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Windsor Hotel Fonds (P092)

Extract from Windsor Hotel guest book (detail), 1944-1980. Gift of the Imperial Windsor Group Inc., Windsor Hotel Fonds P092, P092/C.6 © McCord Museum

September 1944. The Allies and associated nations meet at the Windsor Hotel.

"Richard Law
Minister of State in His Majesty's government in the United Kingdom.
United Kingdom member of the Council of UNRRA"

The Second World War had been raging for five years when representatives from nearly 50 member countries of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) met in Montreal. The objectives of this second Session of the Council were ambitious: the members of the organization founded in 1943 were meeting to discuss financial and humanitarian assistance for the countries affected by the conflict, and their refugees. This guest book from the Windsor Hotel features the signatures of over one hundred delegates and representatives of the national and international press.

From its opening in 1878, to its closing a century later, the Montreal luxury hotel proudly overlooking Dominion (now Dorchester) Square welcomed numerous luminaries from the worlds of politics and culture, and hosted many international events.

The Windsor Hotel has since been converted into an office building.


P092 Windsor Hotel Fonds. - 1877-1980. - 50 cm of textual records. - 18 architectural drawings.

Administrative History

The Windsor Hotel Company of Montreal was incorporated in 1875 for the purpose of building and administering a public hotel. Businessmen Andrew Allan, A. Buntin, William E. Philipps, Horatio A. Nelson, James D. Gibb, Frederick W. Kay and Mathew H. Gault were the founding members.

The Second Empire-style hotel was designed by architect William Boyington and construction began in 1875. Its location on the corner of Windsor (Peel) and Dorchester (René-Lévesque) streets, across from Dominion (Dorchester) Square, was at the heart of a fast-growing area that was becoming the new commercial and financial centre of Montreal. Given the address of 1170 Dominion Square, the hotel opened for business on January 28, 1878. The celebrations marking the hotel's opening culminated in November of that year, with the St. Andrew's Society Ball (which became an annual event). At that time, the hotel had 278 rooms and 150 employees. It soon expanded by building other wings, first in 1906, then again in 1923.

For over a century, the Windsor Hotel was one of Montreal's preeminent hotels and an essential part of the city's public and social life. It boasted two ballrooms, a concert hall, six restaurants, and as many as 750 rooms. Numerous leading figures from the worlds of politics, finance, sports and culture stayed there, including Winston Churchill, Princess Elizabeth (the future Elizabeth II) and Prince Phillip, John F. Kennedy, Charles de Gaulle, authors Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and even actress Sarah Bernhardt. It frequently hosted political, social and entertainment events, such as the banquet honouring King George VI and Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) during the 1939 Royal Tour of Canada.

The building was partially destroyed by fire in 1957, leaving only the annex that had been built in 1906. A new three-storey annex was built shortly thereafter, in 1959. The hotel closed in October 1981 and was purchased four years later by the Laurentian Group, which converted it into an office building. To this day, the Windsor ballrooms still host a variety of special events.

Scope and Content

The Windsor Hotel fonds documents the management and activities of this prestigious Montreal hotel. It contains minute books of union meetings held from 1877 to 1881 and "House Managing Committee" meetings held from 1902 to 1907. It also contains accounting records covering the years 1894 to 1911. These documents chronicle the hotel's administration, finances, and staff salaries and working conditions. There are also guest registers and guest books illustrating the hotel's clientele. These documents record the presence of prestigious visitors, as well as large-scale international political events like the September 1944 meeting of the members of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). The fonds also includes guest lists for the May 18, 1939, royal banquet at the hotel, along with menus.

A series of architectural plans illustrating the hotel's various floors completes this collection of documents. Several of these plans date from 1921 and include annotations added between 1936 and 1938, probably to reflect upgrades to the building.

Source of title proper: Title based on the contents of the fonds.

Immediate source of acquisition: The fonds was given to the McCord Museum by the Imperial Windsor Group Inc.

Language: The documents are in English.

Associated material:

BAnQ (Old Montreal): Fonds Télesphore-Damien Bouchard (P010); Fonds Conrad Poirier (P048); Fonds Laurette Cotnoir-Capponi (P186); Fonds Office des congrès et du tourisme du Grand Montréal (P405).

LAC: Basil Zarov Fonds (R8134-0-3-F); William Gillie Ross Fonds (R11297-0-4-E); Donald Beauprie Collection (R9560-0-5-E); Laurier House Collection (R10659-0-2-E); Peter Winkworth Collection of Canadiana (R9266-5-0-E).

General note: The McCord Museum's Notman Photographic Archives collection contains numerous photographs of the Windsor Hotel's exterior and interior.


The fonds is divided into the following series:

 

Last update: August 30, 2017