The Chateau Lacombe Hotel was built overlooking the river valley on Bellamy Hill in 1966. The site had been unused for the previous half century. Before then, it was where the city's first foray into funiculars, the Edmonton Incline Railway, was located until it closed in 1911. When the hotel's construction began, the hill still bore scars from where tracks had been torn up.
The 1960s saw a wave of new development and a push for urban renewal in many Canadian cities but especially in Edmonton. The city's population was booming and its downtown was rapidly changing with new developments. The Chateau Lacombe was one of several massive projects on the hill: Edmonton House was also built in this period, as was Bellamy Hill Road.
When it opened its doors for an unofficial launch in December 1966, the round 24-storey building was already a striking landmark on the city's skyline. It boasted more than 300 rooms and was one of the first hotels in Canada to offer luxuries like air conditioning, which seemed in line with Edmonton's growing profile.
Unfortunately for early guests, the Chateau's soon-to-be well-known feature wasn't ready for its soft launch. Anyone wishing to visit the hotel's revolving rooftop restaurant had to wait for the official opening in February 1967. When it did open, the revolving restaurant was the largest of its kind in the world, and its 90-minute revolution offered diners a view of the city and the river valley.
The hotel's sixth-floor grill also offered a quite memorable, though stranger, view: an 1880-era Maxim machine gun on display for guests at the entrance.
While the Chateau Lacombe has stayed on its spot on Bellamy Hill for nearly 60 years, the hotel has changed hands several times. The original owner was Canadian Pacific Hotels, which was a branch of the railway. In the '90s, the hotel was rebranded as a Holiday Inn and later as the Crowne Plaza, before being sold to another hotel chain in 2010. Most notoriously, it was bought in 2010 by real estate developer Keyvn Fredrick for nearly $48 million. But after Fredrick and his companies faced accusations of mortgage fraud and substandard construction, the hotel was bought again for nearly half that price in 2013.
The period of construction on Bellamy Hill that introduced the Chateau Lacombe might be long over, but it continues to make a mark on the city's core. Sometimes, that influence isn't a positive one: the city is rebuilding the intersection where Bellamy Hill Road meets Rossdale Road and 97 Street. It's currently a tangled knot of fast streets that have been deemed too dangerous.