History

Winnipeg Free Press, 5 June 2004, page H3: “Basement – home to what was considered “the longest bar in the west.” 6000-square foot Gent’s Private Dining Room; Western Canada’s first European-style luxury hotel – “The Grotto, built to resemble Italy’s old caves, stretched from Albert Street to Arthur Street and featured a waterfall that cascaded into a pond of goldfish.” – “

An enclosed horse-drawn carriage, dubbed the M-bus, picked up wealthy guests from the CPR and Great Northern Railway station and the new Walker Theatre. … The three-storey Edwardian building – red brick trimmed with salmon-coloured stone quarried on the Kettle River in northeastern Manitoba – was built in 1901 by Winnipeg lawyers James Stewart Tupper and William J. Tupper, sons of former Canadian prime minister Charles Tupper. Construction cost $52,000. It was originally the Alexandra Block, a combination of retail shops and bachelor apartments. Mariaggi converted it into a hotel, which he ran until 1908.”

 

In 1903 Frank Mariaggi built Western Canada’s first European style hotel, at 231 McDermot in Winnipeg. While Mariaggi went back to his native Corsica, where he died in 1918, his name continues to be associated with the theme hotel that today continues his original aim of providing richly appointed suites with elegant furnishings.

The Mariaggi was operated on a “European Plan”, meaning that meals were offered separately from accommodation, as opposed to the “American Plan” common at other Winnipeg hotels, where a daily fee ranging from $1 to over $3 included meals and accommodation.

Occupying an entire city block on McDermot Avenue, between Arthur and Albert Streets in Winnipeg’s Exchange District, the hotel featured separate dining rooms for women and men, as well as private dining rooms in a basement “grotto”, presumably designed to resemble a cave of Mariaggi’s native Corsica. A la carte meals were available at all hours. Rooms single or in suite. Each richly appointed suite had its own toilet, bath and sink, electric lights, modern steam heat, telephone, and elegant furnishings, which far surpassed the standard hotel room of the day.