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The Fairmont Hotel Macdonald has welcomed both celebrities and common folk to Edmonton, Alberta, ever since the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway opened it in 1915.

Throngs of well-wishers gathered below the main balcony to catch a glimpse of King George VI and the Queen Mother during their 1939 Royal Visit. George Bush, Desmond Tutu, Bob Newhart, Celine Dion and the Rolling Stones are only a few of the VIPs who've stayed here.

Wildlife artist, Robert Bateman, left a sketch in the guestbook. A picture on the wall in the Sales Office depicts Wayne Gretzky, outside the hotel, posing with dogs from the Edmonton Police Force Canine Unit.

The Fairmont Hotel Macdonald and the North Saskatchewan River
The Fairmont Hotel Macdonald and the North Saskatchewan River
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Meeting room was WWII cafeteria

Indeed, the hotel was named after the nation's first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald. During World War II, American soldiers, who were stationed here, used the Wedgwood Room as a cafeteria.

Today, the beautiful meeting room still boasts the original plaster frescoes on the ceilings, meticulously restored, by hand.

Fathers of Confederation

Guests and visitors can enjoy light meals and snacks in the Confederation Lounge. Its focal point is a nine- by eighteen-foot Fathers of Confederation reproduction by Frederick S. Challener.

The original hung in Ottawa's Parliament buildings until 1916, when it was lost in a fire. Only one other Challener copy exists. It hangs in Ontario's Legislative buildings.

The Empire Ballroom was once the hotel's main dining room. At the time, women guests were not permitted to enter the public spaces unescorted. A private corridor and single elevator allowed them to reach the dining room without going through the main rotunda.

Award-winning food

Nowadays, the Harvest Room restaurant serves award-winning Canadian cuisine. A typical meal might begin with an appetizer of roasted sweet potato and red pepper puree with smoked salmon crisps. A typical entrée is fire-grilled Alberta beef tenderloin, topped with tomato basil stew, applewood-smoked cheddar toque and sweetgrass jus.

For dessert, it's hard to resist the lemon curd and saskatoon berry ice cream profiteroles, drizzled with Alberta Springs whiskey and milk chocolate fondue.

Heritage property

Deteriorated into a state of disrepair, the Hotel Macdonald closed its doors in 1983. The City of Edmonton designated the property as a Municipal Heritage Resource, in 1985.

The Fairmont Hotel in Edmonton, Alberta
The Fairmont Hotel in Edmonton, Alberta
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

A 16-storey, 300-room box-shaped addition, added in 1953, was demolished in 1986 then, two years later, Canadian Pacific Hotels purchased the property as part of the CN hotel chain.

After a $30 million dollar restoration that returned the "Chateau on the river" to its former elegance, the 198-room hotel re-opened its doors in May 1991.

New suites in the turreted attic offer breathtaking views of Edmonton and the North Saskatchewan River Valley. Guests have access to a 24-hour work centre and a full-service health club.

The Hotel Macdonald (since 1999 managed by Fairmont Hotels & Resorts) is Edmonton's only Four Diamond-rated luxury hotel.


The Fairmont Hotel Macdonald: www.fairmont.com/macdonald

More things to see and do in Edmonton:

K-Days and Taste of Edmonton Festivals Combine Food and Entertainment