The Château Frontenac is a grand hotel in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, which is operated as Fairmont Le Château Frontenac. Château Frontenac is situated at an elevation of 54 m (177 ft). It was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1981.
Prior to the building of the hotel, the site was occupied by the Château Haldimand, residence of the British colonial governors of Lower Canada and Quebec. The hotel is generally recognized as the most photographed hotel in the world, largely for its prominence in the skyline of Quebec City.
The history of the Château Frontenac stretches all the way back to the 17th century. The original building was constructed in 1648, and was named Château St. Louis. By the 1680s, the château had fallen into disrepair. Construction on a new building on the same site began in 1694, under the direction of Governor General Louis de Buade de Frontenac. From Château St. Louis, the Governor General oversaw all operations of New France, stretching from Louisiana to the Great Lakes.
Château St. Louis burned to the ground in 1834, and was not rebuilt for 60 years, at which time what would later become the original portion of the Château Frontenac was constructed.
The Château Frontenac was designed by noted American architect Bruce Price, as the prototype of a series of château-style hotels built for the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) company during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. CPR’s goal was to promote luxury tourism by appealing to wealthy travelers.
Château Frontenac’s fortress-like design is derived from the medieval chateaux of France’s Loire Valley, and is enhanced by its imposing cliff-top location overlooking Quebec City.
The hotel opened in 1893, and was named Château Frontenac after the Governor General who initiated its construction. The CPR had hoped the Château Frontenac would accommodate tourists for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. However, the hotel was not finished in time.
From the early 1900s through the early 1990s, Château Frontenac has been expanded and renovated numerous times. Beginning in 1908 through 1909, the hotel was enlarged according to designs created by architect Walter Scott Painter, which resulted in construction of the Citadelle Wing. From 1920 through 1924, the Central Tower and the Saint-Louis wing were added per designs by architects Edward Maxwell and William Sutherland Maxwell.
Expansions were finally completed in 1993, when ARCOP Group architects were brought in to not only to further enlarge the hotel, but to help preserve it. This resulted in the addition of the Claude-Pratte Wing, which houses an indoor pool and a physical fitness center, and includes an outdoor terrace.
In 2001, the hotel was sold to Legacy REIT, which is partially owned by Fairmont, for $185 million. When Canadian Pacific Hotels was renamed Fairmont Hotels and Resorts in 2001, the hotel became Fairmont Le Château Frontenac.
In 2011, the hotel was sold to Ivanhoé Cambridge, and work began on replacement of the main tower’s copper roof, at the cost of $7.5 million. An image of the roof was printed on polypropylene safety netting and hung from scaffolding to hide the refurbishing project from view. Although several of Quebec City’s buildings are taller, the landmark hotel is perched atop a tall cape overlooking the Saint Lawrence River, affording a spectacular view for several kilometers. The building is the most prominent feature of the Quebec City skyline.