Day 145

“A Traveler Should Stay in a Hotel”

As crowds of callers overwhelm the Maxwells’ hospitality, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá checks out—and checks into the Windsor Hotel.

The Windsor Annex, the expansion to the Windsor Hotel after a 1906 fire destroyed much of the building. Opened in 1908. McCord Museum


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Day 145
September 2, 1912 Montreal, Canada

“A Traveler Should Stay in a Hotel”

As crowds of callers overwhelm the Maxwells’ hospitality, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá checks out—and checks into the Windsor Hotel.

ON HIS THIRD DAY in Montreal, Sunday, September 1, 1912, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá decided that it was time to move to a hotel. His original plans for a two- or three-day trip were extended given the positive reception he received. On the morning of September 2, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and his party of two moved from the Maxwell home to the Windsor Hotel.

Sutherland and May Maxwell had done everything in their power to make sure that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had all that he needed. They reserved the top three floors of their four bedroom house in Westmount, Montreal. They had succeeded in generating a great deal of positive newspaper coverage. “While here, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá will stay at 716 Pine Avenue West,” reported the Montreal Star. “All who wish to visit him will be made welcome, if arrangements are made beforehand by telephoning Uptown 3015.”

When they arrived on August 30, May Maxwell informed ‘Abdu’l-Bahá that “So many people have telephoned and sent letters about your arrival and I have replied to all.” She was no doubt running on little sleep. According to his secretary, Mahmúd-i-Zarqání, visitors came “day and night,” the talks were attended by “a great multitude,” and the large number of “longing souls” would “not let the Master rest.” For the three nights that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and his party stayed at the Maxwell house, it was more like a reception hall than a private home.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá recognized May Maxwell’s exhaustion, and, rather than denying this fact, she replied, “I consider this fatigue the greatest comfort of my life.” But after two nights, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá told Mahmúd, “Tomorrow we should move to a hotel. A traveler should stay in a hotel.”

View of Montreal from Mount Royal. Library of Congress / Detroit Publishing Co.

The Windsor Hotel billed itself as the finest in the Dominion. Staying there made it easier for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to devote more time to visitors and it provided an appropriate setting to receive prominent callers, including McGill University faculty members and the Archbishop of Montreal. But it was the opinion of Dorothy Wade, a housekeeper for the Maxwells, that the primary reason for the move was that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá considered the steady flow of visitors to be an excessive burden on the Maxwells.

After breakfast on September 2, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and his party left the Maxwell home for the Windsor Hotel, although he continued to visit 716 Pine Avenue West on a daily basis, often by “tram” (streetcar), where he gave regular evening talks.

In the week ahead ‘Abdu’l-Bahá will receive unprecedented positive press, will be warmly received by large crowds of Socialists and Methodists, and will explore the city by carriage, tram, and foot. He will even acquire a genuine Canadian souvenir: a Montreal head cold.