For more than 80 years, a landmark hotel in downtown Ottawa

Our History

At the heart of our identity

“Discussed with [Public Works Minister Arthur] Cardin the new hotel for Elgin Street. He has had the architects carry out my suggestion about change of the roof to…Chateau style. Also has secured building completely of stone and has new hotel planned to be located in the middle of the area between Laurier Avenue and Slater Street … It will be ornamental on that location — a real addition to Ottawa.”
— Prime Minister Mackenzie King’s diary, 1940

Born of a World War II-era plan to create a captivating capital city, the Lord Elgin Hotel has stood proudly in downtown Ottawa since 1941. Through the years, it has changed with the times but stayed true to its heritage and independent spirit—all the while welcoming visitors from near and far. 

 The hotel’s namesake was the 8th Earl of Elgin, Queen Victoria’s top representative in Canada from 1847 to 1854. To this day, a warm relationship continues between the hotel and Lord Elgin’s descendants in Scotland, including the present 11th Earl.

A place where history and hospitality share a stylish, storied home

Here we offer a few highlights from the Lord Elgin’s origin story, including excerpts from The Lord Elgin: Mackenzie King’s capital vision and the birth of a landmark.

“Steady streams of military personnel, public servants and equipment suppliers from coast to coast were pouring into the capital every day to plan and carry out Canada’s war effort.”

First conceived of after the outbreak of World War II, in 1939, the Lord Elgin’s conception and construction solved a practical problem—a wartime hotel-room shortage—in a way that also made an enduring contribution to Ottawa’s transformation into a world-class metropolis.

“After talks with city alderman Chester Pickering and other top municipal and federal officials, John C. “Jack” Udd, president of the U.S.-based Ford Hotels Company, tentatively agreed to construct a hotel with at least 350 rooms. But the exact site, design, and financial terms still had to be worked out. Who ultimately made it all happen? None other than Canada’s wartime prime minister: William Lyon Mackenzie King.”

After approval of the hotel’s plans, construction—”at the height of the war and through the dead of winter”—was completed in just 10 months, yielding an elegant limestone building with 12 storeys and 400 rooms.

“At the cornerstone ceremony marking The Lord Elgin’s construction in February 1941, a time when Britain was reeling from the enemy’s nighttime bombing Blitz and the future of all democratic nations was in doubt, the fast-rising hotel was hailed as a symbol of the faith that freedom would ultimately prevail over tyranny.”

In the ensuing 80+ years, there have been ownership changes, major expansions, and momentous happenings in the life of the Lord Elgin. Through it all, thousands of hotel employees and millions of guests and visitors have added layer upon layer of human experience to this dignified architectural gem. 

Our history remains at the heart of our identity, and we hope you’ll agree that the Lord Elgin has only improved with age. To this day, the hotel continues its longstanding commitment to the social and cultural development of Ottawa, and to Canada as a whole. We invite you to come and visit this special place that offers so much to discover!

A look back