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Visiting the Prince of Wales Hotel, Waterton Park, Alberta: recalling the heyday of rail tourism in Western Canada

Updated on April 11, 2016
Provincial flag of Alberta
Provincial flag of Alberta | Source
Waterton Lakes National Park, Prince of Wales Hotel. Alberta
Waterton Lakes National Park, Prince of Wales Hotel. Alberta | Source
Prince of Wales Hotel, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada
Prince of Wales Hotel, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada | Source
Prince of Wales Hotel at Waterton National Park
Prince of Wales Hotel at Waterton National Park | Source
 Edward, Prince of Wales, during his visit to Canada in 1919
Edward, Prince of Wales, during his visit to Canada in 1919 | Source
Map location of Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada (in dark green)
Map location of Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada (in dark green) | Source

Named for a popular prince with local connections

This hub is mainly limited to some historical aspects of this heritage building, the Prince of Wales Hotel, Waterton, Alberta. For any aspect of the services of this fine hotel, contact should be made directly with its management.

This outstandingly scenic location - part of Warterton-Glacier International Peace Park - has amazing views from the historic Prince of Wales Hotel over the often snow-capped Rockies and the Waterton Lakes.

The 86-room Hotel dates from 1927, although plans by the Great Northern Railroad for a hotel here go back over a century to 1912 (1). The Hotel's design originally had the Many Glacier Hotel, Montana as its model. Its construction material is all wood, giving it the appearance of a huge, Swiss Alpine chalet (2). The seven storey structure is topped by a 9.1 metre bell tower.

In the early 20th century, the relative remoteness of the proposed Hotel's site made for considerable logistical difficulties in its construction. Roads to Waterton were primitive, and rains in the Rockies made them regularly susceptible to degradation into muddy quagmires. Transportation of many of the Hotel's building materials was by mule.

Its architectural distinction, outstanding location and links with the interwar railroad era combine to make its status as a National Historic Site of Canada very compelling.

The Hotel was named for Edward, Prince of Wales (1894-1972), who later reigned as King Edward VIII and subsequently bore the title of Duke of Windsor. The naming of the Hotel was not merely nominal; Edward was not only a popular personality worldwide but a prominent local figure in Alberta; his links with the Province included his ownership from 1919 of EP Ranch at Pekisko Creek, near High River, Alberta, which he visited on several occasions in the 1920s, 1940s and 1950s (3).

When I visited this fine, historic structure, the Hotel was closed for the season, while showing signs of activity in preparation for opening. If I may even admit to an ambition, it might be to take tea from the lounge of the Prince of Wales Hotel, overlooking Waterton Lake and the Rockies' peaks beyond!

September 24, 2014


Notes

(1) It almost goes without saying that, today, most out of province visitors to the Prince of Wales Hotel have travelled Alberta by air or road, rather than by rail. But at its inception, the Prince of Wales Hotel was regarded as a desirable destination for rail passengers who would subsequently be ferried there by road from railroad stations.

(2) See also: http://www.glacierparkinc.com/prince_of_wales.php

(3) The Duke of Windsor sold his Albertan ranch in 1962, while having taken a keen interest in it in the preceding decades; while Edward was Prince of Wales the EP Ranch was noted for the rearing of Shorthorn cattle, Clydesdale horses, Dartmoor ponies and Shropshire sheep. Interestingly, the Windsor title which he bore belied the fact that during his reign as King Edward VIII he never stayed even once at Windsor Castle, England, for the association with which this title was named. For several decades of his life, however, he evidently sought to maintain close links with the activities of his Albertan ranch. (Although a hugely popular figure, especially in his younger years, Edward was also dogged by controversy, but this need not detain us here.) See also: http://www.historicplaces.ca/en/rep-reg/place-lieu.aspx?id=1171


Waterton Lake, from inside the Prince of Wales Hotel
Waterton Lake, from inside the Prince of Wales Hotel | Source

Also worth seeing

The nearby lakeside hamlet of Waterton attracts many visitors, including numerous hikers; attractions include the berth for boat trips on Waterton Lake; the Cameron Falls on Evergreen Avenue, and a Heritage Centre at 117 Waterton Avenue.

St Mary, Montana, USA (distance: 62.2 kilometres/ 38.4 miles) has a Visitor Center at the entrance to Glacier Park, and outstanding mountain views and of St. Mary Lake.

...

How to get there: Air Canada, flies to Lethbridge Airport (distance from Lethbridge to Waterton: 124.6 kilometers), via Calgary, with wide North American and other connections, from where car rental is available; some visitors may prefer to make the road journey to Waterton directly from Calgary Airport (distance from Calgary to Waterton: 259.2 kilometers). Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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