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Then and Now - Banff Springs History

/banff-springs/pdf/banff-springs-self-guided-tour/"Since we can't export the scenery, we'll have to import the tourists." - William Cornelius Van Horne

Fairmont Banff Springs is an internationally recognized symbol of Canadian hospitality. William Cornelius Van Horne, the appointed general manager of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), has been credited with recognizing the tourism potential of the Canadian west and his philosophy reflected this awareness. To enhance traffic on the CPR, Van Horne envisioned a succession of lavish resort hotels along the railway line through the Rocky and Selkirk Mountains.

Now a National Historic Site of Canada and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Fairmont Banff Springs continues to cater to travelers from all around the world.

 The Heritage Tour is open to all guests of the hotel. Present your hotel key card and it's free.

Click here to take a self-guided historical tour.

William Cornelius Van Horne

The Beginning, 1888

William Cornelius Van Horne had a vision to bring the beauty of the Canadian Rocky Mountains to the rest of the world. He commissioned blueprints for an impressive hotel to be built at the convergence of the Bow and Spray River, in what is now known as Canada's first National Park. Construction began in 1887 and the hotel publically opened on June 1, 1888.

Fairmont Banff Springs, 1900-1920's

The Start of the Twentieth Century

By the start of the twentieth century, the Banff Springs luxury Hotel had developed into one of the top three mountain getaways in North America. To help adapt to the rise of international guests, the hotel underwent two upgrade periods. Between 1900 to 1910, all adjustments to the original structure of the hotel were completed. From 1910 to 1928, all changes were aimed at the completion of a 'new' hotel.

Fairmont Banff Springs, 1926

The Fire of 1926

Disaster struck in 1926 when the original wooden hotel burnt down. It was rebuilt larger and in its present appearance commencing in 1928. Within the 28-year period, the hotel rarely saw a year without some form of addition or improvement.

Fairmont Banff Springs, 1930-

Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression

Throughout the 1920s and '30s, the hotel was able to combine day-to-day hotel life with the concept of luxurious hotel living. The depression played a part in the 'golden era', as an unsure future forced people to examine their futures and lead them to the decision to live life to the fullest.

Fairmont Banff Springs, 1940

1940s at the Banff Springs Hotel

By the 1940s, the effect of World War II had reached the hotel. War meant travel restrictions of North American vacationers and European investment was completely lost. By 1942, the hotel had closed its doors and with it the greatest era in the hotel's rich history. It wasn't until 1945 that the hotel reopened.

Fairmont Banff Springs, 1950-1960

Adapting to a New Way of Life

Throughout the 1950s and '60s, the hotel struggled to reclaim the success it had before the war. The hotel went through a significant change, adapting to the economics of the time. Transportation, convenience and availability to monetary funds jointly changed the whole perspective of the hotel.

Fairmont Banff Springs, 1970-1980

A Year Round Destination

By the 1970s, the hotel reached a pivotal point. For the first time, Banff Springs remained open for the winter season, becoming a year-round resort destination. The 1980s brought expansion and renovation back to the hotel, marking a time in its history that the hotel was entering a phase of renovation and renewal.

Fairmont Banff Springs, 1990

The Castle in the Rockies

The 1990s welcomed Ted Kissane, who arrived with a new vision of luxury for the "Castle in the Rockies." It was in 1991 that saw another expansion to the hotel with the addition of the Banff Springs Conference Centre. It was also in this decade that the Banff Springs Hotel was declared a National Historic Site by the Government of Canada.

Fairmont Banff Springs, Present Day

Present Day

Today, Fairmont Banff Springs continues to deliver the service and excellence, while still exhibiting the growth and adaptability that has been so common in the history of the hotel.

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