Historic Sites of Manitoba: Olympia Hotel / Marlborough Hotel (331 Smith Street, Winnipeg)
Around the turn of the 20th century, four Sicilian immigrants to Winnipeg—Leonardo Emma, Giuseppe “Joseph” Panaro, Agostino “Bill” Badali, and Giuseppe “Joe” Badali—were operating the Olympia Café on the ground floor of the Kensington Building on Portage Avenue at Smith Street. In 1910, the men purchased property on Smith, just north of the café, and three years later began building the first three floors of a planned nine-storey structure, to be called the Olympia Hotel. The project was begun at the outset of poor economic condition preceding the First World War and, by May 1915, the hotel had closed. During the war, it was used by the federal government to accommodate soldiers.
In 1921, six floors were added to the building, followed in 1923 by a two-storey addition on the north side, later expanded to the full nine floors of the original. The 1913 plan was prepared by local architect James Chisholm while J. H. G. Russell did the work in 1921 and 1923; all phases of construction were done by Carter-Halls-Aldinger.
In 1956, hotel owner Nathan Rothstein began construction on an eight-storey addition on the north side. It would take four years to raise sufficient funds to complete the project. When it was opened officially in February 1960, the addition included an eighth-floor ballroom with an impressive view of the Winnipeg skyline, 200 rooms, a cocktail lounge, beverage room, coffee shop, and basement grill room.
A plaque in the lobby of the hotel, erected in 2010 by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, commemorates a meeting here in November 1925 that led to the founding of the Royal Canadian Legion, Canada’s largest veteran-based social and advocacy organization. In 2005, the building (a municipally-designated historic site) received a Conservation Award from Heritage Winnipeg. In 2014, it received an MHS Centennial Business Award from the Manitoba Historical Society.
“Hotel opens new eight-storey wing,” Winnipeg Free Press, 3 February 1960, page 9.
Marlborough (Olympia) Hotel (331 Smith Street), City of Winnipeg Historical Buildings Committee, January 1998.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 3 October 2015
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