By Marc DesRosiers
100 years ago today, the legendary Titanic was undertaking its maiden voyage to America. On a moonless, clear night, and traveling a full speed, the ship entered into the Labrador straight where cold artic waters flows south. Just before midnight on April 14, 1912 the Titanic, carrying 2,223 people, struck an iceberg. The crew noticed the large iceberg in its path only moments before the collision. Within seconds, the legendary Titanic made contact with the iceberg ripping through 4 of the 6 watertight containers that were designed to keep the mighty Titanic afloat under (just about) any circumstances, creating a condition that had been considered impossible. Captain Smith had only mere hours to plan and execute rescue operations before the White Star’s flagship cruise liner began her decent to the bottom of the Atlantic ocean.
As the ship listed and started to sink, an evacuation was initiated. Women and children were first to embark on the limited number of life rafts aboard the Titanic. In total, only 18 rafts we launched, leaving the remaining passengers and crew to fend for themselves in the icy waters. In total 1517 persons perished with the Titanic on its voyage across the Atlantic, in what is considered to be one of the greatest disasters at sea.
One of the persons who lost their lives on that faithful night was Charles Melville Hays, the man who played a leading role in building the Chateau Laurier . He was lost aboard the Titanic before he could see his dream realized. In the spring of 1912, Hays and his family were visiting England. They were invited to make the return trip as the private guests of White Star chairman J. Bruce Ismay on the Titanic. Hays gladly accepted the invitation to travel on the lavish ship, as it was scheduled to arrive in New York in time for the grand opening of one of his greatest accomplishments, the Château Laurier.
Opening ceremonies for the Château were cancelled once the news of the disaster reached Ottawa. The building was built at a cost of $2 million. The famed castle eventually opened its doors June 1, 1912 in a small ceremony, forever changing the face of Canada’s capital, lending a new elegance and sophistication to the city. The Chateau’s first registered guest was the Prime Minister of the Day, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, whom the hotel was named after. The Château’s lobby is adorned with a marble bust of its namesake.
The Fairmont Château Laurier hotel in Ottawa is a magnificent limestone edifice with turrets and masonry reminiscent of a French château. The hotel was designed and built by Hays, one of the prime architects of the great Canadian railroad expansion and general manager of the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada. Hays envisioned seven grand hotels situated at key points along his rail line to complement the trains.
Celebrating its 100 years, the Fairmont Chateau Laurier is hosting a series of event to commemorate the hotel’s long history. Through the years, many great names and celebrities have made this historical landmark a temporary home including former South African President Nelson Mandela, former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and singer Madonna.
In recognition of Charles Melville Hays’ contribution to the development of this great landmark, guest were invited to take a journey through time as the hotel released rooms at a rate of $19.12 per person on the night of April 14th. The event generated plenty of interest with lines forming early in the day on April 5th. This was a great opportunity to recognize the relationship between the Titanic and the people of Ottawa who were impacted by this tragic accident. It was also an opportunity to celebrate an historic period at the famed hotel and to recount events that helped shape the history of this great hotel. On April 14th the hotel staff dressed in Edwardian era attire for the occasion, Guests are also invited to join in on an adaptation of the eleven course Titanic Menu which is being offered onThursday, Friday and Saturday for the entire month of April.