“Castle by the Tracks” – The Palliser Hotel

The Western Standard newspaper of June 20, 1914 described the elegant new hotel in detail. “The floor of the rotunda, vestibule, entrance hall and elevator hall is of grey Tennessee marble, and the columns that support the roof are finished in Botticino marble, with sylvan green marble for the bases. The entire ground floor with the exception of the dining room and ladies’ drawing room is fitted in fumed oak. The bar room, with its oak beams, stained glass windows, and coats of arms carved into heavy columns had the air of a baronial hall. Basement included a barbershop, complete with porcelain manicure tables, a brick wall oven for baking fresh bread, ten sample rooms, a wine cellar, ice room and a baggage room connected to the railway station.”

Here are some interesting historical facts about the hotel – compliments of the Calgary Public Library:

  • When the Palliser opened about 11 months behind schedule in June 1914 there were 300 employees. The Chief Steward reported that the supplies included 12,612 sheets, 6,000 pillow cases, 9,600 quilts, 15,000 blankets, 2,000 tablecloths, 8,400 serviettes and 13,200 plates.
  • 1929 – Three floors and a penthouse were added, making it the tallest building  in Calgary at the time. Tudor, Spanish and Italian decor was featured in  some of the 492 suites. Rooms were $4.50 a night. Complete lunch was $1.00 and dinner $1.50.
  • Home to social and service club functions, dining, dancing, teas, supper dances.
  • Palliser hosted Annual Old Time Range Men’s Dinner between 1929 and 1993. The first dinner held July 9, 1919 was attended by 57 “old time cow men”.   Only those men who had worked on a round – up wagon prior to 1900 qualified for the spread put on by CPR.
  • 1930 – dinner honouring the “Famous Five.”
  • During the 1930s the big band sound of the Jerry Fuller Orchestra was broadcast live on national radio from the Hotel’s ballroom.
  • Temporary home to politicians, movie stars and royalty including the Prince of Wales who later abdicated the throne to marry Mrs. Simpson, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, Cary Grant, Sophia Loren, Don Johnson, Bill Crosby and famous Danish explorer, Roald Amundsen.
  • Some folks just moved in and stayed. Calgarian R.B. Bennett who eventually became Prime Minister of Canada lived in room 760.
  • Between the 1940s and 1960s the Palliser’s New Year’s Eve Ball was the city’s major social event.
  • 1962 – 1965 – $2.5 million renovation. The interior was “modernized”. Ceilings lowered, air conditioning installed, 475 suites updated and a new      dining area and bar, the Rimrock Room and the Big Top Lounge opened.
  • 1970s and 1980s – Millions of dollars spent restoring the hotel to its original splendour. Earlier renovations were dismantled and the lobby, lower level  guest rooms and other public areas restored in Renaissance Revival style.
  • Chosen to host Olympic VIPs during the XV Olympic Winter Games (1988) held in Calgary.
  • A gala Charity Ball was held in May 1989 to celebrate the Palliser’s 75th Anniversary.

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Categories: Calgary History

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2 replies

  1. Very impressive building…nice photos

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