|Built with no expense spared in 1929 as a private wilderness retreat for business and political leaders, it hosted the 1983 Bilderberg conference.|
The Fairmont Le Château Montebello, formerly and commonly known as the Château Montebello, is a historic hotel and resort complex in Montebello, Quebec, Canada. The resort complex includes a marina, a large game reserve is surrounded by extensive old growth forest.
It was built in only four months in 1929 by Harold M. Saddlemire, a Swiss-American entrepreneur, as a private wilderness retreat for business and political leaders. It subsequently came to be known as the Seigniory Club. The resort remained a private retreat until 1970, when it was converted into a public resort renamed Château Montebello.
In August 1983, the Bilderberg Group held its annual meeting at the resort.
The Château Montebello is located at 392 rue Notre Dame, in the western section of Montebello, Quebec, a municipality in the Outaouais region of the province. The road forms a part of Quebec Route 148, a provincial highway that connects Ottawa to Montreal. The roadway bisects the property, dividing it into two sections. The property south of rue Notre Dame contains the main buildings of the resort, whereas the section north of the road contains the resort's golf course, and hiking trails. The hotel property is bounded by a roadway, natural waterway, and forests.
The resort is on one of the last surviving land grants made by 17th-century French monarchy to early settlers of New France. The resort grounds includes a 114-slip marina, and the marina clubhouse, in the southwestern section of the resort. Open from mid-May to mid-October, the marina is able to accommodate ships up to 18.3-metre-long (60 ft). Guests that dock at the marina are provided access to the resort amenities.
West of the resort's main buildings, is Manoir Papineau, a National Historic Site of Canada. The turreted house functions as a historical museum. It is the only structure in the Chateau area which doesn't conform to the log cabin motif of the resort.
The resort's hotel building is a 113,267.4 cubic metres (4,000,000 cubic feet) large wooden structure, and claims to be the largest log building in the world. Construction for the hotel building was overseen by Finnish immigrant Victor Nymark, a master log builder who immigrated to Canada in 1924 after successfully completing a three-year course at Vaasa Industrial School.  As work on the building began before the hotel's final design plans were completed, Nymark's construction crew occasionally proceeded without blueprints to guide them. The three resort buildings erected in 1930 were built using 10,000 western red cedar logs shipped from British Columbia. The log walls are painted black on the outside, although its interiors maintained the natural wood colouring. The building also featured 500,000 hand-slit cedar roof shakes and 166 kilometres (103 mi) of wooden moulding.
The completed structure saw a large log-building housing 211 guest rooms, and suites, with four wings extending outward from the central lobby in a star formation. Log rafters hanging above the lobby span nearly 21.3-metre-long (70 ft). The rotunda-shaped lobby serves as the centre of the hotel, featuring a three-storey atrium, built around a massive stone fireplace. The fireplace's chimney rises 20 metres (65 ft) above the ground, and is surrounded by a mezzanine, and a third-floor balcony.
François de Laval, the first Bishop of Quebec, purchased the property in 1674 from the French East India Company. The Quebec Seminary inherited it from Laval. In 1801, the land was sold to the family of Joseph Papineau. His son, Louis-Joseph Papineau, built a turreted stone mansion, the Manoir Papineau.
In the late 1920s, Harold M. Saddlemire, a Swiss-American entrepreneur, acquired a site along the Ottawa River, on land that formerly formed part of the seigneurial system of New France. Saddlemire envisioned a private wilderness retreat for business and political leaders. He initially called this project "Lucerne-in-Quebec;" subsequently came to be known as the Seigniory Club. Despite the 1929 Wall Street Crash of 1929, work on the planned wilderness retreat began, as planned, in early 1930.
The economic uncertainty did not delay the project, unlike many others, perhaps because the presidents of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), the National Bank of Canada, the Bank of Montreal and the Royal Bank of Canada respectively, not to mention the Premier of Quebec, were all club directors. A special spur from the nearby CPR line had to be built to allow for the transport of red cedar logs and other supplies to the site. The Scandinavian log construction project was supervised by Finnish master-builder, Victor Nymark and construction manager Harold Landry Furst. Construction and woodworking teams worked in overlapping shifts around the clock using electric lighting at night. An army of 3500 laborers ensured that the project could reach completion in only four months. The club's grand opening was held on 1 July 1930. Three days after opening, a magnificent costume ball was held, attended by the Governor General of Canada.
The exclusive private retreat of the Seigniory Club took its name from the French land grant system. "Seigniory" is the anglicized version of the French seigneurie. The club was only open to an elite membership for its first 40 years of operation.
Prominent Canadian club members during this period included Lester B. Pearson, the Prime Minister of Canada. Other non-Canadian members included Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, Prince Ranier and Princess Grace of Monaco. Other prominent guests at resort include Crown Prince Akihito of Japan, Princess Juliana of the Netherlands, Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, and Harry S. Truman. The President of the United States Harry Truman's visit to Canada in June 1947 included a trip to the Seigniory Club retreat. Truman had "expressed the desire to fish for his first Canadian trout during his visit to the club." Edward, Prince of Wales also visited the retreat, and later revisited when he was the Duke of Windsor.
The resort remained a private retreat, owned by the CPR, and leased to the exclusive Seigniory Club until 1970, when it was converted into a public resort by Canadian Pacific Hotels, the hotel division of CPR. During this time the resort was renamed the Château Montebello.
In 1981, the Château Montebello hosted the 7th G7 summit; and leaders such as Pierre Trudeau, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and François Mitterrand were guests along with the aides and security staffs traveling with these national leaders. In August 1983, the Bilderberg Group held its annual meeting at the resort. In October 1983, the resort hosted the ministerial meeting for NATO's Nuclear Planning Group.
In 2001, Canadian Pacific Hotels was reorganized as Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, adopting the name from an American company it had purchased in 1999. The resort's name was changed to the Fairmont Le Château Montebello as a part of this re-branding effort. The company continued to own the resort until the property was purchased in 2006 by the OMERS. However, Fairmont continues to manage the property.
In 2007 the resort hosted the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America conference, a North American Leaders' Summit between the Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper, the President of Mexico Felipe Calderón, and President of the United States George W. Bush.
The resort property was purchased again by the Evergrande Group, a major Chinese real estate group making its first investment in Canada in December 2014. A $15 million renovation is currently underway.
|Bilderberg/1983||The 31st Bilderberg, held in Canada|
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- Sweet 2010, p. 21.
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