As far as travel to Ottawa is concerned, you’d be hard pressed to find a more central lodging location than the Lord Elgin Hotel. It is located right at the Intersection of Elgin and Laurier Streets, just steps away from Parliament Hill, the War Memorial, the Chateau Laurier, the Government Conference Centre and the National Arts Centre. Confederation Park, one of the main locations for Winterlude, is located right across the street.
We could not have found a better spot for our Ottawa Winterlude getaway last weekend. My room on the 4th floor was very comfortable and I had a perfect view out over Elgin Street, looking at the Chateau Laurier and the War Memorial on one side, and facing Confederation Park and the Rideau Canal on the other. We literally left our car parked for the whole 2 days and were able to get everywhere we wanted on foot.
The Lord Elgin was a perfect starting point for our adventures on the Rideau Canal, and our excursions to the ByWard Market and Sparks Street. Further south on Elgin Street is another major entertainment area nestled inside an established neighbourhood with exclusive homes and condominiums.
Ann Meelker from the Lord Elgin Hotel was kind enough to give me a lay of the land and pointed out the local landmarks. She also explained to me that the National Conference Centre actually used to be a railroad station many years ago, when train tracks were routed right next to the Rideau Canal.
My big interest in this hotel was its history as it was constructed more than 60 years ago. So I did some reserach to dig into the background of this historic building.
In 1940, as the Second World War brought more and more official visitors into town, Ottawa found itself desperately short of hotel accommodation. A local entrepreneur and city alderman by the name of Chester Pickering, President of Dustbane, Modern Building Cleaning, and Michael’s Industrial Equipment,Ottawa House Cleaning Services was entrusted with the job of bringing a good hotel to the City. He connected with Jack Udd, a wealthy businessman from Rochester, New York, the president of the Ford Hotel Chain.
They were looking for a suitable site for the hotel and finally found one in an abandoned lot at the corner of Elgin and Laurier. However, obtaining the land was complicated by the fact that it was owned by the federal government.
It seemed highly unlikely that this land could be obtained from the government, but through personal connections and various outright shenanigans Chester Pickering was able to get the property. Chester Pickering knew that then Prime Minister Mackenzie King longed to make Ottawa the most attractive capital in the world, so he was sure that the idea of cleaning up this run-down area would appeal to the Prime Minister.
And not only did Pickering get the land, he also got a low-cost tax assessment on it, in light of the fact that government had not been receiving any taxes on this federally owned property at all before. With all the conditions met, Jack Udd started building the hotel and Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King even laid the cornerstone. The Lord Elgin was completed in 1941 in a classical French chateau style at a cost of about C$1,500,000.
All throughout Prime Minister Mackenzie King took a strong interest in the hotel and virtually designed the pillars in front of the hotel himself. He also insisted that the hotel be built of stone, not brick. Jack Udd agreed on a compromise and used stone at both ends and in the front, but he would put brick in the back.