Belying its stripped-down exterior, the building that houses Downtown Edmonton's eclectic Crash Hotel is over 100 years old. The hotel's website proudly declares that the century-old structure has accommodated millions of patrons, and survived two fires, two world wars, and prohibition. It was built in 1904 in anticipation of travellers using the Canadian North Railway, which would arrive in 1905. Today, the Crash Hotel's 71 distinctly designed rooms capitalize on the emerging success of the ICE District, particularly young people looking for a unique overnight stay in the heart of the city.

The Richelieu Hotel with its brick exterior, image via Glenbow Archives

Opened as the Richelieu Hotel at the corner of Third Street and Peace Avenue, the wood-frame hotel originally had an exterior facade simply composed of wood siding. A brick recladding was carried out a few years later, and the room count was brought up to 89. Starting in 1938, the property was renamed King's Hotel before changing to its most famous moniker two years later: the Grand Hotel.

The Grand Hotel's stucco treatment, image via Crash Hotel

A $300,000 addition brought 30 more rooms to the hotel, along with a major exterior overhaul that removed the cornice and corner balcony and surmounted the brick facade with a largely unadorned stucco treatment. The building went through another transformation in the 1960s when aluminum siding was attached to the structure. This iteration of the Grand Hotel remained until a 2016 renovation, when a new exterior colour scheme was implemented, a fresh face for the debuting Crash Hotel. While heritage preservationists may be disappointed that a full brick restoration wasn't achieved, the building's new look is a noticeable improvement over the worn and outdated aesthetic it succeeded. 

The Grand Hotel in 2014, prior to its latest renovation, image retrieved from Google Street View

The block the hotel sits on has also gone through quite the transformation. A surface parking lot just south of the hotel now hosts the 32-storey Ultima, home to Edmonton's most expensive penthouse, and a retail-lined base that activates the streetscape.

Current look of the Crash Hotel, with Ultima in the background, image retrieved from Google Street View

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