Did you know that there were actually three incarnations of the Hotel Vancouver? One of Canada’s grand railway hotels, Hotel Vancouver has a rich history beginning with its initial construction in 1888. This post uses images and publications from the Chung Collection to trace its history, from the first Hotel Vancouver to its present-day incarnation as the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver.

First Hotel Vancouver

The first Hotel Vancouver opened in 1888, located at the corner of Granville and Georgia. This five-story hotel was built and managed by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company.

This short description of the hotel appeared in CPR pamphlets:

The Company have just completed this magnificent hotel, designed to accommodate the large commercial business of the place, as well as the great number of tourists who will always find it profitable and interesting to make here a stop of a day or two, whether travelling east or west. It is situated on high ground near the centre of the city, and from it there is a glorious outlook in every direction. No effort has been spared in making its accommodations and service perfect in every detail, and in the matters of cuisine, furnishings and sanitary arrangements it will compare favorably with the best hotels in Eastern Canada or the United States.

Rates :   three dollars to four dollars and fifty cents per day, with special terms for a longer time.

The Canadian Pacific : the new highway to the Orient across the mountains, prairies and rivers of Canada, 1889

Below are some illustrations of the first Hotel Vancouver:

Hotel Vancouver, Vancouver, BC, [between 1890 and 1899?].

The Canadian Pacific : the new highway to the Orient across the mountains, prairies and rivers of Canada, [1900?], p. 43.

Banff and the lakes in the clouds reached by the Canadian Pacific Railway, [1886?], p. 21.


Second Hotel Vancouver

The first Hotel Vancouver existed until 1916, when it was replaced by the second Hotel Vancouver at the same location. The second hotel Vancouver was a more elaborate construction than the first – this 14-story building was designed in the grand Italianite revival style.

[Second] Vancouver Hotel, Vancouver, BC, [191-?].

Hotel Vancouver, Vancouver, BC, [1916?].

At this time, travelers had many options for CPR hotels to stop at across the country. This 1916 directory of CPR hotels also lists nearby attractions and activities – golf, motoring, fishing, and steamboat excursions were advertised in Vancouver:

Resorts in the Canadian Pacific Rockies, 1916.

In 1931, the CPR published a pamphlet about the hotel, including hotel offerings, interior photographs, floor plans, and nearby points of interest for travelers. Click the cover below to explore the full pamphlet in Open Collections:

Hotel Vancouver, 1931

In addition, you can explore menus from the hotel like this one:

Musical programme and dinner menu from Hotel Vancouver for 25 Dec. 1928

Although the second Hotel Vancouver closed in 1939, the building remained standing until 1949, when it was finally torn down. It was even used as an army barracks during World War II. Today, the Pacific Centre shopping mall stands at the same location.


Third Hotel Vancouver

The third Hotel Vancouver was built in 1939 at Burrard and Georgia, where it still stands today. It was designed in the Châteauesque architecture style, based on French Renaissance architecture. The third Hotel Vancouver was completed jointly by Canadian Pacific Railway and Canadian National Railway.

[Hotel Vancouver], [1939]

Check out this pamphlet advertising the hotel from around 1940 – click through to view the other pages in Open Collections:

Hotel Vancouver : one of Canada’s finest hotels, [not before 1940]

Here is the Hotel Vancouver’s page in a Canada Pacific Hotel pamphlet from 1958, including a colour photograph:

Canadian Pacific Hotels from sea to sea, 1958

The ownership of the hotel switched back and forth between Canadian Pacific Hotels and Canadian National Hotels (divisions of CPR and CNR, respectively) over the next several decades. Since 2001, the Hotel Vancouver ­– renamed as the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver – is run by Fairmont Hotels.

You can find more materials about the Hotel Vancouver, and the other Canadian Pacific Railway hotels, in the Chung Collection.


Our digital collections cover a wide range of topics and disciplines that you can explore through Open Collections. Among our thousands of digital items, you can find materials to support your research, your teaching, and even your imagination. Below, we’ve selected a few of our collections that may be helpful when researching topics related to Asian Studies.


Rikuchū no kuni yōsan no zu. 6


There are many collections that can be used as a resource for historical Asian Studies, including:

  • Chinese Rare Books Collection: this collection is mainly composed of works from the Puban and Pang Jingtang. You can find census information, literature, as well as historical, political, and military documents from China covering the years 1368 to 1959.
  • Japanese Maps of the Tokugawa Era: this is the world’s largest collection of maps and guidebooks of the Tokugawa Era. It contains travel maps, guides and stunning woodblock prints. The collection is used as a resource at the ASIA 453: Japanese Travel Literature class. If you are curious to know more, check out our blog post Explore Open Collections: Japanese Maps of the Tokugawa Era.
  • Meiji at 150: the collection is part of the Meiji at 150 project, which was created to celebrate the 150 years since the start of the Meiji Era in Japan. The collection consists of materials produced during the period, including: woodblock prints, photographs, books, albums, and booklets. Visit the Meiji at 150 website to learn more about planned special events, lecture series, workshop series, podcast, and digital teaching resources.
  • One Hundred Poets: the collection consists of 74 books and 20 sets of cards of the Japanese poetry anthology “Hyakunin Isshu” (One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each). This anthology, edited by Fujiwara no Teika, became the most famous poetry anthology in Japan. Get to know about this collection, more specifically about the card sets, by checking out our blog post Utagaruta: a poetry game.


Family wedding portrait, Vancouver, B.C.


If you are interested in studying Japanese and Chinese life in Canada, then the following collections will be helpful:

  • Chinese Canadian Stories: composed of several sub-collections and fonds, this collection covers a wide range of topics, including Chinese Canadian military service, businesses, and social life in Canada.
  • The Chung Collection: the collection contains materials that can be comprised into three themes: British Columbia History; Immigration and Settlement; and the Canadian Pacific Railway Company. The collection has several materials relating to the Chinese community in British Columbia.
  • Yip Sang Collection: the collection contains Yip Sang’s personal and business-related materials. Yip Sang was an important businessman in the Chinese community in Vancouver and was often referred to as the “major of Chinatown”. Get to know more about him and his collection in our blog post Explore Open Collections: Yip Sang Collection.
  • Japanese Canadian Photograph Collection: this collection contains materials that registered the life of Japanese Canadians in British Columbia. The collection is a great resource for anyone researching about how Japanese Canadians were treated during the World War II.
  • Tairiku Nippo (Continental Daily News): this publication was an important information source for Japanese Canadians in British Columbia. It was published between 1907 and 1941, and is a valuable resource for studying the history of the Japanese Canadians before the World War II.

Lately, we’ve been highlighting some important lessons that can be learned in our collections, including the history of typography, how surgery was performed in the 16th century, and which artists are responsible for the art in the Chung Collection. But did you know that our collections also contain important business lessons? That’s right, business lessons from the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) collection, which is part of our Chung Collection! 


1. Keep Your Word

The Canadian Pacific Railway was built to fulfill a pledge that John A. Macdonald made to British Columbia. To be part of the Canada, BC demanded that a transcontinental railway should be built to connect the west and east.

Map of Canadian Pacific Railway, Kootenay District, British Columbia, 1904


2. Manage Projects Closely

British Columbia gave the Canadian government ten years to build the railway. Despite the complexity of building railways across Canada, the Canadian Pacific Railway completed the project before the estimated time.


3. Take Initiative

Although the railway project was successfully completed, and there was now a connection between the Canadians coasts, there were not enough people actually using it, which affected business profitability. As a result, the CPR sold their lands near the railway to settlers and immigrants in order for them to occupy the Prairies. The settlers did not know how to farm in the Prairie environment, so the CPR created ready-made farms where buyers could purchase the land and immediately start seeding the soil. The CPR also created initiatives to educate farmers on how to cultivate prairie soil. In the early 1900s, the CPR spent more money than the Canadian government in promoting immigration and settlement.

Ready made farms in Western Canada, 1910


4. Create Business Opportunities

The CPR management noticed that passengers needed a place to stop and rest during long trips across the country, so they decided to build their own hotels. Seeing the potential of the tourism trade, the CPR began to explore possible attractions for their hotels. This led to the discovery of natural hot springs in Alberta and the founding of the Banff Hot Springs Reserve (later Banff National Park), Canada’s first National Park. The park became a popular destination for vacations.

Canadian Pacific Hotels from Atlantic to Pacific, 1942


5. Transform Barriers into Opportunities

The CPR business was tested on several occasions. A notable example was when a climber unfortunately died while climbing Mount Lefroy in Banff National Park. In order to avoid any future tragedies and possible negative word of mouth, the CPR began to hire Swiss hiking guides to lead tourists through the mountains and ensure their safety. In the 55 years that the program was in place, no one died.

The challenge of the mountains, 1907


6. Diversify

You always hear that you should never put all your eggs in one basket. The CPR definitely took that advice to heart. Around 1971, their main businesses were: railway, ships, hotels, mines, minerals and manufacturing, oil and gas exploration, airlines, telecommunications, trucking, and real estate.

Canadian Pacific Airlines: straight to the point, 1946


7. Innovate

There was a time when telegrams were very popular at Christmas time. People loved to see the CPR telegram boy come to their door in his gray uniform to give them a colored telegram designed by the CPR’s art department, along with messages from their relatives. But the CPR’s real innovation was the Santagram, which were telegrams sent by Santa Claus himself to children.


8. Be Socially Responsible

The CPR contributed to the education of children in Northern Ontario, by bringing a school car to remote areas of the province. The car came equipped with a chalkboard, desks, a map, a library, and an area for the teacher to live. The car would typically stay in the same place for five days, then move around to other regions, leaving enough homework for the children to do until its return.



Canadian Pacific Railway (Historica Canada)

Canadian Pacific Railway (UBC Library)

CPR history for students (CPR)

Our history (CPR)

The story of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR)

a place of mind, The University of British Columbia

UBC Library





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