This gorgeous coffee-table book is a must-read for armchair travellers
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It’s a story worthy of the Hollywood treatment: a young Irish man immigrates to the United States, where he works as a miner, first in California and then Nevada. Then he strikes gold, literally. In 1873, the Big Bonanza — the biggest single deposit of silver and gold ever found — was discovered in a mine he and three other Irishmen had invested in, earning the group the nickname “the Silver Kings.”
That man was James Graham Fair, later a wealthy businessman, real estate investor, railroad builder and politician. Among his many acquisitions was a plot of land in San Francisco atop Nob Hill, which became the site of the first Fairmont hotel, built by Fair’s daughters, Theresa and Virginia, in his honour after his death. It opened in 1907 to great fanfare — including a party that served 13,000 oysters and a “river” of champagne.
This is just part of the brand’s history, detailed in the new coffee-table book “Fairmont: Grand by Nature” (out on March 22), by travel writers Claire Wrathall and Claire-Marie Angelini-Thiennot. The 328-page hardcover explores more than 80 of Fairmont’s beloved properties around the world — including some of Canada’s most historic, most recognizable hotels — delving into their origins and architecture, and digging into the archives for throwback photos and illustrations.
Travel to the Canadian Rockies, where the 134-year-old, castlelike Fairmont Banff Springs originally filled its pools from the area’s geothermal waters, or the nearby Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, which initially opened as a single-storey log cabin and has now grown to more than 500 rooms.
Venture further afield to iconic destinations like the Savoy in London, which opened its doors in 1889 and has welcomed every member of the British royal family (including Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Diana), or the Fairmont Jaipur, built in the tradition of grand Mughal palaces.
The book is also peppered with celebrity cameos, from the brief foreword by Oscar winner Susan Sarandon to vintage images of A-list guests. Keep an eye out for auteur Alfred Hitchcock, a Fairmont “regular” who featured multiple hotels in his films; Cary Grant and Marilyn Monroe, who shot movies at Fairmont Miramar in Santa Monica; or Liza Minnelli and Judy Garland, who lived at the Plaza in New York City. It’s a glimpse of hotel life at its most glamorous, and just the escapism we could all use right now.