On January 20 1908 the Empress Hotel, opened for its first guests. For over a Century this Victoria icon has watched over the changing capital and hosted thousand s of visitors. Designed by Francis Rattenbury it was one of the Crown Jewels of the Canadian Pacific Railway system which carried visitors across Canada, and on its fleet of liners to Asia.
The bridge across shallow James Bay became a coffer dam and barges of fill were used to create the site, supported by pilings driven down to rock. The hotel went up in stages, with wings addecd in 1909, 1914, 1928. Behind the building was its own power house and laundry building. An Edison DC current plant provided power. Over time the Rose Garden developed, and the Crystal Garden salt water swimming complex was added. In 1966 briefly they was a moment when demolition was considered but the Empress survived and Operation Teacup began renovations. In 1981 it became a Canadian National Designated Historic Site and another renovation began in 1989. In 1999 under new management it became the Fairmont Empress.
Over the years the hotel has hosted famous visitors including Kings and Queens, politicians such as Winston Churchill, Hollywood stars and people from all walks of life on vacation or attending one of thousands of banquets, dances and conferences. It is one of the icons that define a visit to British Columbia’s capital.