Setting > Ottawa

Russell House Hotel

Photo of Russell House Hotel

In my novel, Count Jaggi stayed at the Russell House Hotel when a room was not available at the Château Laurier. The Russell was also considered an ideal spot for romantic encounters since there were multiple exits allowing couples to leave unobserved, which is ideal for a spy.

It is a target-rich environment for the Count. Like its competition, the Château, the hotel was the scene of society balls, elegant afternoon teas, poetry readings and famous visitors — Anna Pawlova, Oscar Wilde, Lillie Langtry and dozens more stayed at the hotel.


When James Gouin moved to Ottawa from Quebec City in the mid-1860s, he acquired The Campbell House hostelry at the corner of Sparks and Elgin streets and renamed it the Russell House.

Over the next few decades the Russell would change hands and expand until it occupied the whole block of Sparks, Elgin, Queen and Canal streets. With the Russell Theatre it covered nearly an acre of ground.

In the 1870s a new stone wing was added along Elgin Street for the growing number of visitors and politicians to Ottawa. In 1880, the original Campbell House building was torn down. A wing was added in the 1890s on the east side of the building, moving south from Sparks.

The Russell House began to decline when the Château Laurier opened in 1912. The Russell closed its doors in 1925. In 1927, a fire destroyed most of the hotel, resulting in its demolition. The Canadian federal government later expropriated the site to expand Elgin St. and create Confederation Square.

Photo of drawing room, Russell House Hotel


The front of the 400-room hotel was built of white brick with stone dressings. It was five storeys tall and had a mansard roof. In the centre was a square tower and demi-towers rising slightly above the skyline at the two ends of the building.

The centrepiece of the hotel was the 80 by 100 foot stained glass domed rotunda. Off the rotunda there were entrances to:

Photo of Dining Room, Russell House Hotel

The hotel was famous for its breakfast buckwheat cakes, and the quality of service at the Russell was said to have matched the hotel’s elegant appearance.

Sources and further readings


For tourists and sportsmen, The Russell, Ottawa, Hotel Victoria, Aylmer, Que., F.X. St. Jacques, proprietor. Source courtesy Internet Archive.

Ottawa Ontario’s Official Guide to Ottawa Travel and Hotels - Ottawa Tourism


Enman, Charles, Ottawa’s grand dame hotels, The Ottawa Citizen, 25 Sep 2005

George F. Abbott; A. H. O’Brien, Abbott’s guide to Ottawa, Hull and vicinity, Ottawa, 1911.