By JEFF BOMBEN
The Walper Hotel is one of Kitchener’s greatest hidden gems.
Located at 1 King St. W., the hotel has been serving Waterloo Region and area for 119 years and doesn’t look like it’s going to stop anytime soon.
Over those years, the hotel has changed names, changed owners and even shut down for a brief three-year period in the ’70s.
Lots of people have travelled through the hotel including U.S. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt who famously enjoyed her breakfast in the courtyard. The Walper, wanting to honour Roosevelt, did so by renaming the courtyard after her.
Another famous person, Louis Armstrong, once performed on his trumpet on the King Street balcony. Now guests can check out that exact spot.
Canadian prime ministers used to love coming to the hotel for political talks, including William Lyon Mackenzie King, Wilfrid Laurier, Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Lester B. Pearson.
When a person first walks into the hotel, it seems like most others, with a standard lobby and elevators nearby. It isn’t overly large, only having five floors, but what sets it apart is how the owners have been willing to adapt to society and all the changes that come with it.
Guest services manager, Domini Baldasaro, says the hotel continues to find a way to stand out from other chain hotels.
“Certainly the history and the fact that every room in the hotel is unique sets the hotel apart,” she said. “There isn’t a box concept like a lot of the other hotels have which means we have a whole variety of room types. Every time there is a renovation done, they have to work with windows that are completely different sizes, flooring that doesn’t go in a traditional shape. This might not be a square, it might be a “U,” it might be an “L,” it might even be a “V.”
The hotel is owned and run by Michael von Teichman and is loved by his staff. Sales co-ordinator, Lindsay Slaughter, describes von Teichman as a passionate person who is willing to listen and wants to keep the tradition of the hotel alive.
According to Baldasaro, changes have been made to make the hotel modern by embracing artwork in both the guest lobby and in the guest bedrooms.
“The idea behind that is to move forward and embrace a new generation of interests,” she said. “So not just focusing on the historical details but tying in what people want to see now. Giving people the chance to embrace the two parts of Canadian culture, the art and our historical building, and sort of tying in that idea of keeping a landmark to bringing in fresh ideas that don’t take away from that.”
The hotel recently released its new marketing campaign with the slogan being, “As unique as you are.”
The concept behind the idea was for the company to stay true to itself. The Walper staff wants guests to not only come for a good night’s sleep but also have the chance to explore it. The guests can check out the structure of the hotel and also explore the history behind it. With the decision to add art to the mix, the key was to get a different piece for each room. Every piece has its own story to tell which is similar to the hotel.
“By bringing in art by Canadian artists but individual pieces of art so no two pieces are the same, we’re able to tie those two things together again. It really enhances the idea of it being a unique building, of being a unique property and also having a unique history and ownership,” Baldasaro said.
The hotel staff wanted to help out internationally so the company started the Walper Education Project in January 2010. They chose the building of an elementary school in Uganda as their project and have been raising money ever since. In fact, a dollar from each stay goes to the project. The company also decided to donate a dollar for every dinner served at any function at the hotel.
In addition, water bottles are now being placed in each room and if purchased the money goes directly to the fund. The bottles also catch the eye of guests, who then ask questions about the project and take the time to check out the hotel’s website for more information.