Vintage Photographs from the Lake Louise Area

The hamlet of Lake Louise was originally nothing more than a stopover along the CPR mainline. The railway base camp was known as Laggan in the 1880’s prior to the name being changed. The famous lake the community is named after is one of the most photographed and visually stunning lakes in the world. The lake was officially “discovered” in 1882 by Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) employee Tom Wilson, who was directed to the emerald waters by a Stoney guide. Although Wilson was likely the first European to set eyes on the lake, local First Nation groups had known about it for years, referring to it as Ho-run-num-nay, which translates to Lake of the Little Fishes. Originally, Wilson had named it Emerald Lake due to its greenish-blue colour, but in 1884 the lake was renamed in honour of Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria and wife of John Campbell, Canada’s fourth Governor General. In 1887 when Rocky Mountains National Park was created (now known as Banff National Park), Lake Louise quickly became its crown jewel.

It didn’t take long for Cornelius Van Horne, general manager of the CPR, to realize the lake’s potential as a coveted outdoor destination and in 1890 commissioned the construction of a one-story log cabin along the shoreline. Over time this simple cabin evolved to become Chateau Lake Louise, a luxurious lakeside resort that dates as far back as 1911. Since then the town has grown considerably featuring accommodations to suit everyone’s style and budget.

What follows here are a collection of photographs of Lake Louise, the surrounding area, and the idyllic lakeside chateau in some of its earliest stages. You’ll notice much has changed over the years at this incredibly popular Banff site. I hope you enjoy viewing this collection as much as I did putting this post together.

Canadian Pacific Railway station, Laggan (Lake Louise), Alberta, 1900
The first Lake Louise Chalet, Lake Louise, Alberta, 1890-1893
Lake Louise, Alberta, 1886-1894
The first Lake Louise Chalet, Lake Louise, Alberta, 1890-1893
The second Lake Louise Chalet, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta, 1894
The Beehive, Lake Louise, Alberta, 1886-1894
View of Laggan, Alberta, 1884-1886
Lake Agnes, Rocky Mountains, Albert, 1880s
Lake Louise, Alberta, 1880s
Bow River at Lake Louise, Alberta, 1885
Victoria Glacier and Lake Louise, Alberta, 1889
Staff at the Lake Louise Chalet at Laggan (Lake Louise), Banff National Park, Alberta, 1899
Mountains at Laggan (later Lake Louise), Alberta, 1880s
Canadian Pacific Railway hotel and post office, Laggan (Holt), Alberta, 1884
Laggan, Alberta, 1884
Snowshoers near Mount Temple, Alberta, 1920-1939
Lake Louise Chalet, Lake Louise, Alberta, 1914
Alpine Club members at Abbot Hut, Abbot Pass, Alberta/British Columbia, 1923-1929
Joan Oliver on Needle Peak, Lake Louise area, Alberta, 1936
Aerial view of Chateau Lake Louise, Alberta, 1930
Lake Louise Chalet on fire, Lake Louise, Alberta, July 3, 1924. The fire destroyed the Rattenbury wing. Used for tourists prior to building Chateau Lake Louise.
Mr. and Mrs. William H. McNab boating at Lake Louise, Alberta, 1905
Climbers on peak between Mount Lefroy and Mount Victoria, Alberta, 1920s
Lake Louise from Victoria Glacier, Alberta, 1905-1906
Abbott Pass, Lake Louise, Alberta, 1905
Lake Louise, Alberta, 1925
Lake Agnes tea house, Lake Louise, Alberta, 1910
Skier at Chateau Lake Louise, Alberta, 1921
Lake Louise Trading Company and Deer Lodge, Lake Louise, Alberta, 1940
Lake Louise-Saddleback trail, Paradise Valley, Alberta, 1926
Trail riding at Lake Louise, Alberta, 1926
Lake Louise Chalet, Lake Louise, Alberta, 1900s
Lake Louise from the Chalet, Lake Louise, Alberta, 1901-1914
Castle Crags and Mount Lefroy, Lake Louise, Alberta, 1900-1920
Bridal Falls, Lake Louise area, Alberta, 1910

The photos above were collected from the Glenbow Archives. Additional information can be found for each photograph on the Glenbow website by searching the identification number that is printed on each photo. There is also the option to purchase a high-resolution copy. Stay tuned for additional posts featuring historical photos from across Alberta. We’d love to know what you think in the comment section below.

About Tyler Dixon 219 Articles
Tyler is originally from Saskatchewan, and yes he cheers for the Roughriders, but don’t hold that against him as Calgary has been his home for the past eight years. He is a teacher working at a wilderness- based treatment program for youth working to overcome addiction. Tyler is also a volunteer with the GOT Parks initiative, which aims at reconnecting Canada’s youth with our national, provincial, and territorial parks. During his time away from work, Tyler enjoys outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking, and snowboarding, team sports, travelling, photography, spending time with good friends, and being at home with his wife and German Shepherd, Rome.