All photos, Kelsy Chauvin
Montreal has a bit of an identity issue. It is one of North America’s most vibrant cultural capitals and a magnet for anyone interested in contemporary art, music or the city’s busy nightlife and famous festivals. At the same time it’s one of the continent’s oldest cities, with a historic district that includes centuries-old buildings. The 127-room Hotel William Gray (http://hotelwilliamgray.com/index-en.html) combines these two worlds, a playful contemporary property located amid the historic sites of Vieux-Montreal.
The hotel takes its name from a local merchant and town sheriff, whose restored 18th-century stone home houses the Hotel William Gray’s spa and fitness center. Attached to it is the chic eight-story addition by Montreal firm Béïque Legault Thuot Architects that includes guest rooms and a large open-air rooftop-terrace café and bar (open seasonally), overlooking the historic Place d’Armes and Notre-Dame Basilica to the south of the hotel.
Though the high-rise addition is set back from the street, the hotel’s main entrance, with its illuminated glass-box entryway, stands out beside the historic gray-stone structures of Rue St.-Vincent.
Inside, contemporary details from CAMDI Design, another local firm, tie together multifunctional spaces meant to draw both travelers and locals. Past the reception area is the “living room,” where sofas, cozy chairs and a long communal table invite guests to settle in with friends. The cozy lobby bar welcomes guests to drinks or afternoon tea, as well as just hang out playing pool at the custom-made billiards table, perusing art books, or tuning into the vinyl music station, with headphones provided for personal listening.
The hotel runs the width of the block and, along its long corridor, you’ll walk past urban clothing Boutique OTH (that’s short for “off the hook”) and a glass-walled meat locker — which pays homage to the site’s former life as a cold-storage warehouse — on your way to the hotel restaurant Maggie Oakes (named after William Gray’s wife). It serves a grill-centric menu that highlights seasonal produce and hearty Canadian ingredients (bison tartare, anyone?), plus they offer an outstanding breakfast with Quebecois dishes like cassoulet alongside omelets and eggs benedict.
The guestrooms have a smart, seamless Scandinavian-inspired design while the roomy bathrooms come with Frette towels and multi-jet showers. Custom-made pillows and bedding by Quebec’s Marie L’Oie assure a sound night’s sleep. A giant penthouse is available for those ready to splurge to enjoy a private terrace complete with a Jacuzzi.
Though Hotel William Gray began receiving guests in late 2016, the swimming pool and subterranean Spa William Gray are still to come and should open in early 2017.