Thunder Bay·Audio

Iconic Prince Arthur Hotel in Thunder Bay begins multi-million dollar makeover

The Prince Arthur Waterfront Hotel, the grande dame of Thunder Bay's downtown north core is getting a multi-million dollar makeover.

Hotel which opened in 1911 and hosted King George, Queen Elizabeth on eve of WW II, is oldest in the city

Tony Scarcello, the general manger of The Prince Arthur Waterfront Hotel, stands beside an artist's drawing of what the refurbished exterior will look like after the renovations. He's hold the hotel's new logo - a stylized 'p' and 'a' which together resemble opera glasses. (Cathy Alex/CBC )
The Prince Arthur is the oldest hotel in Thunder Bay. It even hosted King George and Queen Elizabeth on the eve of the Second World War. Now, the hotel on the shores of Lake Superior is getting a multi-million dollar renovation. We get the details. 6:39

The Prince Arthur Waterfront Hotel, the grande dame of Thunder Bay's downtown north core is getting a multi-million dollar makeover.

The oldest hotel in the northwestern Ontario city opened in March 1911, and was designed by the same architects, Warren and Matheson of New York, who created Grand Central Station,

Over the decades, the inn on the shores of Lake Superior has been the venue for countless wedding ceremonies, reunions and conferences.

Befitting its name, it has even hosted royalty on several occassions, such as May 23, 1939 when a dance was held there in honour of the visit by King George and Queen Elizabeth to the communities then known as Port Arthur and Fort William. Afterwards, the hotel provided the royal party with dinner rolls and pastries to eat on the train as they travelled west.

Staff pose in front of Thunder Bay's Prince Arthur Waterfront Hotel. The northwestern Ontario city's oldest hotel is launching a multi-million dollar renovation. (Cathy Alex/CBC)

"We need to bring her back to the way she was back in 1911, or at least close to it, when she was the place to be and we want to be that, we want to be the place to be and give our guests an experience they'll never get anywhere else," says Tony Scarcello, the hotel's general manager.

To that end the hotel, which is still independently owned by a British family, is investing approximately $4,000,000 to modernize all 120 guest rooms, the ballroom and the elevators as well as revitalize the exterior.

Royal blue and gold canopies and flags will be hung outside, meanwhile the crown moldings and the unique cast iron and marble central staircase in the lobby will also be refurbished.

"When we took up the carpet, we found this 100-year-old marble," said Scarcello. "It was a huge surprise, we weren't expecting that when pulled up the carpet, and how can you get rid of that? It's just beautiful!"

Stephanie Reid of Tourism Thunder Bay stands beside the ornate cast iron and marble staircase in the lobby. She says a boutique hotel will be a draw for visits to the northwestern Ontario city. (Cathy Alex/CBC )

A boutique-hotel, which is over 100 years old but completely modernized, has the potential to draw more people to the city, said Stephanie Reid, the digital and travel media officer with the Tourism Thunder Bay.

"There is a huge market of people that are looking for those historic properties, that don't want cookie-cutter, box-store versions of hotels, that want something unique, that want to understand the community they're going to and this is the type of facility that does that."

Thunder Bay is a competitive market for hotels, with many operating near full occupancy, she said.

The Marriot hotel chain is currently building a new hotel on Thunder Bay's waterfront, just across the street from the Prince Arthur hotel.

An artist's rendition of what the renovated Prince Arthur Hotel lobby will look like. (Cathy Alex/CBC )