April 15th 1958. Located at 900 Rene Levesque Blvd West in Downtown Montreal, it is connected to the central station and the underground. Built by the Canadian National Railway, leading architects and designers were chosen to give the hotel interior a “New France” theme.  The hotel has 1039 rooms with 21 floors.  The Queen Elizabeth Hotel is the largest hotel in the Quebec Province and the second largest in Canada after the Royal York in Toronto. 

Quebec handcrafts were chosen to decorate the hotel and many well known artists were employed to create the themed interior.  Albert Edward Cloutier, a Canadian painter and graphic designer, known for having a style of intensified realism with plastic forms in his work, was asked to create some original pieces for the hotel.  Cloutier contributed carved wood panels and painted a mural for the dining room of the Salle Bonaventure in the hotel.  French Canadian artist Jean Phillips Dallaire was commissioned to do wall hangings for the hotel.  Dallaire’s painting style was original and he was best know for festival scenes depicting macabre characters.  Ceramist and painter Claude Vermette created the ceramic tiles for the hotel and the bronze elevator doors were designed by Quebecois industrial engineer Julien H├Ębert.
Marius Plamondon, Canadian stained glass artist and sculptor also contributed to the unique artwork in the hotel. 

When it came to naming the newly built hotel there was much controversy.  Quebec Nationalists wanted the hotel to be named Paul de Chomedey Maisonneuve. However the president of the Canadian National Railway insisted that the hotel be Queen Elizabeth,  who had unexpectedly come to the throne in 1952.  The Hotel was named Le Reine Elizabeth. 

The Canadian National Railway owned the hotel for many years while Hilton Hotels managed it.  The Canadian National Railway eventually sold their hotels to Canadian Pacific Hotels, which is now known as the Fairmont Hotels and Resorts. 

In 2016 the Queen Elizabeth Hotel was closed for renovations.  The hotel was reopened on July 10th 2017 boasting 950 rooms and suites, the restaurant Roselyn’s, an Urban Market, a night spot called Nacarats, Artisans, Krema and a spa.
The hotel has been the site of many historical events and hosted many famous people. The NHL draft was held in the hotel from 1963-1979. In 1970 the Quebec government moved its centre of operations into the Queen Elizabeth Hotel during the October Crisis.  Members of the Front de Liberation du Quebec kidnapped the provincial Cabinet Minister Pierre Laporte and the British Diplomat James Cross.  In response to this Primeminister Trudeau invoked the only peacetime use of the War Measures Act.  Laporte was murdered and ensuing negotiations saw the release of Cross and the exile of the kidnappers to Cuba.  

Many famous guests have stayed at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel including Queen Elizabeth, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen Mother and Prince Charles.  Fidel Castro, Princess Grace of Monaco, Charles de Gaulle, Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, Indira Ghandi, Jimmy Carter, Perry Como, Henry Kissinger and Mikhail Baryshnikov. 

The famous Bed-In held by John Lennon and Yoko Ono on May 26th to June 2nd 1969 was in Room 1742 of the Queen Elizabeth Hotel.  The Bed-In was in protest to Lennon and Ono being refused entry into the US.  The song “Give Peace A Chance” was recorded in the room on June 1st 1969.

The Queen Elizabeth Hotel is said to be haunted by a woman in white who sometimes visits guests in their rooms. Many have reported they feel they are being watched, hearing unexplained voices and footsteps.  People have felt like they have been touched and have heard mysterious loud bangs and knocks.

This hotel has quite a history and it’s gorgeous and original local artwork is quite amazing.