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100 Years Young: The Marlborough Hotel at 331 Smith Street

Article by Roshanie Balkaran & Laura McKay, on behalf of Heritage Winnipeg Corp.
To follow up on this or any other articles on the blog, contact Heritage Winnipeg's Executive Director.

Brief History of 331 Smith Street

1913  - Designs for the new three storey hotel are drawn up by James Chrisholm and Son in 1913. More often used on churches than hotels, the architecture is in the late Gothic Revival style with an exterior covered with flower motifs, carved stonework, pointed arches, ornate parapet, and stained glass windows depicting scenes from old English fairy tales.

Architect James Chisholm. Photo courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Report.

November 18, 1914 - The Olympia Hotel officially opens its doors under the ownership of Sicilian immigrants Leonardi Emma, Giuseppe Panaro, Augustino Badali, and Guiseppe Badali. The first guest to sign in was then-Mayor Thomas R. Deacon. It boasted such special features as a steam vacuum system in every room, a fully automated sprinkler system, and a fresh air supply and exhaust system. It was described by travel magazines at the time as "The Miniature Hotel Deluxe of Canada".

1914 - A Winnipeg Tribune article describes the bar (now Joanna's Cafe) as "without a doubt, the most beautiful example of Gothic interior to be found on the continent". A ornately carved oak clock, Tiffany iron lanterns, and imported stained glass windows are still the highlights of the room. 

May 3, 1915 - The Olympia is closed, less than six months after opening, due to times of war and financial hardship. For the remainder of the war years, the hotel was commandeered for military purposes, housing the 184th Battalion before they were shipped to the battle front in France.

World War I recruits line up outside the hotel, 1915. Photo courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Report.

1919 - The Olympia reopens after the war.

March 20, 1920 - The owners of the Olympia announce a $400,000, six storey addition.

1923 - The hotel is purchased by a group of Winnipeg businessmen and renamed the Marlborough after Britain's First Duke of Marlborough.

November 25, 1925 - Fourteen war veteran organizations come together to found the Canadian Legion of the British Empire Service League (now known as the Royal Canadian Legion). A plaque commemorating this event was unveiled first in 1950, and then again in 1994. The plaque remains on display to the right of Churchill's Dining Room.

1943 - Grace Edith Cook was murdered in a suite on the 5th floor. Her murderer was the infamous Albert "Wordless" Westgate, who was executed at the Stony Mountain Penitentiary in 1944.

June 22, 1944 - Nathan Rothstein and partners purchase the Marlborough Hotel.

June 9, 1956 - The construction of the newest wing began, extending the hotel to Ellice Avenue. This included the construction of the spectacular Skyview Ballroom, and took the number of rooms in the hotel from 200 to 400.

Skyview Ballroom. Photo courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Report.

February 1960 - The new Marlborough Hotel holds its official opening. 

1970s - The Rothstein partnership sells the hotel and it passes through several hands as downtown Winnipeg struggled through the changes of the time.

February 1995 - The Marlborough becomes a member of the Ramada family of hotels and is renamed the Marlborough Ramada Hotel.

September 2001 - The hotel is acquired by the Marlborough Hotel Partnership.

2004 -  The Marlborough expands its facilities to include the landmark Garrick Theatre, converted into a new conference and entertainment centre, making it the largest conference hotel in Manitoba. The renovations also include a new pool and waterslide.

The Marlborough Hotel now.

Centennial Celebration

Click to view a PDF of the invite!
Contact for more information.

Sources & Links

City of Winnipeg Historical Report (Short)
City of Winnipeg Historical Report (Long)
The Marlborough Hotel on Facebook  
The Marlborough Hotel on Twitter
The Marlborough Hotel Website

Have you ever stayed at the Marlborough? 
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