Royal Connaught : Ghosts of Hamilton’s Luxury

Royal Connaught – – Hamilton, Ontario, Canada | Address: Corner of King Street East & John Street – MAP

It’s 1914 and Toronto businessman Harry Frost came to Hamilton with an idea.  A luxury hotel befitting the booming city.

 

City officials loved it, authorizing the demolition of the 5 floor Waldorf (no relation to New York’s) to make room for Canada’s most luxurious hotel.

1917 advertisement (only 3 years after opening) of original building - - Royal Connaught
1917 advertisement (only 3 years after opening) of original building – – Royal Connaught

To spread the word, Frost ran a city-wide contest to name the hotel.  A bold move as the name of a luxury hotel means everything.

Frost probably expected the best minds of Hamilton, but instead got a 12 year old boy from Hamilton’s East End.  Alfy Richards won with his submission, “Connaught”, after his hero the Duke of Connaught.

All the most famous – – 
Born to great fan-fare and excitement in the year 1914, many celebrities and dignitaries stayed in the Royal Connaught Hotel. Includes…

  • Little actress Shirley Temple
  • Singer Johnny Cash
  • Boxer Muhammad Ali
  • Actress Shirley MacLaine
  • Former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau
  • And maybe the King, as it’s rumoured Elvis Presley stayed in the building

This greatness created unforeseen karma as the city declines.  In the 60’s and 70’s business starts to die, moving out of the city and the Connaught holds on for 40 years.

Then in 2004, Frost’s dream dies as the Royal Connaught closes its doors.

But thankfully history repeated itself.  As the the writing of this article, developers from Toronto have come to the booming city of Hamilton to build Condos.  First up is the Royal Connaught Condos inside the historic building, then a modern tower to be added in the future.

The Lady in White

Original Lobby inside Royal Connaught
Original Lobby inside Royal Connaught

The building’s resident ghost is so vivid, she’s known by her clothes…. a long white dress.  The Lady in White has been seen many times over the years, mostly by staff.

Was she a maid in life, told to leave the guests alone.  Maybe we’d believe this, if not for one time…

This story and more featured on
The Ghost Walks of Downtown Hamilton

 

Not on the tour – – The Grey Shadow of the Ballroom

Many former employees of the Royal Connaught Hotel can talk about spending time in the ballroom (now demolished).  In the final years leading up to 2004, one of them was alone with the task of setting up for a wedding the next morning.

1916 photo of Night of Kiwanis Club in the Royal Connaught Ballroom
1916 photo of Night of Kiwanis Club in the Royal Connaught Ballroom

Late at night, he stared down at a table, trying to line up cutlery.  It’s late, he’s tired, but the job has to be done.

While straightening a knife, a hit hard to the young man’s arm.  He falls back, grabbing a chair and his balance.  Confused, he was alone in the large, open room.  Spinning he sees it moving down a long hallway, a grey shadow shaped like a man disappears at a closed door.

Scared, but determined, thinking “I’m tired.  A hallucination, my mind playing tricks on me”, turns back to the cutlery.

And just a few minutes later, same slam into the shoulder, same grey shadow floating down the hall and disappears.

Wedding be damned, the young man leaves for the night.

Saved! The future of the Royal Connaught as condos in Downtown Hamilton
Saved! The future of the Royal Connaught as condos in Downtown Hamilton