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The Château Frontenac

The Château Frontenac

Jewel of Québec City

The impressive Château Frontenac is Québec City’s most famous landmark. The luxurious hotel perched atop Cape Diamond since the late 19th century was designed to convey prestige in keeping with its Old Québec surroundings. Historic events have taken place in the building, and famous people have stayed there. The most demanding travellers are accommodated at the hotel, and Québec City residents celebrate special moments there.

An ambitious project

When Canadian Pacific Railway executives broke ground on the Château Frontenac in 1892, their objective was to give Québec City a prestigious hotel for tourists. This new type of well-off traveller circled the globe in search of picturesque new sights. Québec City was among Canada’s most popular destinations. With the port welcoming cruise ships from Europe and the United States, and the city served by train, it was the perfect location for the most ambitious hotel in the chain the company established along its pan-Canadian network.

Today the Château Frontenac is so well known that it has inspired its own renovations. The replacement of its original roof with one that looks identical and the partial renewal of its interior decor were aimed at preserving its unique character while maintaining maximum comfort and convenience for customers for decades to come.

Creating a new “old” style

At first, New York architect Bruce Price drew inspiration from the châteaux of France’s Loire Valley to design the Château Frontenac. The owners wanted to give the Old Québec hotel a French character, a desire shared by the city, which was pushing the project.

Price incorporated various features in vogue at the time: towers and turrets, gables and dormers, tall chimneys, and high-pitched roofs. The bold result met with such acclaim that the original style would be reproduced with each addition to the building. The hotel was expanded four times between 1897 and 1993, increasing the number of rooms from 170 to 618. Construction of the central tower—the most spectacular feature—was completed in 1924.

Great moments in history

A visit by the King of England, George VI, to Québec City in 1939, was a consecration for Canadian Pacific. The King and Queen arrived aboard the Empress of Australia, one of the company’s ships. The governments of Québec and Canada hosted them in the Château’s prestigious dining room, where the tables for the 350 guests were covered with roses. They were served Laurentian trout and Québec lamb while enjoying music by the Québec Symphony Society. The following day, the royal couple left Québec City on a Canadian Pacific train.

In 1943 the Canadian government requisitioned the entire hotel to house the British and U.S. delegations to the Québec Conference, which was codenamed Quadrant. Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt made crucial decisions on the conduct of World War II, notably the date and place of the great Allied landing on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944. 

In 1985 Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney hosted U.S. president Ronald Reagan at the Château to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day. The three days of festivities led to the 1987 Canada–United States Free Trade Agreement.

A very Québec hotel

For Québec City residents, the “Château,” as they like to call it, is more than just a symbol—it’s a part of urban life. Right from the start, local contractors and craftspeople were employed for its construction. The stone came from the quarries of Saint-Marc-des-Carrières near Québec City. Current renovations are being carried out mainly by local contractors. The interior redesign features the addition of many Québec heritage objects and works by Québec artists.

Many Québec City residents have had a chance to experience Château living at banquets, conferences, celebrations, and other special events held at the prestigious hotel. Quebecers’ love affair with the Château Frontenac goes back well over a century.     

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