With its distinctive round, shiny copper dome atop the three story wooden structure, this historic hotel is an icon for this valley city. Not the original hotel however, as that was built a couple years earlier across the street from its current location before it burned down and was replaced with this more ‘modern’ building. All of this occurred before the city actually became a city, which helped to set this building up as the icon that it is today. A large hotel in its day with three stories and 50 rooms the balconies that complimented the rooms on each floor takes the visitor right back to a setting in the late 1800s.
Of course, the pub, which takes up most of the first floor helped reinforce that old western theme even to this day. Back in the middle of the last century when this valley city was bankrupt and the entire city resorted back to its roots in the wild west, rumour has it that this hotel was more of a brothel house then a hotel. But that was back in the day when there was another famous legend of a gang of bikers rolling into town, stirring up some trouble and going after the women in the town. Their husbands and boyfriends, and the rest of the men, who were out working the mine heard about this and left their jobs to head back into the town. The miners clashed with the bikers, beating the stuffing out of them, driving the bikers out of the town.
Yep, this valley city has a very colorful past and I was on my way to meet with the owners of the most famous icon of them all.
Over the decades this iconic hotel had been added onto. First a large restaurant was attached to the building, making it possible for patrons to order some of the hotel’s famous food without needing to go into the pub. Then they added on a large banquet room to the back of the hotel, which quickly became the place to go for weddings, special occasions or community gatherings. The last addition was a separate building on the property where they had opened a cold beer and wine store, the bread and butter of the entire operation. However, the last updates to the hotel happened several decades earlier and although the age of the building and the lack of modern updates lent to the public’s appeal of the place, operationally it presented many challenges.
Nothing had been modernized inside the building and in fact the owners were still using the hotel’s original safe, a two-tonne fortress on wheels, that they never locked completely, for fear that they would not be able to open it again. The original lobby was no more than a half door leading to a hallway and two offices. To the right, off of this lobby, you could enter into the spacious restaurant or to the left you could walk through some old oak doors into the historic pub. Just slightly off of the lobby there were a set of stairs that took you up to the rooms. There was no elevator back in those days.
As you walked up the worn red shag carpet to the first landing you needed to take a 90-degree turn to continue walking up to the landing for the second floor. Pushing open the doors you are immediately transported back to the beginnings of the last century. High ceilings with narrow arched doorways. Thick woodwork lined the hallways that traveled around the second floor like a square. The entire center of the second and third floors is empty with the windows in the rooms looking at each other and the somewhat obstructed sky above. Everything had various shades of the same color of paint on it, the efforts of maintenance men over the decades trying to keep this building together.
Walking down the dimly lit hallway, even on the brightest of days outside, lent itself to you screaming out, “Don’t go down there!” like a cheap theatrical horror movie. A fluttering bulb, and the old creaks and groans of a worn out old boiler system pushing heated up old sludge through its pipes added to the atmosphere of the place. To say it was creepy would be an understatement. Then there were the residents. Long ago, the proprietors stopped trying to market the hotel aspect of the business, instead providing rooms to the various music acts that would entertain the bar patrons until 2am, and saving a handful of rooms for the odd traveler who had lost their way.
Instead the business came from renting the rooms for the week or the month or for an indefinite amount of time, depending on the circumstances. This meant that there were now a very colorful group of residents who lived on the second and third floors of this historic building. They would provide dramatic theatrics for the staff and emergency personnel that would frequent the establishment every weekend or when the monthly checks were handed out. Most of these residents were not seen during the day, some you only heard rumours of, others you regularly checked in on to make sure “things were still okay”. And over the next couple of years that I worked there, unfortunately a small handful of them were carried out of the building, never to return again.