Royal Connaught Hotel
Date Built: 1914 - 1916
The Anglo-American Hotel was erected on this site in 1854 in anticipation of the arrival of the Great Western Railway in Hamilton. When the Anglo-American Hotel declared bankruptcy in 1861, the building was converted into the Wesleyan Female College, an exclusive international school for the education of women. After the Wesleyan Ladies College closed in 1898, the building was reconverted into the Waldorf Hotel. The Waldorf Hotel in turn closed in 1913, and the City issued a building permit for construction of a new hotel on the site.
The new building cost $1,000,000, and a contest was held to find a suitable name for the hotel. Alfie Richards, an Ottawa Street School student living on Rosslyn Avenue in Crown Point, won the $10 gold piece prize by suggesting the name Connaught after Canada's Governor General, Prince Arthur William Patrick Albert, 1st Duke of Connaught and Strathearn. In 1914 the Duke of Connaught laid the cornerstone, and granted permission to add "Royal" to the name of the hotel.
The hotel opened in 1916 with tours for the general public, an opening reception, and a lavish banquet and dance. Several thousand Hamiltonians toured that afternoon, and 300 Hamilton representatives, including Hamilton's own Lieutenant Governor of Ontario Sir John S. Hendrie, attended the evening festivities. In his speech, Mayor Chester Walters emphasized that the opening of the Royal Connaught marked an important milestone in the commercial development of Hamilton, and applauded the citizens that despite adverse circumstances, "but backed by their money and brains", brought the immense project to a successful conclusion.
The Edwardian Style Royal Connaught Hotel was compared by some to the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa. Built by the Piggot Construction Company, the 12-storey steel construction building's walls and floors were made of concrete and gypsum, making the structure relatively fire-proof for its time. The exterior walls of the ground floor with its large rounded windows and mezzanine were limestone, the 2nd to 9th walls were brick, and the 10th to roof floors were terra cotta. The building was capped by a large overhanging cornice.
The hotel, which dominated downtown Hamilton, was approached by a sweeping, canopied front drive. Inside, the lobby was decorated in Chippendale style furniture, decorated glass, and mahogany woodwork. A sweeping marble staircase lead to the mezzanine where writing desks for gentlemen were situated at one end, and a tea room for ladies at the other. The hotel's palatial amenities included 244 ensuite bedrooms all baths with marble floors. The hotel boasted a convention and banquet hall seating 1500, a grill room, a bar, a barber shop, a shoeshine parlour, telephones, electric clocks, and electric elevators replete with uniformed operators.
Over the next 5 decades, the Royal Connaught hosted scores of local and international events, hundreds of celebrities from the entertainment and political spheres.
Written by: Bill Manson
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