Rummell Page 32

Great Canadian Art & Artists

Richard Rummell - (1848-1924)

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure Chateau Laurier 1911: Without a doubt this is the most spectacular chromolithograph ever produced in Canada, and the largest. It is the Grand Trunk Railway print of the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa - Canada's Capital City - in Ontario.

The original was painted by American painter Richard Rummell in 1911. Rummell had made a reputation for his "Bird's Eye View" landscapes of towns and universities in the US. In the days before airplanes made these kinds of views more common, Rummell stunned his viewers by transporting himself mentally to heights above the rooftops, to give views of places that only military balloonists had ever seen before.

This lithograph is a stunning discovery for a number of reasons. It is huge, too huge for most homes. It's frame is a giant 44"h x 57"w; the image is an amazing 28 x 42 inches. It may well be that this very print was once over the main counter of the railway station in Ottawa, seen far right in the print.

To find it in its original Grand Trunk inscribed oak frame is an unbelievably fortunate discovery, and a superb Great Canadian Heritage Moment.

Chateau Laurier, Grand Trunk System, 1911 (detail) - Richard Rummell
Orig. chromolithograph - Size - oa 44" x 57", image 28" x 42"
Found - Milton, ON
Orig. glass and frame inscribed Grand Trunk System
This print, unlike others, which, after 100 years, are typically stained or tattered, folded or ripped, is in mint condition, with no faults at all. It is still sealed with its original wavy glass, and cedar shakes on the back, held in with square nails that have never been moved since 1911.

This antique print and historic scene grandly encapsulates, in all its glory, the height of the railway age in Canada. It evokes memories and smells that can never be shared with those who have not travelled by steam train across Canada, been enveloped by the sounds of the chugging engine through the open window, and breathed in the clouds of smoke as the engine belched its way across the prairies, up the inclines, and through the tunnels, in the Rocky Mountains.

The transcontinental Canadian Pacific Railway had only been completed in 1885, opening up the spectacular Rocky Mountains to tourists from Easter Canada, Europe, and the US.

The railway bosses built spectacular hotels to attract travellers to see sights that had previously been completely out of reach for all but the extremely wealthy. The Banff Springs Hotel had been built in 1888, and the Chateau Lake Louise in 1890, followed by the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec in 1892.

In the Nation's Capital, the Chateau Laurier was built, in 1912, and named after Canada's first French-Canadian Prime Minister - though he had lost his last election in 1911.

Charles Hays, the American-born General Manager of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway of Canada, who was behind the project, was in Europe, some months before the grand opening was planned, gathering opulent furniture worthy of the dining room of his spectacular hotel.

To make sure it would arrive safely, and on time, he loaded it all aboard the fastest, and safest ship afloat, on her maiden voyage, and climbed aboard as well, to safeguard the cargo.

But neither Hays, nor his furniture, ever made the grand opening of the hotel.

Lamentably, Hays had decided to cross the Atlantic in the White Star liner Titanic, and he and his furniture went to the bottom of the Atlantic.

Still the print captures a last golden highlight in Ottawa and Canadian history.

Within a few years, the glorious old original Parliament Buildings in the background would be reduced to ashes in a winter fire, in 1916, that claimed several lives. It would all be blamed on German terrorists and spies; after all, Canada was in the middle of World War I.

Transportation 1911: The print highlights a golden age of transportation as well, by land, and water.

The railway engine is parked on the spot where Canadian soldiers climbed aboard in 1900 for the trip to Halifax and the war in South Africa. Thousands would later embark here in World War I for a date with destiny in France.

Below the bridge is the Rideau Canal, built by British engineer Colonel By in the 1830s, which allowed ships to carry freight across Ontario so avoiding the passage of the St. Lawrence and needless exposure to the shores of the warlike Americans.

Horse drawn carriages and wagons of all kinds are still the backbone of local transportation for freight and passengers.

Trams, which once were pulled by horses, are now electrified and busy carrying passengers about the city.

Above the bridge are two small, solitary automobiles that foreshadowed what would end these scenes of industrial hustle and bustle, later in the century, as cars and trucks put an effective end to passenger and freight transportation by train and boat.

By 2006, all this multilevel commercial bustle is gone; these roadways are now solidly plugged up with cars and buses. Even the railway tracks were torn up and paved to serve the voracious needs of personal cars.

In the summer, the canal is now choked up with tourist cabin cruisers, stepping down to the Ottawa River beyond; in winter thousands of skaters glory in its miles of smooth, icy surface.

The grand railway station has long been reduced to a convention centre, its historic walls, that once reverberated to the glorious sounds of the age of steam, and overheard a thousand tearful, final farewells, of soldiers who would never return, are now sadly reduced to listening to the boring blather of politicians, pompositing CEOs, and overly gaseous after dinner speakers.

A photo from the same period shows that Rummell faithfully captured the people and vehicle density of what is today Confederation Square. But those days are long gone; today, you walk here at your peril, as thousands of cars and trucks, hourly, claw for space to zoom by, and pollute this area with wall to wall traffic and clouds of deadly gasoline fumes.

Charles Melville Hays, was a railway magnate after whom the towns of Melville, Saskatchewan, and Hays, Alberta, are named.

His wife, who was aboard the Titanic, survived him. He bade her farewell, saying that the ship would float for at least ten hours, by which time help would arrive. He was wrong on both.

But his sculptor, Paul Romaine Chevré, right whom he had picked to create a bust of Sir Wilfrid Laurier - which still stands in the lobby of the hotel - managed to survive the sinking, by somehow getting on one of the lifeboats.








Paul Chevré, who was a French sculptor, had spent the past fourteen summers in Canada, then returned to France, one last time, and never sailed again.

Chevré had won a competition to sculpt a figure of Champlain, the founder of Canada, which has stood on the promenade in front of the Chateau Frontenac since 1898, when it was dedicated by Lord Aberdeen, the Governor-General. It is considered Chevré's finest work.

Paul Chevré's Champlain is very likely the statue that has been seen by more Canadians than any other in the country.

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