Decorator of Canada's Grand Hotels


Kate made the following hotels the pride of Canada and the CPR. In order of their opening dates: the Banff Springs Hotel, Alberta; the Château Frontenac, Quebec City; the Algonquin Hotel, St. Andrews, N.B.; the Hotel Viger, Montreal; the Royal Alexandra, Winnipeg, Manitoba; Château Lake Louise, Alberta; the Empress Hotel, Victoria, B.C.; the Palliser Hotel, Calgary, Alberta. To this can be added a number of hotel stations along the railway line which no longer exist. Kate writes of working on the Hotel Vancouver, Emerald Lake and a number of other hotels in the west, but they were not the main focus of her work. After Hayter had retired from the CPR, Kate was asked to help with the Canadian Steamship Line's new Manoir Richelieu Hotel in Murray Bay (now La Malbaie) Quebec.

  • Empress Hotel, Victoria, British Columbia
  • Royal Alexandra Hotel, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Kate's early work for the Chateau Frontenac included Quebec history; local hand-crafted rugs and pine furniture; original paintings and reproductions of historical figures; wall paintings by local artists. These furnishings suited an 18th century château on the hill. She worked closely with the architect of each hotel. As her taste developed, Kate added comfortable sofas and chairs that made guests feel at home. Her early touches were decidedly Victorian with many decorative objects. By 1915, her rooms had fewer bibelots, less wall paper. But always, her decors remained eclectic as she liked to buy locally. In the early years, Kate would use Louis XV and XVI styles, often crafted by furniture makers in Montreal. In the Midwest, for the Royal Alexander and Palliser hotels, her decorating became quite lavish as the large reception areas catered to businessmen, conventions and balls. She designed area carpets made in England and Ireland. Wicker furniture was a signature favourite of Kate's. Easy to find, she added deep cushions and strong patterns, that fitted well in all the hotels in public lounges or on sun porches. Each hotel had a distinctive look and colour scheme but most had a mixture of furniture styles. The CPR sent Kate to the United States and England to shop and study the changing styles. Lake Louise had a contemporary look with some hard-to-find arts and Crafts furniture. By the time The Empress was built with its decidedly more restrained British look, Kate used mahogany and English pine and lighter decorative fabrics.

  • Royal Alexandra Hotel, Winnipeg, Manitoba
  • Château Frontenac, Quebec City, Quebec

One of Kate's lasting accomplishments was her determination to encourage and exhibit the works of Canadian female artists, as well as paintings or prints of female subjects. Examples can still be seen today in the pastel portraits of the Governors General's wives in their oval frames. Begun in 1906 for the Royal Alexandra dining room, those remaining are in the halls of the Empress Hotel.

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