The Banff Springs Hotel was built to capitalize on the opening of the Canadian west to tourists. It was one of at least four luxury hotels built by the Canadian Pacific Railway along its transcontinental passenger line. In 1992, the hotel was listed as a National Historic Site.
Banff Springs Hotel is located on the spot where the Bow and Spray rivers meet in the province of Alberta. The hotel was open for business within three years after the 1885 creation of Rocky Mountains Park, now called Banff National Park. The hotel lies within the national park boundaries in the southeastern section of the park.
William Cornelius Van Horne, Canadian Pacific Railway's general manager, asked New York architect Bruce Price to design a palatial hotel that would be reminiscent of Scottish castles. In 1887, the 250 rooms of the Banff Springs Hotel were being built to give British and American railway travelers a view of the Canadian Rockies. Upon its completion in 1888, Banff Springs Hotel was the largest hotel in the world. It was nicknamed "the Castle of the Rockies."
Years of Expansion
Between 1900 and 1910, improvements and expansions attracted many tourists to the first Banff Springs Hotel. In 1926, however, the original log-framed north wing caught fire and was destroyed. From 1920 to 1928, the Canadian Pacific Railway had a second hotel built. By the 1930s the hotel's clientele included members of high society and the wealthy and famous. British royalty and Hollywood actors and actresses visited Banff Springs Hotel. A golf course was added to hotel property as well as an airplane landing strip.
World War II and Beyond
From 1942 to 1945, Banff Springs Hotel closed because of fewer tourists during the war. When the hotel reopened, it struggled to regain its reputation as a tourist destination. By becoming a family and tour bus stop in the '50s and '60s and a year-round vacation destination in the '70s, Banff Springs Hotel adapted to its changing clientele.
In 1988, when Calgary hosted the Winter Olympics, the 245 rooms of the new Manor Wing welcomed guests. The Banff Springs Hotel opened a conference center in 1991. Costing $12 million, a solace spa, Willow Stream, opened at the hotel in 1995. By 1997, the hotel had 770 guest rooms. In 2006, Fairmont Hotels and Raffles Hotels merged, and the Banff Springs Hotel was renamed The Fairmont Banff Springs.