Kitchener’s iconic Walper Hotel gets a soulful restoration
“I love hotels,” said Mark Harmon, founder of Auberge Resorts Collection, as he opened his 2017 Ted Talk. “A hotel holds the promise, everyday, of adventure and romance, of intrigue, mystery, betrayal, affairs of the heart, dangerous liaisons; where else can you find that in fiction and in film?”
Mr. Harmon, who admitted during “The Soul of a Hotel” that he’d unwittingly created a hotel with no soul (and then divested it), went on to list the four elements that go into creating something so “intangible” as soul: “Great design; a sense of place; a connection or being a part of the community in which the hotel is located; that the hotel inspires great affection or love through and for the people working there.”
I was thinking about these things as I got out of my car at the intersection of King and Queen streets in downtown Kitchener, Ont., just last week.
There, a great pile of red bricks, The Walper Hotel, has commanded the southwest corner since 1893, when Abel Walper hired architect Jonas Knechtel to design a Beaux-Arts building to replace the 1820 inn that Phineas Varnum had built (which his brother, Curry Walper, would purchase in 1886) but had been destroyed by fire.