Even William Cornelius Van Horne's name suggests the opulent nature of his endeavors. The aggressive general manager of the Canadian Pacific Railway, Van Horne jumped at the opportunity to develop a showcase hotel near Banff when hot springs were discovered in the area in 1883.
The historic hotel originally opened in June 1888, with 100 bedrooms, parlors, dining halls, smoking rooms and a library.
By the early 1900s, people were coming in droves, prompting a series of large-scale additions that finally resulted in a total redesign in 1906 by American architect Walter Painter. He incorporated state-of-the-art steel-and-concrete construction that allowed the new hotel to be built on a much grander scale.
The interior design of the hotel spans history. The castle-like Mount Stephen Hall (above right) is adorned in 15th-century Gothic style. Named after Lord Mount Stephen, the first president of CPR, the room has been called the hotel's "crown jewel." Appointments include a Bedford lime flagstone floor, refectory tables and chairs, and wrought-iron balconies and chandeliers.
The Solace Spa (right) opened in 1995 as a modern amenity for Banff, Sunshine Village and Lake Louise skiers. The underwater mosaic depicts Rocky Mountain wildflowers. (800) 441-1414 www.cphotels.ca