Ottawa Magazine

The Chateau’s Epic Saga

- Château Laurier: The Mini-Series yet? — Laura Byrne Paquet

Builders being asked to pee in a bucket so that their urine could be used to oxidize the gleaming copper roofs of a new hotel rising beside Parliament Hill.

A grand opening postponed when company president Charles Hays drowned on the Titanic, taking the newly purchased dining room furniture with him.

R.B. Bennett’s five-year stay during his term as prime minister. Tory minister George Hees cavorting with alleged Soviet spy Gerda Munsinger. Pierre Trudeau sliding down a banister. A reputation as Canada’s “third Parliament.”

The saga continues. Photograph­er Yousef Karsh and his wife, Estrellita, entertaine­d celebritie­s in Suite 358, which was their home for 18 years. Rumour has it that a guest once asked for a white horse (employees found the horse but refused to let it into the hotel). Rudolf Nureyev wanted an extra-wide bed so that he could practise his dance steps atop it.

But the Château’s story is not all sunshine and roses. Public outrage surrounded the place from the start, when constructi­on on the hotel began in 1909, because it chewed up the southern portion of Major’s Hill Park. And flare-ups followed any proposal to change anything about the beloved pile of Indiana limestone — the current ruckus about a proposed extension, which would add 218 long-stay suites and an undergroun­d garage to the hotel, is far from the first.

And I haven’t even mentioned the CBC reporters upstairs, the secret tunnel under Rideau, the race-winning sled dog that slurped milk from a trophy in the ballroom, and the ghost accused of laying a chilly hand on a guest’s back while she was showering.

Why hasn’t someone made

 ??  ??

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