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In February of 1930, the site where Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello hotel now stands was a clearing in the woods. Just four months later, the massive cedar chaeau was complete: a building feat which captured the popular imagination of the time, inspiring newspaper features across North America and attracting crowds of onlookers.
This Outaouais resort project was the dream of a Swiss-American named Hubert Saddlemire, who was inspired by the châteaux of the Swiss Alps, and dubbed the project "Lucerne-in-Québec." A Finnish master-builder named Victor Nymark supervised the construction and woodworking teams, who worked in overlapping shifts around the clock, using electric lighting at night.
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Fairmont Chateau Laurier threw open its doors on June 1, 1912. Hundreds of people flocked to see Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Canada’s seventh Prime Minister, officially open the hotel. Renowned French sculptor Paul Romaine Chevré had been commissioned to create a bust of Laurier for the lobby of the hotel. On opening day, moments before Laurier went for a private viewing of the bust, workmen dropped the statue and the nose was chipped. Unaware of the mishap, Laurier was terribly insulted when he saw the bust. Nonetheless, Laurier was the first to sign the hotel’s guest register and the marble statue was repaired.
The regal Chateau changed the face of downtown Ottawa, lending a new elegance and sophistication to the city. The building costs totaled $2 million. The 306 rooms, priced at $2 per night, were among the first hotel rooms to offer indoor plumbing.
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