Monday, October 26, 2009

The Château Champlain Hotel

Artist's conception of the Château Champlain and surrounding area, 1965.

Designed by Quebec architects Roger D'Astous and Jean-Paul Pothier, the Château Champlain hotel was built in anticipation of the massive influx of visitors expected for Expo 67.

Located just south of Dominion Square, the 480-foot, 38-storey luxury hotel was part of the Place du Canada complex, which included a pedestrian plaza, boutiques, and an office building.

The Château Champlain was built by Canadian Pacific Hotels, a division of the Canadian Pacific Railway, at the cost of $25 million. Construction was completed in late 1966, with the official opening in the spring of 1967, just in time for Expo.

Close-up view of the hotel's top, with it's ubiquitous arched windows.

The 480-foot tower's facade included 1100 concrete panels, finished in a textured white quartz composite, with 660 of these bowed and arched to frame the Château Champlain's signature curved windows. The arched windows were intended by the designers as a visual reference to the Romanesque Revival arches of nearby historic Windsor Station.

The interior of the hotel was designed with a distinct French Canadian character, a modern blend of old and new.

The hotel's main and lower lobbies, as well as its ballroom, featured cathedral-like vaulted ceilings from which hung contemporary chandeliers. The traditional crystal ballroom, with balconies, could welcome 500 guests for a formal dinner, or 900 for dancing.

Guest rooms were U-shaped, dictated by the architecture, with an arched bay window in each room. A round breakfast table was set in the bay window which was curtained with light and airy drapery. Furniture was simplified as much as possible: a mirrored dressing area in each room provided built-in luggage and clothing storage, forgoing the need for bulky free standing units. Upholstered chairs and ottomans featured modern interpretations of traditional styles. Tasteful accessories such as cushions, lamps and paintings completed the décor.

Rooms on the east side of the hotel had an unobstructed view of Expo 67.

The office tower (right) was unfinished at the time of this photo (1966).

The Château Champlain featured 7 dining rooms and cocktail lounges:

Le Caf' Conc' was built like a turn-of-the-century theatre, recalling the heyday of French cafés-concerts. Included was a full stage, tiered parterre and box seats... adorned with gilt-framed paintings on a backdrop of lush reds, purples, and gold.

Le Café-Terrasse featured sliding doors that opened onto the pedestrian plaza during the warm months. An open kitchen served coffee, crèpes, home-made soups, etc.

Le Tournebroche, as the name suggests, served spit roasted and grilled specialties. The largest of Château Champlain's restaurants featured a décor that recalled an old-style Quebecois auberge. Bread was baked in brick ovens, while a series of alcoves along a 60-foot wall let guests observe the chefs at work. The restaurant also featured a walk-in wine cavern and a special section where cheese and sausage hung from the ceiling.

L'Escapade, the hotel's rooftop entertainment centre, offered a panoramic view of Montreal and its surroundings. 4 split-level sections were linked by vaulted archways, containing 2 à la carte restaurants, as well as a cocktail lounge and nightclub.

Le Jardin, the formal cocktail lounge, featured a winter garden with poodle cut box hedges in marble planters. Vaulted ceilings were painted with a cloud motif, and 5 French doors led to the formal dining room.

Le Neufchâtel was the Château Champlain's formal dining room, and the only area that was decorated in a purely formal manner. À la carte lunches and table d'hôte dinners were enjoyed in ornate Louis XVI style...

From left: Neighboring Mary Queen of The World Cathedral and Windsor Station.

A decorative windmill on Dominion Square contrasted with the modern hotel.

A 1966 view of from Peel Street. Till today, the hotel remains Montreal's tallest.

images: authors own, from Montreal '65 & '66 magazines

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Pavilion of Thailand

The Thai pavilion at Expo 67 was a marvel of classic Eastern architecture. Located on Île Notre Dame, Thailand sought to present an image of traditional grace and refinement, in an atmosphere of oriental beauty.

The pavilion's 2 seperate buildings, clearly illustrated by this artist's conception.

Thailand's participation at Expo 67 was composed of 2 main structures:

The first was a replica of an ornate 18th century Buddhist shrine. A pagoda-like roof was covered in gilded tiles and crowned by a tall, delicate spire. Each tile had a tiny bell suspended from it, meant to tinkle in the breeze and ward of evil spirits.

Thailand's 18th century Buddhist temple.

Inside the shrine, the atmosphere was tranquil. Tall, stained glass windows were flanked by sumptuous red draperies. Religious items, temple furniture, traditional costumes and statues were on display in this area. A magnificent altar of carved wood, adorned by precious stones, was located towards the rear of the shrine. Large pewter vases on the altar held 2 elephant tusks forming an arch from which was suspended a brass gong.

Long lineups to enter the Buddhist shrine were frequent.

The second structure of the pavilion was also of traditional architecture, yet considerably larger than the former. It housed a long hall under its gabled roof, flanked on each end by smaller versions of the intricate Buddhist shrine top. As with the temple, red, green and blue lacquer adorned the exterior, with motifs inspired by mythological symbols.

A closer look at the Thai pavilion's ornate exterior.

Despite the traditional outward appearance, the second building's interior was a tribute to modern Thailand. Remarkable works of craftsmanship were on display: decorative objects such as world-renowned Thai ceramics and porcelains, bronze and silverware, exquisite silks, teak furniture, figurines and costumed dolls, as well as exotic jewelry and precious gems.

Thai ceramics, considered some of the world's finest.

An area devoted to export products showed different kinds of rice, tapioca and corn, as well as samples of rubber, minerals, and forest products.

The pavilion's boutique offered visitors handmade jewelry, traditional dolls, ceramics, and a vast assortment of lavish Thai silks.

A Royal Barge was on display outside the pavilion.

In an adjacent pool outside the pavilion floated a replica of a Royal Barge. These vessels were traditionally used in processions of royal and religious significance.

The Thai pavilion, as photographed by Lillian Seymour.

Michèle Richard, posing in front of the Thai pavilion.

A night view of the Thai pavilion.

The Thai pavilion at Expo 67 glowed during the day and glittered at night.

images: (1-2)
(3-5-7) Bill Dutfield
(6-11) personal collection
(9-10) the Lillian Seymour collection
(12-13) courtesy DC Hillier

Friday, October 2, 2009

High Rollers

Check out these fabulous vintage roller sets from the September 1961 issue of Australian Woman's Day magazine... My favorite? The Summer Parfait...!