Karsh Signature

Yousuf Karsh, master photographer of the 20th century

Château Laurier – A Splendid Century

Chateau Laurier Splendid Century

The Château Laurier hotel in Ottawa celebrates its 105th birthday this year. Yousuf Karsh lived and worked at the Château Laurier for 19 years and his photographs hang in their Reading Lounge and the Karsh Suite.

A new book by author Kevin J. Holland about the hotel’s past titled Château Laurier – A Splendid Century is out now from Canadian National Railways Historical Association.

The book is rich with information, and full of fabulous photographs, not least of all subjects that Karsh photographed in his Château Laurier studio, including Nelson Mandela.

“Photographer Yousuf Karsh (1908-2002) – known worldwide as “Karsh of Ottawa” and acclaimed for his portraits of famous and influential persons – moved his Ottawa portrait studio from the Hardy Arcade building at 130 Sparks Street to the Château Laurier on October 1, 1973. With the Hardy Arcade (an Art Deco structure completed in 1933) facing an uncertain future at the time, and demolition a possibility, Karsh approached Château Laurier General Manager Gordon Foster in 1972 regarding the possibility of relocating his studio to the hotel. An underused seven-room suite, relegated in recent years to serve as sample rooms for commercial sales agents and conventioneers, was made available. Suite 660, in the southeast corner of the east wing’s sixth floor, became Karsh’s professional base of operations for the next 19 years. The arrangement provided the Karsh Studio with a prestigious and highly accessible address, and gave Canadian National’s flagship hotel a prestigious tenant.

“Château Laurier was commissioned by Grand Trunk Railway president Charles Melville Hays, and was constructed for $2 million, between 1909 and 1912 in tandem with Ottawa’s downtown Union Station (now the Government Conference Centre) across the street.” From Château Laurier – A Splendid Century.

Read the CBC news article Looking back at 105 years of the Château Laurier.

See Karsh’s portraits of Nelson Mandela.