E is for…
…The Empress Hotel
I thought I would post a reminder of my theme for this A to Z Challenge, now that we’ve had our first Sunday hiatus. I am posting about landmarks around my ‘hood – landmarks close to downtown Victoria, BC and James Bay (the neighbourhood me, my hubby, and our 4 kitties live in). So far A has been for (St.) Ann’s Academy, B has been for Beacon Hill Park, C has been for the (Emily) Carr House, and D has been for Dallas Road. Today, E is for the Empress Hotel.
Now, the Empress Hotel is one of the larger landmarks in downtown Victoria, across from the Inner Harbour on one side, the Royal BC Museum on another side, and kitty-corner from the BC Legislature building (all three of which will have their own posts in due time, when the appropriate letters arrive).
The Empress was built between 1904 and 1908 as a CPR (Canadian Pacific Railway) Hotel (there are many CPR Hotels across Canada – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Pacific_Hotels ). You can read all about its history on the Empress’ Wikipedia site, but I’ll include a couple of notes of particular interest (at least to me) here.
The Empress is known for its afternoon tea service. It is kind of fun to do, but ridiculously expensive. The view is nice, though! It has a Christmas Tree festival every year – we’ve been twice, and I’ve included a couple of photos from a few Christmas’s back below. It also has beehives, which is something I didn’t know until I was walking around taking pictures the other day. Very cool!
The Empress was extensively renovated in the 1980s, and the old front entrance is now no longer used. Weird, but true. In 1999 it became The Fairmont Empress. And just last year it was sold again. And apparently more renovations are being planned.
Some sadness we have about the Empress just recently. It was sold, as I noted, last year (not in itself sad), and just the other day, the new owners (I am assuming it was their decision) took out the two iconic weeping sequoia trees framing the front sidewalk of the hotel. They also took out a diseased arbutus (see pictures below), which I understand, but the other two trees were quite stunning, and the community is a bit ticked off (http://www.timescolonist.com/news/local/trees-fall-as-victoria-s-empress-hotel-spruces-up-1.1813582 . You can see the trees in a photo I did NOT take below, and the “after”, without the trees, that I took pretty much right after they took the trees out. Very sad.
So now, without further ado, here are some pictures I took the other day, along with a couple of pictures from the web that I thought were interesting additions to this post.
Very early picture of the hotel – note that I did NOT take this one…
Various views as I walk around to the front of the hotel – you can see the front “fenced” off as the new owners start landscape renos.
This is what the front looked like a few days ago (not my photo…) with the beautiful sequoias.
General view of Empress Hotel, showing the presence of landscaped gardens around the hotel which separate the building from the denser urban areas, 2011. Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, Andrew Waldron, 2011. http://www.historicplaces.ca/en/rep-reg/image-image.aspx?id=7414#i3
The other side of the hotel – the newer addition
And gone is the arbutus (I found this highly ironic as there was/is a sign in front of the stump talking about the arbutus tree…)
I like that there are beehives here though…
And beautiful gardens, although they have dug out quite a few of them.
And finally, some pictures of the Christmas Tree festival they have every December…
- Fairmont Empress official website: http://www.fairmont.com/empress-victoria/
- The Empress at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Empress_%28hotel%29
- Empress Hotel National Historic Site of Canada: http://www.historicplaces.ca/en/rep-reg/place-lieu.aspx?id=7414
Part of the April A to Z Challenge.