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Hotel History

  • Historic Photo of The Mac

Fairmont Hotel Macdonald is Edmonton’s landmark, 4 diamond luxury hotel and has been the setting of the city’s finest events and an iconic fixture of Edmonton’s skyline since July 5th, 1915. Fairmont Hotel Macdonald has been setting the bar for hotel excellence in Edmonton for 100 years and poised to raise it as we enter the next 100.

Fairmont Hotel Macdonald has long been known as the most elegant hotel in Edmonton and is lovingly referred to as 'The Mac.' After four years of construction, the Hotel, named after Canada's first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, opened its doors on July 05, 1915 and was destined to become the centre of Edmonton's social life.

Situated high on the bank overlooking the North Saskatchewan River valley, the seven-storey Grand Trunk Pacific Hotel (faced with Indiana limestone and roofed with copper) was built and furnished at a cost of about $2,250,000 (over $35 million today). The characteristic Chateau style, an adaptation of French 16th Century castles, was first brought to Canada in 1892.

In 1953, a 16-storey, 300-bedroom addition was built to meet the pressing need for more rooms and convention facilities. This very noticeable change in architecture from the original Chateau-style of 1915 caused Edmontonians to refer to the addition as 'The Mac and the box it came in.'  The addition was demolished in 1986.

After more than half a century of glamour, Fairmont Hotel Macdonald closed its doors in 1983 after the Universiade Games, as it had fallen into a state of disrepair.  On January 08, 1985, the City of Edmonton designated the Hotel as a Municipal Heritage Resource (and thereby saving it from the wrecking ball) and was the first building in Edmonton to receive this special designation. Five heritage areas are included in the designation:  The building exterior, The Confederation Lounge, the Lobby, the Wedgwood Room, and the Empire Ballroom.

Over the next several years, the owners debated how (and if)  the Hotel should be developed. Canadian Pacific Hotels came to the rescue in 1988 when it bought the chain of CN hotel properties. A total commitment was made to restore The Hotel Macdonald to its former elegance and to re-establish its importance in the community. In 1999, Canadian Pacific Hotels merged with Fairmont Hotels to create the largest luxury hotel management company in North America - Fairmont Hotels & Resorts.

Restored, Fairmont Hotel Macdonald, exuding a feeling of Victorian elegance, re-opened its doors to the public on May 15, 1991. The Hotel in Edmonton boasted every modern convenience while preserving its heritage detailing.

During the restoration, a number of specialty suites were constructed in what had once been the attic of the Hotel. These suites feature turret spaces and breathtaking views of the city and the river valley. Fairmont Hotel Macdonald's grandest suite, the Queen Elizabeth II Suite, is built on two levels and includes a large foyer, dining room, service pantry, two bedrooms, two and one-half bathrooms, and spacious living room. Guests staying in this grand suite will truly feel 'royal'.

The guestrooms throughout the Hotel were also completely reconstructed during the restoration. Paying homage to its roots, the door knobs of the guestroom closets are original -- complete with the Grand Trunk Rail monogram.  With only 199 rooms in total, this 'new' hotel became Fairmont Hotels & Resorts boutique chateau-style hotel.

Over the years, 'The Mac' has proudly hosted visitors from all walks of life, including the many American soldiers stationed here during the Second World War. The royal visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (later known as the Queen Mother) in 1939 caused throngs of well-wishers to gather below the main balcony in hopes of a glance (and creating Edmonton's first traffic jam).

Since its re-opening, the Hotel has hosted many dignitaries and celebrities including royalty, political leaders, and entertainers.  Now it's your turn!

Fairmont Hotel Macdonald -- Edmonton'sPlace for Every Occasion.

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