Iconic Château Frontenac Hotel in Quebec City marks 125th anniversary
Quebec City’s Château Frontenac has been described on websites and in travel brochures as the most photographed hotel in the world.
This year, that reputation will probably grow as the majestic hotel overlooking the St. Lawrence River marks its 125th anniversary with a number of special events.
It has played host over the years to an astonishing number of celebrities and world leaders, and visitors will be able reimagine part of that history by staying in a number of exclusive suites.
General manager Robert Mercure says Alfred Hitchcock shot parts of the 1953 film noir “I Confess” inside the hotel and that he, Céline Dion and Paul McCartney and other famous personalities have spent time there.
To mark their visits, eight executive suites have recently been renovated with special “theme rooms,” which can be reserved by guests.
WATCH BELOW: Château Frontenac celebrates 125 years
Mercure proudly points out the Château Frontenac helped Dion get her big break.
“She was actually signed up by Sony Records singing in our ballroom,” he said in a recent interview.
“She had already been a well-known star in Quebec, but when Sony discovered her that’s when her career really took off and she became an international star.”
There’s also a Churchill and Roosevelt suite named after the two Quebec Conferences in August 1943 and September 1944, where U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill planned the Normandy invasion and Europe’s post-war reconstruction.
“There were famous meetings that went on in the hotel’s Salon Rose,” Mercure noted, adding that a heritage exposition is planned for July and August.
Then there’s a suite to honour Hitchcock, the master of suspense who stayed in a number of the hotel’s rooms.
“He filmed a large part of the film ‘I Confess’ in the hotel and you’ll see the ballroom and all kinds of different internal and exterior views,” Mercure said.
“We wanted to pay respect to Mr. Hitchcock so we have a themed suite named after him.”
Mercure boasted that the hotel is also inaugurating a new Trudeau-and-Trudeau suite.
“Both of the prime ministers have stayed here repeatedly,” he said. “(Justin) Trudeau was here when he was younger, so it’s going to be a nice story about father and son.”
Mercure said there are suites to honour Queen Elizabeth and William Cornelius Van Horne, the brainchild behind the Canadian Pacific Railway and the history-filled hotel.
The Château has also set up a Princess Grace suite and, at the end of the year, will be celebrating an exposition to mark the 50th anniversary of her visit during the city’s winter carnival.
Grace Kelly, an American actress, became a princess when she left Hollywood to marry Prince Rainier III of Monaco.
An overnight stay in the exclusive suites won’t come cheap. The rooms normally cost more than $500 per night, but prices go up during the peak season.
“It’s really an issue of supply and demand so when we’re in peak season, they’re typically selling at well over $1,000 a night,” he said.
Other past guests have included Steven Spielberg, Leonardo DiCaprio, Angelina Jolie and U.S. presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.
Mercure, who has worked at the hotel for 10 years, says a number of expositions will be open to the general public.
“There’s a fascinating history of the hotel and why it’s here, so we’ll be doing an exposition on the creation of the Château Frontenac,” he said.
A call has gone out to local residents to go through their closets and look for any souvenirs they may have of the towering hotel.
“In November, we’re going to be doing a big, big open-door exposition, sort of an antique travelling road show,” Mercure said.
A big blowout is also planned for mid-December. It was on Dec. 18, 1893, that the first wing of the hotel was inaugurated.
“We’re still formulating what that’s going to be — it might be a series of events — but we will be doing a big party at the end of the year to celebrate the anniversary,” he said.
Mercure has always been a Beatles fan and was especially thrilled to meet McCartney during a 2008 visit to Quebec City.
He welcomed the famous Beatle to the hotel with a sweatshirt that had the hotel logo and “Quebec City” on it in huge letters.
“He loved it and wore it on the Plains of Abraham when he sang ‘Yesterday’ during his encore on stage,” Mercure recalled.
The hotel, which had a $75-million facelift in 2014, was named in honour of Louis de Buade, the Count of Frontenac and a former governor of New France.
One little-known fact about the hotel is that its roof is home to four beehives and about 70,000 bees whose honey is harvested twice a year and used in cocktails and various dishes.
© 2018 The Canadian Press