Mount Stephen House was completed in 1886 by the Canadian Pacific Railroad as a lavish hotel within such natural surroundings. Railway travelers stopped in Field to dine so that the trains didn’t have to tow heavy dining cars up the “Big Hill”.
Field began as a service centre for trains tackling the 4.5% grade on the Big Hill. Workers in the yard added pusher and puller engines and disconnected the heavy dining cars for the climb east. No dining cars, meant the construction of a hotel to provide meals for passengers who disembarked while trains were being serviced.
The town itself was a displeasing mix of shacks and tents that sprouted up along the tracks promoting bootlegging, gambling and whorehouses. The CPR tried to rid the town of its unfavourable reputation in the hopes of attracting tourism to the area.
The spectacular scenic value of the area did captivate many of the travellers who would return for their health, pleasure and recreation. The CPR built a series of hotels and teahouses to accommodate their clients who wished to stay and explore.
Photo by – J.Borno
Field attracted those who came to study nature, paint, write or do photography. Visitors to the area also stayed in luxury in Field and at CPR-built lodges at Lake O’Hara, Emerald Lake, Wapta Lake, and in the Yoho Valley.
World War I took its toll on the tourism industry, prompting the hotel to become a YMCA hostel. Mount Stephen House declined rapidly following the Great Depression, and was eventually torn down in 1963. The grand Hotel dominated the town site of Field for close to 75 years.